Employee engagement is in decline according to a Gallup Inc.report that was released this month. That might be the case, but without a shared definition of employee engagement, we can’t agree on what can be done about it, if anything.

Gallup defines levels of engagement in this way:

Engaged (30% of the U.S. population): Deeply committed to the success of their organization and emotionally connected to its mission and goals. Routinely willing to put forth discretionary effort.

Disengaged (52% of the U.S. population): Less emotionally connected to their work and less compelled to put forth extra effort. They show up for work but generally do only the minimum required.

Actively Disengaged (18% of the U.S. population): Actively against what the organization, and their boss, is trying to get done.

Different definitions of employee engagement are used in other studies. Thomas Britt, professor of industrial psychology at Clemson University, says that a worker can be engaged but not committed. - See more at: http://stephenjgill.typepad.com/performance_improvement_b/2009/06/employee-engagement-is-not-employee-commitment-.html#sthash.rleKZilv.dpuf  Engaged but not committed workers are likely to leave an organization when resources get tight or those workers are unhappy with leadership.

In an April 2008 post, I asked this question about the meaning of employee engagement: Is it about MP900431739 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? - See more at: http://stephenjgill.typepad.com/performance_improvement_b/2008/04/define-your-ter.html#sthash.FIP33ezE.dpuf

Sharlyn Lauby, of HR Bartender, offers this as an attempt at an all-inclusive definition: 

Employee engagement lies at intersection of maximum contribution for the business and maximum satisfaction for employees. It’s a sustainable level of high performance that benefits both the company and the employee. See more at: http://www.hrbartender.com/2013/employee/the-definition-of-employee-engagement/

Many more definitions and meanings of employee engagement can be found on "The Employee Engagement Network." See more at: http://employeeengagement.ning.com/

I don’t have a problem with having different definitions as long as we are clear about the definition we are using in a particular study or in any action we take to improve engagement in a particular organization and situation. Somebody might be enthusiastic about his or her work but not agree with the direction of senior management, or vice versa. Increasing that person’s engagement will depend on whether we are talking about attitudes toward the work or attitudes toward strategic goals. One requires changing an employee's job and the other requires creating a shared vision.