defining an engaged workforce

There is no single easy definition of ‘employee engagement’, nor complete clarity about its interrelationship with job satisfaction or fulfillment at work. A major UK government report 'Engaging for Success' cites more than 50 definitions, including “emotional and intellectual commitment ... employees’ drive to use all their ingenuity and resources ... a compelling purpose and meaning in their work [and] a willingness to go the extra mile”.

Other interpretations of engaged employees include “making full use of their talents ... keener on learning and development” and “trying better ways to do things than simply doing risk- adversely what they’re told”.

Whether it’s also termed job satisfaction or professional fulfillment, engagement in today’s workplace reflects wider societal attitudes, norms and expectations, whether it's always being connected to social media, the ‘death of deference’, or having an expectation for our jobs to fit our lives, rather than vice versa. People want and demand a greater sense of well-being through meaningful work that provides positive emotional experiences.

types of engagement

There are two types of engagement: transactional (or job-focused) and emotional (people-oriented). Transactional engagement is more likely to lead to difficulties with work-life balance, burnout, lateness etc. while transactionally-engaged employees are more likely to be actively searching for new employment. Emotional engagement correlates to the positive results of engagement, i.e. going the extra mile and focusing on doing right by colleagues and customers, with gratification coming from being part of the team or from customers’ reactions.

Research conducted by the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) into what makes employees engaged with their workplace found:

  • older and more senior employees are generally more engaged than younger workers
  • meaning, purpose and relationships are the key motivational influences
  • younger employees see relationships with co-workers as most important
  • disengaged employees generally feel undervalued, have negative opinions of their managers, perform less well than others, and have higher absentee rates

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