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HR Glossary | What is employee engagement?

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What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is a concept related to the extent to which employees are positively connected with their employers, their colleagues, and the work that they do. While it’s a somewhat subjective concept, employers attempt to measure engagement in a variety of ways—primarily through engagement or satisfaction surveys designed to provide an indication of how connected employees are. 

The history of engagement

Employers are concerned about employee engagement because they believe that engagement is linked to loyalty and longevity. The concept emerged, HR analyst Josh Bersin says, more than 30 years when “Gallup and other companies pioneered the concept of the ‘engagement survey’.” Since then, a number of other organizations have entered the field, working with employers to apply analytics to the concept of engagement in an attempt to provide insights into the risk employers may face to turnover.

Low levels of engagement

Today, with turnover levels again on the rise during what has been called the “Great Resignation,” interest in engagement is high. Unfortunately, Gallup data indicates that engagement has taken a dive during the pandemic, reaching its lowest point in a decade in 2021, according to SHRM—“only 34 percent of the 57,022 full-and part-time employees” surveyed indicated that they were engaged. A startling 16% indicated they were “actively disengaged.” Lack of engagement is a clear driver of turnover, something that all organizations want to avoid.

Measuring engagement

Gallup measures engagement through its Q12 survey which asks employees to respond to 12 statements that Gallup indicates are positively aligned with engagement such as: “I know what is expected of me at work,” (Q1) and “This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow” (Q12).  Culture Amp is another organization that has conducted research to identify the drivers of employee engagement to help companies determine important questions to ask to assess engagement. 

To truly unlock the value of engagement data it’s important to combine that data with other metrics available through HR management and performance management systems and business outcome data. Establishing a baseline and taking step to improve engagement can help employers keep a data-based focus on this important metric. 

About the author: Visier Team

People-centered ideas and insights by the editorial team at Visier.

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