What Employee Engagement is NOT

Employee engagement has become a buzzword of sorts, but true engagement is much more than jargon. We spend a great deal of time working with clients to build and maintain strong employee engagement programs, and I firmly believe that employee engagement plays a critical role in driving business outcomes. But, because it’s become such a popular term, there’s also some confusion out there in terms of what employee engagement is, and is not.

  1. Employee engagement is NOT the same as employee satisfaction. Wait, what? It’s true. An employee can be satisfied, but not necessarily engaged. Factors like flexibility, compensation and working conditions all contribute to employee satisfaction. Think of it this way: if you meet your employee’s basic needs, chances are they are satisfied. But, are they really emotionally invested in what they’re doing? Are they willing to go above and beyond for you? When they are, that’s more than being satisfied – it’s being engaged, and it requires meeting basic needs and then some. Engagement requires an alignment of values, a commitment to career development and a sense of purpose. Whereas satisfaction is transactional in nature, engagement is an emotional connection between the employee and his or her employer.
  2. Employee engagement is NOT about the benjamins. Would you like to make more money? My guess is yes, we all would. But throwing money at employees does not equal engagement. It may be a short-term fix to improve employee satisfaction, but per point number one, satisfaction does not equal engagement.
  3. Employee engagement is NOT a one and done. An employee engagement program is not one-size-fits-all. And it doesn’t have a finish line. It’s an integral part of a brand or organization’s culture, a long-term commitment and an important business strategy.
  4. Lastly, employee engagement is NOT solely the responsibility of leaders. Should senior leadership make employee engagement a priority? Absolutely. But engagement is the responsibility of everyone within the organization. And, more often than not, it’s middle management that has the biggest impact on engagement levels. Equip managers with the tools and resources they need to ensure their teams are successful; empower them to do what’s right for your employees and your company; and most importantly, make sure that they themselves are engaged.

Once seen as a “nice to have,” research now proves that engagement impacts everything from recruitment and retention to earnings per share. Understanding what drives engagement – and what doesn’t – is essential to business success. What are you doing to drive engagement within your organization?

For our thoughts on communication and brand strategy, industry trends and more, subscribe to Padilla POV here. This post was updated from July 2018. 

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