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25 Definitions of Employee Engagement


For all that has been written about employee engagement, you would think that finding a list of popular definitions by the prominent players wouldn’t be too hard to find. Yet, there isn’t one.Your typical Google search reveals that there is just the one “list” style website of engagement definitions, which is called “50 definitions of employee engagement,” however the definitions are all submitted by Twitter users. While “average joe” opinions have their place, for those who are just starting to research the topic of engagement — perhaps as a student, graduate or an HR, L&D or OD professional who has been asked to put together a presentation on the subject — it’s frustrating to have to spend hours reading through numerous academic literature reviews and dozens of company websites to capture a suitable cross section of definitions and views as a basic starting point.

Conceptually understanding what something is (and is not), as defined by the acknowledged leaders and experts in that domain, should form the cornerstone and starting point of any intelligent subject inquiry.

With this in mind, and to quench the frustration of missing an all-in-the-one-place web list, we have put together a list of definitions by notable consultancies, companies, individuals and websites.

25 Definitions:

  1. “An engaged employee is one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organisation's reputation and interests.”
    — Wikipedia, October 2014

  2. “Emotional connection an employee feels toward his or her employment organisation, which tends to influence his or her behaviours and level of effort in work related activities.”
    — Business

  3. “A business management concept that describes the level of enthusiasm and dedication a worker feels toward his/her job.”

  4. “I defined personal engagement as the harnessing of organisation members’ selves to their work roles; in engagement, people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally during role performances. I defined personal disengagement as the uncoupling of selves from work roles; in disengagement, people withdraw and defend themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally during role performances.”
    — William A. Kahn (credited as the first person to write about engagement)

  5. “Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organisation and its goals.”
    — Kevin Kruse, Leadership & Employee Engagement Author

  6. “CIPD has defined employee engagement as ‘being positively present during the performance of work by willingly contributing intellectual effort, experiencing positive emotions and meaningful connections to others.’ ”
    — Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)

  7. “The Council has defined engagement as the extent to which employees commit—both rationally and emotionally—to something or someone in their organisation, how hard they work, and how long they stay as a result of that commitment.”
    — Corporate Leadership Council (CLC)

  8. “Engagement in this report is defined as satisfaction with job and commitment to the organisation.”
    — Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL)

  9. “A positive attitude held by the employee towards the organisation and its values. An engaged employee is aware of business context, and works with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organisation.”
    — Institute for Employment Studies (IES)

  10. “A composite definition, derived from these various approaches to employee engagement, could read as follows: Employee engagement is a heightened emotional and intellectual connection that an employee has for his/her job, organisation, manager, or co-workers that, in turn, influences him/her to apply additional discretionary effort to his/her work.”
    — The Conference Board

  11. “Employee engagement is the involvement with and enthusiasm for work.”
    — Gallup

  12. “We define "engagement" as the emotional and intellectual involvement that motivates employees to do their best work and contribute to your organisation's success.”
    — Aon Hewitt

  13. "Aon Hewitt defines engagement as the psychological state and behavioural outcomes that lead to better performance. Engaged employees: Say — speak positively about the organisation to coworkers, potential employees and customers; Stay — have an intense sense of belonging and desire to be a part of the organisation; and Strive — are motivated and exert effort toward success in one’s job and for the company."
    — Aon Hewitt

  14. “Engagement is defined as employees’ willingness and ability to contribute to company success. Put another way, engagement is the extent to which employees "go the extra mile" and put discretionary effort into their work — contributing more of their energy, creativity and passion on the job.”
    — Towers Watson

  15. “Full engagement occurs at the alignment of maximum job satisfaction and job contribution.”
    — Blessing White

  16. “Scarlett Surveys defines employee engagement as an individual’s degree of positive or negative emotional attachment to their organisation, their job and their colleagues.”
    — Scarlett Surveys

  17. “[Our engagement factor] actually measures engagement of the heart [emotional], the head [cognitive] and the hand [physical]. Engaging employees’ hearts refers to their positive emotional connection with the organisation; engagement of the head refers to positive thoughts about the organisation; and engagement of the hand refers to the discretionary efforts made by employees.”
    — Insync Surveys

  18. “At Bersin & Associates, we define employee engagement as: The passion and commitment that drives employees to devote their time and energy to work, proactively going above and beyond expectations to help their organisation achieve its goals.”
    — Bersin by Deloitte

  19. “Employee engagement is an employee’s intent to stay plus a willingness to do more than required on the job.”
    — Deloitte, Southeast Asia

  20. “DDI defines engagement as “the extent to which people enjoy and believe in what they do and feel valued for doing it.”
    — Development Dimensions International (DDI)

  21. “Employee engagement is defined as the commitment to and passion for one’s work and role within a company.”
    — PricewaterhouseCoopers

  22. “Hay Group defines employee engagement as: ‘a result achieved by stimulating employees’ enthusiasm for their work and directing it toward organisational success.’ ”
    — Hay Group

  23. “In short, engagement can be thought of as the degree of employee-organisation alignment.”
    — Right Management, Australia and New Zealand

  24. “[Our] Employee Engagement Surveys measure whether employees are fully involved and enthusiastic about their work and company.”
    — Bain & Company

  25. “Engagement is the extent to which employees are motivated to contribute to organisational success, and are willing to apply discretionary effort (extra time, brainpower and effort) to accomplishing tasks that are important to the achievement of organisational goals.”
    — Kenexa

Note: Engagement definitions are known to change over time. The above quotes represent statements that have been made by an individual, company or website at one point in time, but may have been subject to change, revision or update by the author(s) since publication of this list.

Theo Winter

Theo Winter

Client Services Manager, Writer & Researcher. Theo is one of the youngest professionals in the world to earn an accreditation in TTI Success Insight's suite of psychometric assessments. For more than a decade, he worked with hundreds of HR, L&D and OD professionals and consultants to improve engagement, performance and emotional intelligence of leaders and their teams. He authored the book "40 Must-Know Business Models for People Leaders."

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