The 7 Pillars of Employee Engagement
Employee engagement is now a phenomenon that's deeply implanted in the collective consciousness of progressive HR leaders. This is supported by the huge surge of content, conferences, awards, internet chatter, and social media groups solely focused on the subject.
Large numbers of HR tech vendors and service providers roam the HR domain offering a smorgasbord of engagement-related products and services. From A to Z, employee engagement offerings include survey tools, trinkets & trash, engagement consultancy, and training. Indeed, any product or service one could possibly imagine related to employee engagement is a couple of clicks away . The phenomenon is so huge it's now an industry with global spending conservatively estimated at an amazing $74 Billion in U.S. dollars and growing very fast.
From Job Satisfaction to Employee Engagement
Though employee engagement has generated considerable buzz within the HR community in recent years, it's still early days. Many old school HR practitioners are still grappling with understanding how and why job satisfaction has morphed into employee engagement.
William Kahn first mentioned employee engagement in his seminal 1990 article, “Psychological Conditions of Personal Engagement and Disengagement at Work,”. Kahn's article marked a paradigm shift in personnel management owing in good part to the article being timely. Western economies were in the early stages of evolving from manufacturing to service, knowledge-based economies. Employees make products in manufacturing economies, in contrast, employees are the products in service, knowledge-based economies.
Employees Are the Product
Claiming that employees are the product in knowledge-based economies may appear a bit of a stretch. But it's a fact, which applies equally to manufacturing companies as well as to service companies. This is precisely why engaged employees are vital to the success of any company competing in today's global economy. At the end of the day, people prefer and buy brands, not commoditised products or services. An impressive body of research accumulated over the years by the global brand consultancy, Millward Brown, consistently confirms that strong brands outperform weak brands based on numerous metrics:
- They command and maintain superior prices over competitors
- They bring in new customers
- They create loyal customers that discourage churn
- They create reservoirs of goodwill & brand advocacy
- They help companies break into new categories and regions.
If there's doubt that employees are a vital component, if not the totality of the brand gestalt, it's telling that companies rarely stay in business using the poor-customer-experience business model.
- In this age of employee engagement, most successful companies explore innovative ways to deploy their employee assets as brand ambassadors. And, to be effectively deployed as brand ambassadors requires that all employees internalise their personal connection to the company's brand and that means engaged employees
What does an Engaged Employee look it
Despite the volumes written about employee engagement since Kahn first coined the term 26 years ago, there's been a lack of uniform consensus about the definition of the engaged employee. Kahn observed that “people act out momentary attachments and detachments in role performances.” These intermittent spurts of engagement/disengagement led Kahn to define personal engagement as the:
“... simultaneous employment and expression of a person's 'preferred self' in task behaviours that promote connections