The Meaning of Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is an overused phrase. Many leaders don’t even really know what it means.

Yet organizations spend millions of dollars every year on off-the-shelf surveys in an attempt to measure this nebulous concept.

Here are the three elements encompassed by the phrase “employee engagement” based on a review of both academic and proprietary research on the topic of employee engagement (e.g., Gallup, HR Solutions, etc.).

Element 1: Trait Engagement or how some people just “are”

Characteristics of Trait Engagement include:

  • Positive views of life and work
  • Proactive Personality
  • Autotelic Personality Trait (i.e., doing things for the enjoyment of just doing them)
  • Positive Affect Conscientiousness

Element 2: State Engagement or how some people feel from one moment to the next

Characteristics of State Engagement include:

  • Feelings of energy, absorption
  • Satisfaction
  • (Affective) Involvement
  • Commitment Empowerment

Element 3: Behavioral Engagement or how some people work when they are said to be “engaged” employees

Characteristics of Behavioral Engagement include:

  • Extra-role behavior (i.e., using discretionary effort)
  • Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB) Proactive/Personal Initiative
  • Role Expansion
  • Adaptive

Source of Truth:

Macey & Schneider (2008). The Meaning of Employee Engagement. Organizational Psychology, 1 (2008), 3–30




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