Is work engagement the same as employee engagement and does it matter?

Mark Terry - June 4, 2020

When it comes to building and maintaining a successful business, there are a lot of plates to keep spinning. You need a unique, marketable product or service, top-quality marketing and, of course, a motivated, dedicated workforce.

Employee engagement is a popular buzzword in business, but what does it really mean? More importantly, does it really matter? The short answer to the latter is yes: an engaged team of employees could be the secret to success in your organisation; all you need to do is learn how to unlock it.

What is employee engagement?

Before you can work to build and improve engagement in the workplace, it is important that you have an understanding of what these terms mean, and the different ways in which they can be used.

The definition of employee engagement can be split into two main concepts: work engagement and organisational engagement. Employee engagement theory requires both of these to be present to work successfully.

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What is the difference?

In simple terms, the primary difference between these two ideas is the target of the motivation. Work engagement has been described as “the relationship of the employee with his or her work.” The main focus here is usually on the individual's own role within the company; the part they play, and how motivated and committed they are to this role and its position within the business hierarchy.

A positive work engagement includes perceiving a deeper meaning in the work carried out, which extends beyond merely the next wage packet. The worker will assign value to their role, and this is likely to be tied to their own self-perception. In short, their role is a part of who they are, as opposed to a separate, disparate entity.

The way the individual feels about their job is crucial here; if they perceive it as valuable, important and making a real difference to the bigger picture, employee engagement is likely to be far higher.  An employee who is engaged will care about the wider organisation, and work to progress the goals and targets of the whole.

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Organisational engagement

Organisational engagement casts the net a little wider. Rather than focusing solely on the individual, it instead encompasses “the emotional commitment the employee has to the organisation and its goals.” It is clear that improving organisational engagement will have significant advantages for businesses; if everyone involved is equally committed to the common goal, productivity and motivation will increase.

Ensuring organisational engagement at every level is a real challenge for businesses. There is a risk that employees will see their roles as singular, rather than holistic; a job to be done, left and forgotten about when outside the workplace. Successful organisational engagement requires commitment and dedication to the cause, and the chance to really see the bigger picture.

Overall, employee engagement requires both of these elements in order to thrive. Without strong work engagement, employees will fail to appreciate the value of their work on a wider scale, making successful employee engagement an impossible achievement,

Find out how an employee engagement app can play a pivotal role in delivering an employee engagement strategy

How can businesses build work engagement?

As we have discussed, the secret to achieving overall employee engagement is harmonisation of these two crucial elements. Initiatives to improve employee engagement are the first step in the road; in the first instance, workers need a strong work engagement. There are a range of steps companies can take to help implement this, and these include:

#1 Allow flexibility

The importance of a strong work-life balance is something which has been well documented in recent research. Helping to facilitate this is a great first step towards earning brownie points with your team and can result in increased motivation and productivity for their role.

Contemplate allowing a little leeway in terms of where and when work is completed. Perhaps consider offering the option of compressed hours, the chance to work from home, or a more flexible schedule. Allowing employee advocacy is a great way to build a sense of trust - perfect for generating a motivated, engaged workforce.

#2 Create a community

When considering methods for boosting engagement, always look at how to create a sense of belonging in the workplace. If an individual feels they are a crucial member of a smaller team, chances are high that this attitude will then transcend their immediate environment and permeate the wider organisation. Make sure everyone has a chance to have their voice heard, that their ideas are actioned where possible, and that team spirit is promoted and maintained.

#3 Offer rewards

At heart, humans are fairly simple souls, and we all enjoy receiving recognition for the triumphs we have achieved. It can be easy for feedback to fall into a largely critical variety, with plenty of goals and targets for success. These are of course crucial for allowing employees to progress and develop, but should be balanced with reward and recognition whenever possible.

What strategies can build organisational engagement?

Good organisational engagement can come primarily from ensuring secure work engagement throughout the business. In addition however, it is imperative that there is a clear chain of communication, an established hierarchy, and a real sense of seeing things get done.

#1 Ensure clear communication

Whether via an employee engagement platform or internal communications system, it is crucial that staff know how they can have their voice heard. By setting out the channels of communication clearly from the start, employees will feel confident that there is a secure system of management, and that their concerns and ideas will be taken seriously.

#2 Allow employees a voice

As you ascend the business hierarchy, it is easy for the voices of those further down to become muffled. This can result in frustration for workers; they may feel that no matter how hard they try, their efforts will never be rewarded. As we mentioned, recognition within teams is important for maintaining engagement, and this is something which needs to be visible throughout the organisation. Investing in a quality employee engagement app is a great way to reach every member of every team, from top to bottom.

Employee engagement

In conclusion, it seems clear that employee engagement is a delicate balance of two aspects: work engagement, and organisational engagement. We have seen how these two concepts are required to work in unison to ensure success.

In order for individuals to perceive and envision themself as part of a greater whole - in this case, the wider organisation - employers must first ensure that there is security, motivation and satisfaction within their everyday work. With a few small changes, managers and leaders have the opportunity to transform the ethos and mood of their entire business, resulting in positive changes for all involved.

30 ideas to engage your employees and transform your business.