Arniston Spa Hotel

Another look at Employee Engagement

Over many years extensive research has been conducted to understand how employees can be led, managed and supported to perform optimally and to understand the link between employee behaviour and superior business performance. This theme is briefly explored in this article from an employee engagement perspective.

Definition of Engagement:

Employee engagement is described by Schmidt et al. (1993) as “an employee’s involvement with, commitment to and satisfaction with work. Employee engagement is a part of employee retention.” The concept of employee engagement was derived from studies of morale or a group’s willingness to accomplish organisational objectives starting in the 1920s. US Army researchers confirmed the value of morale to organisations during WWII to predict unity of effort and attitudinal battle-readiness before combat. In the post-war mass production society that required unity of effort in execution, (group) morale scores were used as predictors of speed, quality and militancy.

With the advent of the knowledge worker and emphasis on individual talent management, a term was needed to describe an individual’s emotional attachment to the organisation, fellow employees and the job. Thus the birth of the term “employee engagement” which is an individual emotional phenomenon, whereas morale is a group emotional phenomenon with similar characteristics Extensive research by organisations such as Gallup and others (Harter, James, K., et al. 2009) resulted in the design of an employee engagement model, as reflected in the figure provided.

Categories of Employees:


Research indicates that employees can be grouped into one of three categories, i.e. the engaged, the disengaged or the actively disengaged employee. The actively disengaged employee is obviously the worst category of employee to have. They are consistently against everything, not happy at work, will tell you they dislike their job and the organisation, will act out their unhappiness and worst of all will sow seeds of negativity at every opportunity. These employees are inherently toxic with unlikely prospects of changing their behaviour. The ‘disengaged’ employees do the job because the contract expects it. They want to be told what to do, just so they can do it and say they have completed the task. They seldom have quality relationships with their co-workers or managers and feel that their contributions are overlooked.

The ‘engaged’ employee will work for you because they want to be there and want to fundamentally understand their tasks so they can meet and exceed them. They are naturally curious about their organisation and their place in it. They perform at consistently high levels. They want to use their talents and strengths at work every day. They usually stay longer with the organisation and are brand ambassadors of its products and services. Engaged employees will normally perform better, are more motivated and have an emotional association with the company. This impacts their attitude towards the company’s clients and thereby improve customer satisfaction and service levels. Customers are thus exposed to a consistent experience of ‘promises kept’, which builds loyalty and very directly impacts business performance.

The Corporate Leadership Council reported that engaged organisations grew profits as much as three times (3X) faster than their competitors. They also found that highly engaged organisations have the potential to reduce staff turnover by 87% and improve performance by 20%. Shifting levels of employee engagement upwards also correlates with improved performance. For example, Gallup research for a UK retailer with 174 stores in a study over two years concluded that stores that improved engagement year on year grew their profits by 3.8%. Stores that did not improve their engagement saw their profits decrease by 2%. Have you ever thought about the fact that in most organisations the bulk of their sales and the quality of customer relationships are determined by the behaviour of some of their most junior personnel? It all has to do with what is referred to as “a moment of truth” between the employee and the customer.

The Power of Brands:

Brands are extremely powerful in influencing customer-buying behaviour. If your business lives up to its brand promise (the goods or services you promise to give and the quality thereof), consumers respond by buying regularly and buying more. The more positive and enjoyable the customer experience is with your product or service that lives-up to its promise, the higher the emotional association with that brand and the easier the customer will take out his/her wallet and continue to use such a product/service. These “brand promise keeper” experiences between your company and a customer are like a savings account into which you can deposit “feel good” experiences. If your customer experiences are consistently meeting the promise, it builds customer loyalty which triggers loyal spending.

So…a key question to consider.

Do you know the status of employee engagement in your business?

If not, talk to us and we’ll assist you in finding out.