The Real Definition of Employee Engagement

Ever since Gallup revealed their findings that 70% of workers are either disengaged or actively disengaged in their work, “employee engagement” has been all the buzz. Quite frankly, none of this is new, and anyone reading this blog knows that and is working hard to change the game.

Tonight, I started to write a different post (which I’ll save for Monday), but got sidetracked when for grins, I looked up Employee Engagement in the Urban Dictionary, searching for a pithy opener. I was shocked by the search results:


employee engagement isn’t defined.

Can you define it?

Game on.

Let’s do this!  Please leave your best definitions in the comment section here, and I’ll upload your responses (or just go for it and upload your own to Urban Dictionary). What an opportunity to tell the truth. Of course consider the medium–you’ll want to be “hip.”

P.S. my son Sebastian (9) reminded me the other day (after I commented on how “hip” he looked) that neither of us would know “hip” if it bit us in the butt… but “the way we looked now, was about as good as it gets.”

With that said, I’m quite sure our hip crowd is up to the challenge.

Posted in Authenticity & Transparency, Career & Learning, Communication, Confident Humility, Employee Engagement & Energy and tagged , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells - building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Employee Engagement: The level of discretionary attention that a person brings to the task at hand. The amount of care, craft, presence, and quality that someone brings to producing something, interacting with someone, or any other type of work activity, learning, for example. Engagement happens at the physical, mental and spiritual level. Thomas Peters once wrote “Attention is all there is” which I think speaks to engagement. In my way of approaching Employee Engagement it is akin to Employee Commitment and to the concept of Flow. I make a distinction between it and Employee Involvement which I define as the structural inclusion of employees in decision-making, process improvement, idea generation, feedback, planning and other processes which influence the way works gets done or the nature and direction of the enterprise

  2. Employee engagement is the emotional connection between the employee and the organization’s goals. It’s where the employee is proud and committed to work for his/her employer, doing everything she/he can to make it work (whatever it is).

    • Charles, excellent! So great to have your thoughts in the mix. An emotional connection makes all the difference.

  3. I don’t consider myself “hip” enough to respond to the Urban Dictionary above, so I’ll wrtie my thoughts here. I think my good friend and former colleague Joe Tye says it best. “Great organizations are characterized by people holding themselves accountable for their attitudes and behaviors as well as their performance because they have pride of ownership. A culture of ownership is not created by economic interest, it springs from emotional commitment. Ownership is doing what needs to be done because you expect it of yourself; ownership springs from the intrinsic motivation of pride and engagement.” That said, if we create an environment that allows for this to happen, employee engagement becomes easy and doesn’t really need a definition.

    • Don, Excellent. I’m so with you.. ownership is a great sign of engagement. P.S. “hip” is over-rated 😉

  4. I agree with what the other comments are saying. Real engagement is just that, it’s real. There is an authentic alignment between employee’s personal value, purpose and vision for their lives and the organisations, whether they’re consciously aware of it or not. Engagement is emotional and spiritual first and then rational.

    • Sharon, Nice. So true. I agree that engagement is emotional and spiritual first.

  5. Employee engagement is operational when the employee is focused on the mission of the organization as represented in its goals and objectives. The employee frames conversations with teammates regarding the task at hand in the context of the present goals and objectives and their relationship to the organization’s mission, vision, and values. From this action, the employee derives meaning in the work, and IF the organization gives the employee the license to be self-directing in a team context, the employee will be fully engaged in the work of the moment.

  6. Engagement is wanting to do, rather than having to do, even when you have no other choice but to complete, create, serve etc.

    Its springing out of bed in the morning as opposed to hitting the snooze button.

    Its an incredibly positive force and can be ‘felt’ by others; even by those not engaged. It can also be a calm confidence that tough times will make way for better times. Its perseverance.

    • Dallas, So great to see you back. Love that springing out of bed in the morning feeling.

  7. Walk around the building and count the number of smiles you see. Life 101 – if people are happy, they have more energy and are naturally more productive.

  8. Beautiful comments. I’ve uploaded a few under the pseudonym “Let’s Grow Leaders Tribe.” They are under peer review. My first time doing this, so should be interesting to see if they stick 😉

  9. For me employee engagement bridges the gap between compliance and commitment. Creating a culture that takes employees from going through the motions to creating emotions that last a life time and generate positive business results.

  10. Employee engagement : When I was promoted many years ago as a front line leader my manager gave me the book “Managing from the Heart” and she signed it . It was in that momemt I knew I was exactly where I wanted to be . I have always believed employee engagement began with me, if I walked in every day complaining about one thing or another my home, the pets, family,systems, the job etc my employees would do the same and this only fosters and contributes to that same old vicious cycle filled with unnecessary noise. I look in the mirror every day and say “self” what can you bring today which will be different then you did yesterday? I cannot change everyone’s thinking but I can absolutley enfluence them. Being transparent, genuine, accountable, trusting,reliable, and honest with employees makes it easier to get to that next level of employee engagement. When you have happy employees, you have happy customers.I have always believed work should be fun an exciting place to come to everyday. We spend an average 40-60% of our time at work some more. Yes, I believe when employees get up to come to work they should look forward to it knowing they have a great environment, team,supervisor,Director and a great company to come in for. This type of environment helps to drive highly emotionally connected employees on top producing teams. Hey, maybe I’m “Hip” after all.. go figure !

    • Cindy, Must awesome. Thanks so much for sharing your journey. Namaste.

  11. Employee Engagement: when one’s energy finds insistence on being by bridging the feeling of connection for their talents in service to an irresistible opportunity or injustice. (Great question to ponder … @Rob_CoVenture)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.