Employee engagement is no longer the sole province of theoretical academia or business consultants with a penchant for the new and untested.

Business has seen engagement become a key strategic consideration for many companies from the small and innovative technology start-up to the world of Fortune 500 giants.

And yet the topic remains elusive, even murky. The chemistry of individual engagement is complex and many organisations are perplexed and/or thwarted by stubbornly stagnant engagement levels despite regular cycles of measurement and planning.

Global findings and trends can help us articulate the most common drivers of engagement, but at the end of the day it’s the daily dynamics at play in your team, your division, and your organisation that matter.

** What is Engagement?
The term “employee engagement” means different things to different organisations.

Some equate it with job satisfaction, which unfortunately can reflect a transactional relationship that is only as good as the organisation’s last round of perks or bonuses. Others measure engagement by gauging employees’ emotional commitment to their organisation.

The Institute for Employment Studies defines engagement as follows:

“A positive attitude held by the employee toward the organisation and its values. An engaged employee is aware of business context, and works with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organisation.

"The organisation must work to develop and nurture engagement, which requires a two-way relationship between employer and employee.”

** Why Engagement?
Many businesses and expert business consultants believe that having engaged employees is crucial to a business’s success and sustainability.

And whilst, full engagement represents an alignment of maximum job satisfaction (“I like my work and do it well”) combined with maximum job contribution (“I help achieve the goals of my organisation”), engaged employees are not just committed. They are not just passionate or proud.

Engaged employees have a very clear vision of their own future and understanding of the organisation’s mission and goals.

They are enthused and “ready to go”, using their talents and discretionary effort to make a difference in their employer’s quest for business success.

** The Engagement Effect
Experts may agree on the correlation between engagement and business results, but the question remains: “Is our company successful because of engaged employees?” or “Are our employees engaged because we are successful?”

To answer that question, you would need to see a clear relationship between engagement and performance and be able to stipulate whether engagement precedes performance or vice versa.

But does the formula for success, in this case engagement + performance = success, really matter?

If we accept that both elements are needed for business success, surely this is enough to keep employee strategies and concerns at the top of the list for management?

** The Five Levels of Engagement
There are two factors of measurement of an employee’s job that experts suggest comprise “Engagement”. They are job satisfaction and job contribution. I.e. the more satisfied an employee is and the more that employee feels they make a contribution to their company, the more engaged they will be.

Therefore, although most employees won’t fully understand the term “engagement” and whilst they won’t realise they are engaged (or disengaged) they will recognise if they are satisfied (or dissatisfied) with their job, and they will have an opinion on how much (or little) they feel they contribute to the company’s success as a whole.

Of course, the degree of satisfaction and contribution will vary, and this will create different levels of engagement for employees.

Five levels of engagement have been identified, based on the above premise of “Satisfaction + Contribution = Engagement”. You can find out what they are by clicking here (http://www.onetotencoaching.co.uk/engaged.html) .

** Engagement Research
The following information has been taken from research conducted by the Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD), about employee outlooks in the UK. The research refers to the first quarter of 2012.

This research shows that:
* Only 38% of employees are actively engaged.

* Employees are least likely to say their manager coaches them on the job, discusses their training and development needs or gives them feedback on how they are performing.

* Employees feel that their senior managers fail to consult them on important decisions, but that trust and confidence in senior leaders are strong.

* Over half of respondents (53%) feel fully or fairly well informed about what is happening within their organisations.

* 38% of staff feel they are under excessive pressure at work either every day or one or twice a week.

** Global Engagement Trends
* Fewer than 1 in 3 employees worldwide (31%) are engaged. Nearly 1 in 5 (17%) are actually disengaged.

* There is a strong correlation between engagement levels and age, role/level, and tenure in the organisation.

* Engaged employees plan to stay for what they give; the disengaged stay for what they get, suggesting that organisations can benefit from a targeted retention strategy.

* Employees worldwide view opportunities to apply their talents, career development, and training as top drivers of job satisfaction.

* Trust in executives can have more than twice the impact on engagement levels than trust in immediate managers does. However, employees are more likely to trust their immediate managers than the executives in their organisation.

* Engagement surveys without visible follow-up action may actually decrease engagement levels, suggesting that organisations need to have 100% commitment for action-planning based on the results of any survey.

So if in the business world we are finally getting engaged, it seems it up to those in charge of organisations to decide if it’s a case of Happily Ever After or acrimonious divorce!

Author's Bio: 

Eugene Whelan is a qualified business and life coach and is the owner of One To Ten Coaching.

He has over 25 years experience at senior management level in the manufacturing and distribution industries.

Eugene has worked in various senior roles including, sales, manufacturing and commercial.

During this time he has gained an invaluable insight into the day-to-day pressures that go with such leadership roles and the expectations to be met.

Eugene is a direct and enlightened business consultant, able to see the practical side of people and situations as well as the more intangible qualities and potential of both.