Employee Engagement Everywhere: The Wheel of Engagement at Work

by David Zinger | Posted | Engagement

Employee Engagement Everywhere: The Wheel of Engagement at Work

Engagement is rapidly infusing into all aspects of work: from employee engagement or engaging customers to striving to have employees fully engage with the brand. We need to examine the infusion of engagement into work to better understand it, to recognize the potential, and to realize the benefits.

To achieve these objectives I'm introducing a twelve part series on engagement everywhere. We'll begin with this introduction to engagement, followed by a post on each of the ten elements of engagement, and conclude with a final overview and summary.

So let’s jump in.

What is engagement?

Although there are countless definitions of engagement and employee engagement, it generally refers to occupying the attention and efforts of someone. 

When we are engaged we are more absorbed, engrossed, interested, and involved. Ultimately it’s about connection. Powerful engagement asks for our attention and effort.

The 10 primary elements of engagement are diagramed below:

wheel of engagement david zinger

I believe engagement is bidirectional, meaning that as we engage with an element the element engages us. For example as we engage with the brand of our organization, the brand of our organization reciprocates. Without a bidirectional push and pull, our efforts and initiatives will not be sustainable.

Employee engagement: weaving together elements of organizations and work

Engagement offers a relatively new thread that weaves together a wide variety of elements in organizations and work. The word began to appear in reference to work in the late 1990s and is gathering increasing attention and prominence as we determine how to move forward with so many different facets of work.

It moves well beyond employee satisfaction, motivation or compliance into authentic partnership and co-creation, to enhance relationships and improve results. It supplants the old systems of "command, control and tell", with "invite, co-create and ask".

The purpose of this series is to increase your awareness of engagement at work, hint at the fuller integration of engagement into how we work, and heighten your knowledge of the breadth of engagement, while you learn practical applications for making a difference where you work, who you work with, and what you work on.

A quick look at the ten engagements

Here is a thumbnail sketch of the ten engagements that we'll journey through over the next 10 months:

1. Employee Employee engagement became a vital concept for work in the late 1990s. Fears have been raised that around the globe only 30 percent of our employees may be fully engaged with their work.

Employee engagement has been my primary work focus for the last eight years and I have witnessed changes, failures, and renewals. This post will outline the state of employee engagement in 2014.

2. Personal and well-being — Many people are unaware that a key focus of engagement, especially by the academics studying this field, is personal engagement.

William Kahn, who is credited with being the grandfather of employee engagement, prefers the term personal engagement. In 1990, he defined engagement as, "the harnessing of organization members' selves to their work roles; in engagement, people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally during role performances."

On a wide variety of fronts our work on employee engagement is being paired with engaged well-being. This post will outline the interaction and differentiation of personal engagement and engaged wellbeing.

3. Work, task, and project — Many academic researchers prefer the term work engagement to employee engagement. They recognize that engagement may change in the moment and it's not reflected well in a biannual survey. Because so much of work has become project work, it's helpful to develop a narrow focus on work, task, and project engagement.

4. Career — Career development is often listed as one of the top drivers in engagement, yet many are puzzled about how to fully engage with their own career or help others engage with their career. This post will demonstrate the power and necessity of career engagement.

5. Relationship and social media — Engagement is about people. How do we enhance our interpersonal engagement for information, connection, and results? What does it mean to engage with a relationship rather than merely results?

George Valliant who studied a group of men over 75 years concluded some of his work by stating that he learned that, “relationships are the only thing that matters.”

6. Customer— Most organizations would fail to exist without customers, clients, patients, or students. We need to focus on the engagement that occurs outside the organization. This post will look at where customer and employee engagement are joined and how they are different.

7. Brand — The brand is a strong representation of the organization. It is so much more than a logo or a slogan. It embraces expectations, memories, stories and relationships. Employees are representatives and even ambassadors of the brand.

8. Manager — Managers and supervisors have a strong influence on engagement for both themselves and employees who report to them. This group can have a disproportionate influence on engagement and is deserving of special attention when we examine engagement at work.

9. Leadership — Although I concur with Mintzberg that good managers lead and good leaders manage, it's important to look at the influence of leadership in either fostering or stifling engagement in an organization.

Leadership plays a strong role in fostering and creating the narrative of the organizations and this narrative or lack of it can play a very significant role in the various facets of engagement in a workplace.

10. Organization and enterprise — What role does the organization play in engagement, and are our organizations moving towards authentic and engaged communities?

The final post in the series will integrate all 10 elements or “spokes” of the wheel of engagement. I'll also offer further implications for movement and momentum in work based on this important topic.

Your Turn: What element of engagement interests you the most? Are there any elements you'd add to the list?

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