The Macleod review, commissioned by the government back in 2009, found more than 50 definitions of Employee Engagement, but let’s highlight this one from the Institute of Employment Studies…
“A positive attitude held by the employee towards the organisation and its values. An engaged employee is aware of the business context and works with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organisation. The organisation must work to develop and nurture engagement, which requires a two-way relationship between employee and employer.”
Put simply, engaged employees are willing to ‘go the extra mile’ and put in discretionary effort for the benefit of the organisation. They see their own goals and those of the organisation as aligned.
Isn’t this just Job Satisfaction rebadged?
Yes… and no. It seems that while the concept of engagement overlaps with psychological terms like ‘organisational commitment’, ‘organisational citizenship behaviour’ and ‘job satisfaction’ (all of which have now made it into common HR & Management terminology) there are also crucial differences.
The biggest difference between employee engagement and job satisfaction is that engagement is a two-way process. Organisations must work to engage the employee, who in turn has a choice about the level of engagement to offer the employer. Each reinforces the other, which means the organisation must play its part by being engaging. It cannot afford to be passive.
The Institute of Employment Studies also sees engagement as synergistic: “an engaged employee experiences a blend of job satisfaction, organisational commitment, job involvement, and feelings of empowerment. It is a concept that is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Finally, and probably most importantly, employee satisfaction and engagement differ in their predictive power over outcomes. Measuring satisfaction or staff morale does not tell you how employees are behaving – but measuring engagement can go a long way towards doing so.
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