50 definitions of employee engagement

The concept has been bandied about for a while now, but what does it mean? Dozens of business professionals chime in with their thoughts.


Employee engagement comes in many shades, different definitions. It’s a concept that outwardly has a very simple meaning, but we know underneath that there are multiple layers, multiple shades that add to its complexity. Its meaning and how you define it can vary depending on your role, organization, individual satisfaction, and even personal happiness.

The levels of interest vary: There are those who don’t understand its value and won’t take part at all, those who play more of the voyeur, watching as it happens, and then there are those who are eager participants, actively driving and leading engagement efforts.

We also know that how organizations define and promote employee engagement has evolved over time and has varying shades of definitions depending on the needs of the organization.

I know how I define employee engagement, but I wanted to ask you—the employee, the average Joe, the thought leader, and the social strategist, an eclectic mix of professionals—how you would define it.

Here is the list of top 50 shades of employee engagement in no particular order. Many thanks to everyone who responded with their own shade—or definition—of what employee engagement means to them.

(Editor’s note: The following contributions have been edited for spelling, punctuation, etc., to ensure clarity and with no changes in wording or phrasing that would distort the original intent or meaning of the comment.)

1. lan Lepofsky @alanlepo—Make sure there is a clear reason why employees should use the tools you provide them; don’t just roll out the latest shiny object.

2. Andy Jankowski @andyjankowski—Social tools and processes materially contribute to employee engagement by addressing and enabling the core components of intrinsic motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose (as defined by Dan Pink in “Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us”).

3. Rob Garcia @RobGarciaSJ—Engagement stems from commitment and loyalty, which are both two-way streets. Be ready to put your employees first before you roll out any social tools….then and only then you can really enable them to be more productive, more collaborative, more appreciated with social tools.

4. Sean Nicholson @seanrnicholson—Great ideas come from everywhere. Ask employees to contribute innovations & reward them for their input.

5. Lee Vincent ‏ @LeeVincent2—Engagement comes from a sense of community (common purpose, aligned vision, etc.). Effective communities are based on trust. Social can help you build and maintain trust, but it needs to be purposeful.

6. Yvonne LaRose @Vivavoce—Motivation keeps [employees] focused on goal attainment. It also spurs teamwork where necessary. Having the right tools and support shows management support and relevance. Motivation comes from the belief that what’s being done [by the employee] has positive impact on the ultimate goal (or that their input does so).

7. Christine McLeod @impactresults—Who you are is more important than what you do. Hire for attitude; train for skill.

8. Michael Brito @britopian—Employee engagement needs to be a strategic business initiative. They [sic] are trusted among their peers and can influence others.

9. Mary Barnes @IrishOats—Create an environment where employee-initiated and -driven efforts are welcome.

10. Zafira N @fantasyfinds—Be invested. For your employees to care about the business, they have to feel that you appreciate them.

11. Nicholas de Wolff @nicholasdewolff—Inspire excellence by advocating for innovation and transparency. Eliminate silos and fiefdoms.

12. Jacqueline Mills ‏@JackieSueMills—Employee engagement is the missing link to help the U.S. economy fully recover and become competitive again.

13. Achievers ‏@Achievers—An engaged employee is someone who’s confident that their hard work has a meaningful impact on the organization. The key to building employee engagement is creating a culture of recognition in the workplace.

14. Liz Harrell @Musical_Iris—As an employer, if you’re going to ask for employee input, be prepared to use it. Don’t ask and then do the complete opposite anyways. (I hate it when my managers go on and on about things being a “team effort” when management has already made up their mind and ask our opinions anyways.)

15. Karen Dredske @kdredske—Don’t penalize mistakes that lead to learning and innovation-encourage them.

16. Charles Slang™ ‏@CharlieSlang—True employee engagement means management listens to front-line workers, as they often have good ideas to increase efficiency!

17. Sean Reddell ‏@ThatHappyGuy—For me, it’s being able to pursue things I’m interested in, using skills I like using, with people I like working with.

18. Lauren Fritsch ‏@MagnetismFactor —Support their growth, even if it means growing out of role, division, company.

19. Brandon Morris ‏@qb_baron—Employee engagement is employees who positively engage not only the customer, but everything about the business where they are employed. Let me also add that you generally do NOT get employee engagement without employer engagement with the employee…take a personal interest in them; you get a better worker plus one who is ENGAGED!

20. Gerry Dunn ‏@potomacsecret—Check in with employees often to see how they are (honestly), what they need, how you can help them work more efficiently, and show genuine care and gratitude for having them as employees. A happy employee will work harder and ultimately make more money for the employer.

21. Ernest Koncaba ‏@abacnok—Instill customer satisfaction and the ability to answer their questions. An ignored customer is a lost customer. Give the customer all the time they want.

22. Sandor Benko ‏@SandorBenko—Employee engagement begins when the company’s vision statement is big enough to cover the employee’s vision.

23. JB King ‏@jbking2—Employee engagement isn’t just for HR! Every worker in a company has a responsibility for building the culture at an organization. What are you building today?

24. David Blankenship ‏@Davorado—Employees actively participating with clients, suppliers, and colleagues in the business and mission of the company-not just there for the job and paycheck.

25. Tom Fong—Employees are the backbone of any corporation. Treat them well, motivate them, and get them involved. Involve them in brainstorming sessions, establish solid communications to resolve issues, and move forward with stellar ideas. Employers are in a relationship with employees. Make it a good relationship.

26. E. J. Jay Williams ‏@ejwilliamsjr—Get your team involved in all aspects of your business….it helps them to learn and take ownership of the need to succeed!

27. Don ‏@bmw_free—Let employees share ideas in private, use their ideas (with credit) to create a sense of employee ownership in the company.

28. Mike Bazaluk ‏@mbazaluk—As a “manager” working with my team instead of sat away in an office, so as to gain understanding of workload and pressures they are under.

29. Chris Stylianou ‏@ValleyGemsSA—Always remember that your employees are not commodities and are fellow human beings who have desires, fears, and ambitions as you have. Compassion, care, and concern for who they are and what they strive for is very important. Listen.

30. © MrBill ‏@MrBill01—Employees feel fully involved and enthusiastic about their jobs and the company.

31. Tulleuchen ‏@tulleuchen—Employee engagement is a great thing; however, it’s a luxury that many cannot afford to have these days, as first and foremost people need money to survive. So many times we take jobs or even career paths we are not really passionate about.

32. Krishnendu Dutta @intelliron—True employee engagement happens when employees are aligned with company’s vision/mission and find their own personal goals in it. It also means culture and temperament are perfectly tuned.

33. Lana Bandoim @Lana_Bandoim—Employee engagement means being actively involved in the work and caring about the results. It’s more than simply showing up to collect a paycheck.

34. Geoff tegjeu @tag64geoff—Employee engagement is crucial for the betterment and growth of the company; to the point, it is the investment of the company’s most important asset that must be cultivated, groomed, and advanced.

35. Sam Botstein @botstein—Employee engagement is the heart of any 501(c)3. It is all about the people involved.

36. Lynn O’Connell @omdirect—Engaged employees are “present” in the moment, understand the mission, and take personal responsibility for serving customers.

37. Abhijit pradhan @abhijit_dan—Getting the employee to see natural alignment between personal vision and the company’s, expressed in the day-to-day, will create engagement.

38. Jacob Rosenberg @jrosenberg—How you treat your employees tells them what you think of them. If you value them, don’t say it, do it.

39. Barry Gumm ‏@GummBarry—ME at work usually called Team work, but when I [hear] that from a boss I know that TEAM spelled backwards means “ME AT work!

40. Alex Zmushka ‏@azmushko—Very brief: If you care, they do care, too.

41. Bryan Murphy ‏@theBryanMurphy—Keeping employees engaged is effective for mission congruence and participation.

42. Sea lily @photocopied—To me, it means that your employees are actively and positively functioning as a group towards a common goal.

43. Tom Gardiner @Thogar—To me, employee engagement means just how much an employee is invested in their occupation. It’s a combination of satisfaction, manager appreciation, and a feeling of being integral to the company.

44. Candace Mountain @candacemountain—Employee engagement is providing meaningful, two-way input in some of the decision-making processes that will affect them.

45. Leia D @Nurse_Techy—There are only 2 words that come to my mind, and those are ‘TEAM PLAYER’ =)

46. Emmanuel Gonot @EmmanuelGonot—Employee engagement means employees are in tune with the company’s goals and vision and contributing enthusiastically to the overall push to reach these goals and realize the vision.

47. rictownsend @rictownsend—Employee engagement = being involved in the planning & goal-setting process so they take ownership and are rewarded in line with the outcomes.

48. Greg Harvey @fitnwell—To me it means involving your employees in the company and encouraging an empowering role. I find it is becoming more difficult as our younger workforce is generally less loyal to companies and work seems to be becoming less of a priority in that generation. I have read a lot of books in this area, tried different things over the past 14 years, and I can’t say I have been as successful as I would like us to be in that area yet. I do have some great employees and am still hopeful.

49. NeoshaGEE @NeoshaLatrice—An engaged employee is one who [is] on top of things while in the workplace or doing business outside of the workplace. Those employees are very valuable.

50. Catherine White @CatherineWPhoto—An engaged employee is one who is on, while on the job.

What’s your shade of employee engagement? How would you define it? Or what would be your best advice regarding it?

A version of this post first appeared on The Social Workplace.

(Image via)

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