Blogs & Vlogs

What we're talking about

May 18, 2014

Employee Engagement in 4D

Despite employee engagement being reported as vital for business performance and cited as being of utmost concern in many organisations around the world, you may be surprised to learn that there is still no clear consensus of what the term employee engagement actually means. 

While there is tons of data available from organisations like Gallup, Hay Group and the CIPD offering various definitions it may be of no surprise to you that how and why people are engaged at work is as individual as each unique employee. So the question remains, is there a ‘universal’ concept for employee engagement. We would offer that there is and we call it  the 4 dimensions of engagement.

Many engagement surveys generate data that leads to organisations defining engagement in purely behavioural terms, such as what employees need to do in terms of tasks, volume of work, time manangement and  discretionary effort or ‘going the extra mile’. However these assessments and definitions tend not to focus enough on the emotional, cognitive, moral, ethical, spiritual and motivational lines of human engagement at work. Of course it is true that most organisations have a limited ampunt of time and resourses  to allocate to addressing all the dimensions of a human being’s existential experience in the work place. But we suggest that employers consider at minimum the following four dimensions – and in detail.

Physically - An engaged employee will benefit from a feeling of physical well being at work based on the quality of their environment and facilities available. Gym equipment, healthy food in the restaurant, clean air, balanced sound levels and good lighting.  In fact Bupa UK do provide most of the above for their people and have a specific organsiational goal to ensure that employees are healthier because they work at Bupa. The people of this organisation understand that sustainable engagement goes hand in hand with their employees physical well-being.

Emotionally – Emotional engagement occurs when employees feel intrinsically motivated at work because they feel listened to, emotionally aligned with the purpose of their work and positive about their ability to complete their tasks.  They also have a sense of worth and value to the team and the organization as a whole because they regularly receive feedback and are able to discuss their feelings and thoughts with their manager. They know that sharing their feelings and thoughts is worth while as it will lead to actions. Emotional engagement is fragile and can quickly shift over into ‘transactional engagement’ where a person just does the necessary to get a task done. While appearing to be engaged behaviourally, in reality they are emotionally disengaged and as a result have less energy and enthusiasm for the job. Spotting the difference is key when dealing with this dimension and requires regular, quality, face to face interactions between leaders and their people..

Intellectually – Cognitive engagement occurs when an employee is presented with frequent, strategic challenges to think about without the added stress of pressure from managers who propose unrealistic timelines. In fact research from CIPD suggests that line manager behaviour has a significant effect on the engagement of employees citing ‘supporting employee growth’, good interpersonal communication style and integrity’ and ‘monitoring direction’ as key competencies that contribute to employee engagement. Intellectually engaged employees are regularly invited to ask questions, make suggestions and share their knowledge, ideas and information in a safe environment.

Intentionally- The intentional dimension of human being is the soil in which the other three dimensions emerge, develop and grow. Our intentions drive our physical, emotional and intellectual actions making this dimension the most important. An employee who is intentionally engaged at work will apply themselves fully to their tasks because their own intentions will be totally aligned with the goals of the team and the organization based on a clear line of sight, an understanding of the business objectives and how they are personally contributing to the success of a project. This is achieved by providing safe platforms and holding regular forums where people can freely share their ambitions, hopes and experiences – positive and negative.

Including these 4 dimensions in your next engagement survey will make the difference between a survey that simply generates 'overview' data and one that reveals genuine, detailed insights about which specific levels of employee engagement are high or low in your organisation.