Understanding Employee Engagement - Definition and its Origin

Organizations have come to realize that in today’s constantly changing business scenario, the most valuable resource that needs to be leveraged is human resource. This means not just attracting the creme-de-la-creme and retaining them but keeping them motivated and committed to achieving the organization goals.

Though Employee Engagement (EE) as a business buzzword has generated research and steam since the new economy service industries like IT (Information Technology) and ITES (IT enables services) have taken off, the origins of engagement are as old as mankind itself.

We shall try and decode and define employee engagement as used and implemented by organizations today by looking at the very origins of engagement practices.

Origin of Employee Engagement

History records that about 2300 years ago, Alexander (356 BC – 323 BC) was able to march ahead and conquer unknown lands by battling for years across continents, miles away from home, because he had an engaged army that was willing to abide by its commander.

Alexander is known to have achieved the engaged workforce by ensuring that he spent face time with his men, listening and addressing grievance, ensuring on time payment of salary, dressing like the rest of his army and most importantly by leading from front.

More recently, in World War II, Americans funded a lot of money for researching the behaviour of its soldiers to be able to predict their battle readiness.

History is dotted with examples of leaders who have led their men by building a psychological commitment between their men and their ideology to achieve greatness. In this psychological contract lies the roots of today’s Employee Engagement theories propounded by organizations.

Definition of Employee Engagement

An engaged workforce produces better business results, does not hop jobs and more importantly is an ambassador of the organization at all points of time. This engagement is achieved when people consider their organization respects their work, their work contributes to the organization goals and more importantly their personal aspirations of growth, rewards and pay are met.

The Hay Group defines enagaged performance as “a result that is achieved by stimulating employees’ enthusiasm for their work and directing it toward organization success. This result can only be achieved when employers offer an implicit contract to their employees that elicits specific positive behaviours aligned with organization’s goals...

Lanphear defines EE as “the bond employees have with their organization” Lanphear further espouses that “when employees really care about the business, they are more likely to go the extra mile.”

The definitions, as seen, focus on employer as well as the employee. Today’s millennial workforce is more informed, connected, willing to work given learning opportunities. Personal growth, opportunities to learn and explore is becoming a primary driver. Equity more then pay is a driving force. Catering to the changing needs to foster engaged employees is the need of the hour.

In conclusion, understanding employee engagement drivers, measuring and enhancing engagement offers promise of better business performance by ambassadors of the organization who work like entrepreneurs and help sustain organization growth through innovation and lower employee turnover.

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