Employee Engagement – What does that mean?

In my last post I talked a little about how important Employee Engagement is and why I’ve joined the public conversation. In this post, I want to talk a little about what Employee Engagement is.

Break it Down

One thing I do to better understand a concept is to break it down and define the terms. For example, what is “Engagement?” I know I’m going to sound like a word nerd, but bear with me. The suffix “-ment” is magical. It turns a verb into a noun. Merriam-Webster says -ment identifies a “concrete result, object or agent of a specified action (e.g. embankment), or, the state or condition resulting from a specified action (e.g. encampment).” So, engagement is the concrete result or the state or condition resulting from someone engaging.

What does Engaging Mean?

Now I want to know what “Engaging” means. We use the verb “To Engage” in many ways. It can mean, for example:

  1. To attract and hold, by influence or power
  2. To Commit (bind) as to marry
  3. To weave into the fabric (interlock, mesh: gears)
  4. To engross (take and hold attention)
  5. To induce to participate, involve or cause to be included, to take part
  6. To Hire (e.g. a lawyer)
  7. To Enter into a contest or battle – competition
Each of those definitions adds a dimension to our understanding of engagement in an organization. Think about each one in the context of employee engagement–trust me, it’s fun! In broadest terms it seems to convey the idea of connecting things or people with or to a purpose. So, a person who engages could be called an “Engager.” In fact, in order for there to be engagement, there has to be an engager, someone who has engaged.

Who is the Engager?

But who is the engager? Some self-motivated people are natural engagers. It’s how they do life. When we have those people on our teams in an organization its a blessing. Most people, however, especially at work, need a little help getting engaged. That responsibility usually falls to their supervisor, the “boss.” So, when employee engagement happens, it’s usually the result of a boss acting as engager for their team.

Putting It All Together

OK, so now I want to know how that happens. If we say that a supervisor engages their employees, and mean they “induce or cause them to participate or be engrossed in their work” (see definitions  5 and 4 above), how do they do it? You know me, I went looking for a word to describe the forces or properties that stimulate growth, development, or change within a system or process. Wait a minute! That’s the very definition of “Dynamics!”
When I talk about Employee Engagement, I’m coming at it from the perspective of “Engager Dynamics.” I’m exploring the attributes and energies (yeah, more definitions. Those are other words for properties and forces) that make some bosses really good at engaging their employees; thus creating Employee Engagement.

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