What Is Employee Engagement?

May 30, 2013

In Employee Engagement

ROI of employee engagement at work

For many years, we increasingly hear about employee engagement. It seems to be a fashionable term now. All companies want engaged employees. Everyone wants to increase the engagement levels in their teams. As proof, a recent Gallup study shows that 90 % of CEOs recognize that employee engagement is essential to their company.

And yet, according to the same study, 42% of employees declared that they did not feel engaged. Not very surprising, since 75% of businesses do not implement any strategy to increase their employee engagement.


Let’s start with a definition. I will give you my own, inspired and adapted from several sources. Engagement can be defined as the emotional connection from an employee toward his company which will the discretionary effort he will add to his work.

OK, and in less ‘corporate’ speech, what does it mean? An engaged employee see the company he works for as his. He is inspired by his work and by his company. He constantly looks for ways to improve himself and the company.

Here’s a concrete example that we lived recently at INBOX. During a lunch with several team members, a Wednesday at noon, I share an idea for products it might be interesting to develop one day. We find it interesting, we talk about it. The next Monday morning, Pierre, our production manager, comes to see me and asks me: “Can I show you something?”

I go to his workspace and he tells me: “Look, was that what you were talking about last Wednesday? I did it this weekend. What do you think?”

Boom! You want to know what is engaged employee? That’s it. I did not ask Pierre to put in extra work. I did not even mentioned to add this to his list of things to do one day. There was no follow-up planned after the lunch, it was only a discussion between friends. But Pierre found the idea interesting. He felt inspired and concretized it, outside working hours. He didn’t to it to get paid for extra hours. He didn’t do it to keep his job. He didn’t do it because he had to. He did it because he felt like doing it. Because it was a nice little challenge and that he wanted to contribute to the organisation.

And that’s all the difference between a motivated employee and an engaged employee. A motivated employee will work hard (discretionary effort) if there’s a reward at the end. An engaged employee will work had because it brings him a great feeling of self-actualisation.


It’s easy to spot an engaged employee within a company. Here’s a few characteristics:

They bring new ideas. They always thinks about new ways to improve their work, department, and organization. They’re the kind of person who will call you outside working hours to tell you:

You know, I’ve been thinking about it and…

They are passionate and enthusiastic. They talk about their work passionately. They talk about the company with enthusiasm. They talk about the company using ‘us’ and never ‘they.’

They take initiative. They don’t need a detailed task with a delivery date to start doing something. They go beyond expectations.

They are curious. They want to learn more. To improve themselves and the organization. They asks a thousand questions and want to learn about everything.

They support their colleagues. They encourage and support their team. If someone is not doing well, they’ll try to help. They take their colleagues’ needs to heart.

They consistently exceed expectations. They go further than expected. They go the extra mile, exceeds expectations from the team and the customers.

They find solutions. Faced with unavoidable obstacles at work, they constantly find solutions and stay focused on what needs to be done. They don’t let themselves get down and always remain convinced that there’s a solution.

They are optimistic. They see the future with a positive attitude. They’re confident about the company’s and their own future. They smile.


In general, engaged employees will produce higher quality work, with fewer errors, fewer problems, quicker, and more efficiently.

This higher quality work means a greater client satisfaction rate. Employees that are well-treated within the organization will also take good care of the company’s clients.

Greater customer satisfaction will create more sales. Clients and customers will come back, and the word-of-mouth will work for you.

An increase in sales will become an increase in profits, which in turn will lead to more returns for the shareholders.

Employees reach their potential, clients are loyal and shareholders receive interesting returns. Everybody wins.

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