Employee engagement is a much discussed topic amongst HR and Leadership folks, but for the purpose of clarity here is a simple explanation.

What is employee engagement?

The phrase employee engagement has been born out of the notion of leadership and describes the behaviour and attitude of an employee and their relationship to their employer.

Employee Engagement is a measurable degree of an employee’s positive or negative emotional attachment to their job, colleagues and organization that profoundly influences their willingness to learn and perform is at workScarlett, Ken (2010) “Quality Employee Engagement Measurement” Pages 108-122 as featured in “The New HR Analytics” by Dr. Jac Fitz-enz

Engagement is more then job satisfaction, motivation and wellbeing – it describes how closely aligned the interests of the employee are to those of the employer – and so is more likely to support the business through additional, discretionary work, not because they have to (e.g. forced overtime) but because they want to either help the business get what it needs, or to help a colleague out.

Why do we need it?

Employee engagement has been a hot topic for some time, but there are clear business reasons why employers should invest time and effort in making it happen to create a team that want to work for you.

  • Reduced conflict between colleagues and managers
  • Increased flexibility and willingness to do new things
  • Increased effort without a direct relationship to pay
  • Nicer place to work
  • Simpler communication without misrepresentation of facts
  • Increased trust between all parties

The challenge for small organisations

Employee engagement is likely to become more and more of a pressing issue for small employers. Today, over 90% of all organisations in the UK employ less than 50 people, and this trend is likely to continue as we shift away from large manufacturing and labour intensive industries into the service and knowledge sectors.

On that basis, small organisations need every member of the team to perform above 100%in terms of effort and commitment to cope with increases and fluctuations in demand for their product or service. In addition to this, small organisations are often more prone to rapid changes in how they work, what they do or the way they do it. Leading to higher demands for flexibility from their staff.

A final driver for smaller employers to focus on engagement is the need to constrain pay costs, and reward individuals for performance. Engagement describes where employees use high degrees of discretionary effort, basically work without pay. If a small team is highly engaged they will simply do more work for the same amount of money, without demanding overtime, lieu days or other rewards.


Engaged employees are more likely to act as organisational advocates and can play a powerful role in promoting their organisation as an employer of choice. Research confirms that there is a significant gap between the levels of engagement found among UK employees and those that would produce optimum performance. Organisations should review their approach to communication with emphasis on listening to employees, and line managers need support in designing challenging jobs and managing effective teams – CIPD

More Information

For more info on engagement see the Creating an engaged workforce report from the CIPD below:

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