What Is The Definition Of Employee Engagement?

What Is The Definition Of Employee Engagement?

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You’ve done employee engagement surveys in the past. Some have contributed to improvements and some have not. How can you make an employee engagement survey initiative applicable and effective for your organization? These are big thoughts. The thing is, effective surveys measuring employee engagement start with a solid understanding of employee engagement itself. Which means creating an employee engagement definition—particularly as it relates to your organization.

Generic Employee Engagement Definitions

The definition of employee engagement is not sheer employee happiness. As Forbes puts it, employee happiness doesn’t necessarily mean they’re working hard, productively on behalf of the organization.”  Nor is it a satisfied employee who might show up for [their] daily 9-to-5 without complaint. But that same ‘satisfied’ employee might not go the extra effort on [their] own, and will probably take the headhunter’s call luring [them] away with a 10% bump in pay.”

A wide-sweeping generic employee engagement definition described by Wikipedia is that it’s “a fundamental concept in the effort to understand and describe, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the nature of the relationship between an organization and its employees.”   

That’s an acceptable enough blanket interpretation. But like most everything, one size doesn’t fit all.

Why Should Employee Engagement Definitions Reflect Your Organization?

Organizations are as unique as the different weights and shapes of human bodies. That “one-of-a-kind” narrative makes sense given that the nucleus of any organization is the variety of people that shape it. And those very people at the core of your organization have individual reasons for doing their job.

You might like to think it’s more than just collecting a paycheck. You might like to believe your employees are passionate about what they do and are fulfilled by their work. But are they? Really? Why or why not?

Hence why it’s essential to define employee engagement on your terms as it relates to your organization and workforce specifically. Your definition of employee engagement determines the outcome of your efforts. By adding or exchanging survey questions to ones that influence the desired outcome for your organization, the chances of achieving better business results become that much higher. Note: this will impact the relevance of any external benchmarks you’re looking to compare. But as expressed in Forbes, we’re of the opinion that business results trump benchmarks any day of the week. 

Considerations to Guide Your Definition of Employee Engagement

To arrive at a definition that suits your organization and guides the kinds of questions you need to ask, you have to have a pretty clear idea of what it is you’re looking to know.

Are attrition rates concerning? What’s causing people to leave? 

Do your management and senior leadership teams reflect the diversity of customers you serve and the communities where you operate? Where are the gaps and what can be done about them? Does one department excel at hiring, developing, and promoting diverse talent while another lags behind? What are these departments doing differently? 

Designing effective surveys measuring employee engagement and then making sense out of feedback can become mind-bendingly intricate thanks to how multi-dimensional employee engagement really is. 

To help organizations measure and understand what matters to their people and how to positively impact engagement levels WorkTango’s employee engagement model breaks all this complexity down into three major components.  

1. Employee Engagement Index

The employee engagement index by definition is an indicator of sentiment. It’s formed by a collection of survey statements that ask employees to rate feelings such as loyalty, pride, and enthusiasm.  
  • Would your employees recommend their organization as a great place to work?  
  • Are they inspired to give their very best at work?
  • Do they expect to be working at the organization in 12 months time?
  • Are they proud to work for the organization? 

Responses measure intellectual and emotional connections to your organization as well as work ethic behaviors and attitudes.   

The index is revealing in and of itself. But when you look at it in correlation with other workplace “factors” that’s where your organization’s engagement story starts to get really interesting. A high or low engagement index score needs context. Other influential measurements add that perspective. 

2. Employee Engagement Factors 

While the focus of the engagement index is to understand overall employee sentiment, engagement factors unearth what  influencesemployee engagement and to what extent.

Knowing what it is you want to learn gives shape to your organization’s definition of employee engagement. It points decision-making and actions in the right direction. 

For example, how are your employees adjusting to an unfamiliar hybrid workplace? A new policy? A change of leadership?  

Should you find yourself in the midst of a merger, what’s your employees’ state of mind at that particular moment in time? What factors are impacting people?  

There are multiple factors that drive employees to retreat in frustration or strive to do their best.   

LEADERSHIP: Direct Manager; Senior Leadership 

WORK ENVIRONMENT: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Trust and Safety; Enablement 



GROWTH: Learning and Development; Career Growth 

TOTAL REWARDS: Compensation and Benefits; Recognition



How are Employee Responses Evaluated?

Effective employee engagement strategies come from looking at different factors within your organization that influence and have the greatest impacon your employees, their engagement levels, and overall workplace experiences.  

Of course, because personal views are as varied as body shapes and sizes, certain factors impact individual engagement levels differently.   

Look at what factors surface organization-wide or by region, division, function, or leader. What are the scores saying? How do these factors correlate with your employee engagement index as an organization and separated out by whatever geographic, demographic, or other groupings of your choice? WorkTango helps you calculate and understand these multi-dimensional insights.

Naturally, feedback will sometimes reinforce what you suspect. Sometimes feedback will come at you from out of the blue. And sometimes there are insights that leave you wondering what respondents are trying to say. More clarity comes by asking open-ended questions that tap directly into the voice of employees. 

3. Employee Voice

The third major component in WorkTango’s methodology is consulting the voice of employees by asking open-ended survey questions. 

Employee comments add color. Reasons behind responses offer a richer understanding of employee sentiment and levels of engagement. They help to pinpoint factors of importance be it an unsupportive direct manager, limited career growth opportunities, teamwork and collaboration concerns, and so on. 

By voicing suggested actions, employee comments also become a participative management tool. Acknowledgment and follow-up actions demonstrate how much your organization values this feedback. 

Effective Employee Engagement Starts with You

Set the stage with an employee engagement definition that’s relatable to your people. And your people leaders. 

Build employee engagement programs that give employees a voice. And deliver actionable insights to management.  

Make the outcome of your employee engagement survey efforts meaningful by joining forces with WorkTango.