How to Recognize Employee Engagement. The Employee Engagement Picture, Know it When You See It.
If you had to sum it up with a single concept, employee engagement is all about psychological ownership. When I become engaged, when I feel a sense of ownership, the company ceases to be your company and becomes my company. It doesn’t matter whether or not I own a single share of stock. If I’m engaged, I no longer have a job, I have a career—a career that becomes a way of life and a part of my identity.
Being engaged is when you stop asking, what do I have to do, what’s my job description and what is the expectation? Employees who are not engaged tend to be concerned with the minimum expectations, and the specific requirements of their job. They worry only about the things that they have been asked to do—and they want to know what they have to do to get by or keep their job.
Engaged employees develop a stronger conscientiousness about what they can do. They will do the little bitty things, the checks and the cross-checks that they don’t have to do and weren’t asked to do to make sure things are done just right. They will go the extra inch or the extra mile to do whatever it takes to support the organization.
Employee engagement is all about discretionary effort. Every hour of every day, employees make choices, sometimes big choices, but always little ones.
- How hard am I going to work?
- How careful am I going to be?
- Should I help my co-workers, even when they haven’t asked?
- Should I take a break now because the clock says I can, or should I finish this project first or skip my break because it just feels better to get the work done?
The psychological construct that drives engagement is ownership. The practical result is discretionary effort and energy applied and linked to the organization. When we measure the engagement of a company’s people, we are predicting how much effort they will put forth.
When people are fully engaged they will endure periods of low satisfaction or even mild misery and remain committed. But when satisfaction becomes low and people also become disengaged, they will leave. Some will leave physically, and others will leave mentally but stay—which is often much worse. When this happens, people not only become less productive, but they find ways to interfere with the engagement and productivity of the people around them.
No other single factor has more impact on the workforce than engagement. It’s powerful and it’s manageable. It’s also measurable and quite possibly the best opportunity to significantly move the needle on workforce performance.