Employee engagement is a concept no-one can quite seem to agree on (as explored by our June cover story). There’s no standard definition. No exact measurement to determine whether an employee is engaged or not. There’s not even widespread agreement on whether it actually exists.
Some point to the difference between team engagement and individual engagement, some claim engagement with the job and engagement with the organisation are two distinct things.
So as the profession continues to grapple with the knotty concept, perhaps it’s time we turned to employees and asked what – if anything – it means to them.
HR magazine took to the streets and asked people if they know what employee engagement means and whether they feel engaged at work. Here’s what we found…
Claudio, 22, bartender
"I can’t remember my company ever mentioning anything about employee engagement.
"I do my job for the money. I don’t like it but I do it because I’m trying to save to go to university. They treat me nicely, and even though I don’t like it I work hard. But if they gave me more money and promoted me I’d enjoy it more."
Anne, 61, teacher
"I’m not really sure what it is but we use the term ‘engaged’ when talking about the children learning so I presume it’s to do with interest in the job, job satisfaction and how well we’re supported at work.
"Before we’re inspected by Ofsted we’re told to complete a staff survey that mentions management support, communication and so on, but we don’t hear anything about it after. There certainly isn’t any follow up that I know of.
"Often the education system is very stressful and unenjoyable. But working with the children can give great job satisfaction."
Steve, 53, self-employed environmental consultant
"I interpret it as involving employees in the ethos of the company and its operations and making them feel included rather than just treating them like assets the company owns.
"Being self-employed I live and breathe my job and do something I enjoy. For me it’s not a job – it’s what I do and it’s what I am so I’m fully engaged with it. Whereas I think some people have a job they don’t enjoy that’s just a means to a salary."
Carol, 53, NHS administrator
"I’ve never heard of it but I enjoy my work – everyone is helpful and communicates with each other.
"The NHS runs surveys asking for staff feedback and my deputy manager checks in with me to make sure everything is OK.
"I’m someone who personally likes to work so I enjoy going in each day."
Leon, 39, charity fundraiser
"I feel that my time should be well spent so I like to do something productive. Being out here working for this charity is something I feel is worthwhile because it’s for a great cause.
"Now you’ve explained what employee engagement is I would say I’m definitely engaged with my job, because of what we do for the people I’m helping."
Katya, 28, retail assistant
"I hadn’t heard the phrase before today but I am happy with the company I work for. You hear some people say ‘oh no I have to go to work’. But when I think of work I’m happy to come in."
Ieva, 28, sales manager
"It’s a buzzword every HR department uses. These words are used a lot, but I’m not sure if many people know what they actually mean.
"For me it’s important to work for a company that has good values and communicates well with staff. I want to understand what’s happening within the business and why. I care about the short- and long-term outcomes of my work and how my work affects the future of the company. I’m happy at work. So I guess that means I’m engaged."
Caroline, 29, NHS speech therapist
"I haven’t heard of it but if I had to guess I’d say it means the ability of the employer to ensure employees enjoy and are committed to working towards the employer’s goals.
"In the NHS we complete a Friends and Family Test every few months, which asks us to rate our satisfaction at work, whether we feel valued and have opportunities to progress, and whether we’d recommend the NHS as a place to work. Although we fill these in fairly regularly I’m not sure what the outcomes are or whether anything actually changes.
"My head of service does engage with my specific department though. Recently we completed surveys about how satisfied we are and things we want to improve. These are discussed at team meetings and our manager uses these to bring about positive change. I know this is not true in all NHS departments though.
"Patients are the priority so it can be difficult to spend time on these things. But I think it’s important."
This piece appears in the October 2019 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk