One of the most important things you can do to build a high performing, high functioning team, is to hire engaged employees, and build engaged teams. Many people confuse employee engagement with employee happiness, which is not the case. This page is dedicated to the discussion of employee engagement. To lay some framework, here are a couple of very information articles on Employee Engagement from Forbes.com
What Is Employee Engagement
What is employee engagement anyway? Let’s start with what it’s not…
Employee engagement does not mean employee happiness. Someone might be happy at work, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are working hard, productively on behalf of the organization. While company game rooms, free massages and Friday keg parties are fun–and may be beneficial for other reasons–making employees happy is different from making them engaged.
Employee engagement doesn’t mean employee satisfaction. Many companies have “employee satisfaction” surveys and executives talk about “employee satisfaction”, but the bar is set too low. A satisfied employee might show up for her daily 9-to-5 without complaint. But that same “satisfied” employee might not go the extra effort on her own, and she’ll probably take the headhunter’s call luring her away with a 10% bump in pay. Satisfied isn’t enough.
Definition: Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.
This emotional commitment means engaged employees actually care about their work and their company. They don’t work just for a paycheck, or just for the next promotion, but work on behalf of the organization’s goals.
When employees care—when they are engaged—they use discretionary effort.
This means the engaged computer programmer works overtime when needed, without being asked. This means the engaged retail clerk picks up the trash on the store floor, even if the boss isn’t watching. This means the TSA agent will pull a bag suspicious bag to be searched, even if it’s the last bag on their shift.
Engaged employees lead to better business outcomes. In fact, according to Towers Perrin research companies with engaged workers have 6% higher net profit margins, and according to Kenexa research engaged companies have five times higher shareholder returns over five years.
How does employee engagement lead to higher stock prices? The ROI of engagement comes from what I call the Engagement-Profit Chain:
Engaged Employees lead to…
- higher service, quality, and productivity, which leads to…
- higher customer satisfaction, which leads to…
- increased sales (repeat business and referrals), which leads to…
- higher levels of profit, which leads to…
- higher shareholder returns (i.e., stock price)
As former Campbell’s Soup CEO, Doug Conant, once said, “To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.” Employee engagement is the key to activating a high performing workforce.
Kevin Kruse is a keynote speaker and NY Times bestselling author of Employee Engagement 2.0 and Employee Engagement for Everyone.
The Difference Between Happiness and Engagement at Work
I often get asked about the difference between Engagement and Happiness. One reader of my book, Employee Engagement 2.0, wrote to me pointing out that I believe they are different things, but he’s confused because I say one needs to be fully engaged in order to achieve inner happiness. So here’s a further explanation…
Someone can be happy at work, but not “engaged.” They might be happy because they are lazy and it’s a job with not much to do. They might be happy talking to all their work-friends and enjoying the free cafeteria food. They might be happy to have a free company car. They might just be a happy person. But! Just because they’re happy doesn’t mean they are working hard on behalf of the company. They can be happy and unproductive.
When someone is engaged, it means they are emotionally committed to their company and their work goals. They care about their work. They care about results. This makes them go above and beyond—to give discretionary effort. In fact, many full engaged people are a little stressed at work. They aren’t necessarily walking the halls whistling a tune, and happily hanging out at the water cooler. Engaged sales people are the ones still banging out cold calls on a Friday afternoon. Engaged programmers are the ones working through the night in order to hit a deadline. Engaged factory workers pull the chain to stop the entire line when they notice a defect.
However, research is overwhelming that we need to be engaged at work in order to be happy in all areas of our life. Because of the spillover and crossover effects, our emotions at work effect our health and relationships. Being fully engaged at work gives us a sense of purpose, of meaning, of belonging…vital human needs beyond the paycheck.
Yeast is not that same as bread, but yeast is required to make bread. Engagement at work is not the same as happiness, but you need engagement to achieve happiness.
Kevin Kruse is a NY Times bestselling author and serial entrepreneur. Grab his newsletter now at kevinkruse.com and check out keynote video excerpt. His new book, Employee Engagement 2.0, teaches managers how to turn apathetic groups into emotionally committed teams.