……so people keep telling me.  If that’s the case why does it seem so hard to do!

In a previous post I discussed the reasons for engagement and why it benefits the business, but actually getting it can be tricky.

1. It’s not real

The first thing we have to understand is that employee engagement isn’t real.  It’s a made up term to describe why some employees seem to offer more effort than their colleagues for the same amount of pay.  The term engagement has been born from the notion of the psychological contract which was first used in the 1960’s – to describe the mutual obligations of employers and employees.  When these obligations are met, it is said there is more likely to be good employee relations and in turn a greater chance of creating an engaged team.

2. It’s subjective

The second important point to note is that engagement is a feeling that is held by the employee about their work.  Because it’s a feeling knowing when we’ve got it is really tricky as employees don’t shout from their desk ‘Yes, I am engaged today, give me more work!‘.  So, unless the employee gives us clues we could already have engaged teams but not recognise it. Measuring engagement relies heavily on the use of opinion based surveys administered to colleagues to gauge their feelings toward their employer.  On any given day employees feelings of engagement could go up or down depending on what’s happening to them at that time.  In its Winter 2012/2013 Employee Outlook Survey, the CIPD stated that –

The Engagement Index shows that the proportion of employees engaged has reduced this quarter (35%). The majority of respondents (61%) remain neutral – neither engaged nor disengaged – a sizeable number that employers should take note of. Just 4% of respondents are disengaged 

This shift in engagement could be caused by a wide range of factors – even down to the weather and employees feeling grumpy because its the middle of winter and dark all day….who knows, so care needs to be taken that we don’t over estimate our ability to measure something that is in effect immeasurable.

3. It changes over time

A further point to note is that the level of engagement fluctuates over time, engaged employees can become disengaged and vice versa.  factors that can influence the level of engagement include the transparency of communication, perceptions of fairness in recognition, the employees ability to discuss concerns and problems, the opportunities for employees to be involved in decisions and if the employee perceives the organisation will meet their career and personal goals. Recognising the potential shift in employees from one state to another is a key task for all leaders, and can only be achieved where the leader has a good relationship with their team and notices subtle changes in behaviour and then taking swift action to address the problem or provide praise where performance improves.

4. When do we know that we’ve got it?

Although there are no hard and fast list of factors that are indicators of employee engagement, there are some clues that employers should watch out for to make an informal assessment of how engaged the team are:

  1. Talks positively about changes in the business
  2. Willingly provides suggestions for organisational improvements
  3. Low levels of absence from work
  4. Works in a flexible manner without demanding financial rewards
  5. Says yes, more than they say no
  6. Offers solutions, rather than just suffering problems
  7. Visibly supports management actions
  8. Understands the organisational purpose
  9. Seeks chances for personal development through learning and tasks
  10. Makes decisions and shows a high degree of personal accountability


Engagement is one of those topics that is closely linked to the notion of leadership.  What makes it challenging for all leaders is that the benefits are very appealing, but there is only one person who can actually make it happen – the employee – you can’t buy it and you can’t force people to do it.

More Information

For more info on engagement see the Locus of Engagement report from the CIPD below: [gview file=”https://illerbyhillcouk.stage.site/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Locus-of-Engagement.pdf”] If you would like to find out more about how we can help you build an engaged team, get in touch.  https://illerbyhillcouk.stage.site/?p=739