David Zinger, founder of the Employee Engagement Network, in response to my post on April 17, 2008, commented, “I wonder if we will ever see a consistent definition [of employee engagement].” I think not. We can’t stop academics and consultants from creating their own definitions of the term. After all, they publish books, gain recognition, and make a living from their own take on current trends in management. Take any concept in management today and one can find many different definitions on the bookshelves. Even the word “management” is up for grabs.
We can’t prevent the plethora of meanings, but we can encourage conversations about how the term is being used in each situation. We should remind managers about “caveat emptor”. When they purchase an employee engagement survey or the services of a consultant to improve employee retention, they should ask, “What do you mean by ‘engagement’?” Is it about enthusiasm for one’s job, satisfaction from one’s work, acting to further the organization’s interests, dedication to doing the work, applying discretionary effort, involvement in the business, connections to others at work, emotional attachment to the company, a sense of empowerment, or a willingness to go the extra mile to get something done for the company?