The definition of employee engagement is actually pretty simple, despite the fact that the concept itself is a broad one.

Employee engagement means workplace conditions enable employees to be present, focused, and energised at work.

It’s not uncommon for people to confuse employee engagement with entertainment. A virtual mixology class or team-building outing can be great ways to bring people together for some fun and bonding. However, if underlying issues exist that are impacting the team on a more fundamental level, pizza lunches will not lead to resolution.

So, as we think about the definition of employee engagement – the conditions that enable employees to be present, focused, and energised at work – it’s useful to consider the elements of an employee’s experience that determine whether or not they’re truly engaged.

What’s the definition of employee engagement? 

By definition, employee engagement isn’t about fun or happiness. We’re not trying to be unduly harsh, and this fact is evident when one considers the key drivers of employee engagement, which include:

  • Clear understanding of one’s role and responsibilities
  • The tools, training, and resources needed to do one’s job
  • Recognition for their contributions and successes
  • The opportunity to develop professionally and advance one’s career
  • An environment in which employees have an authentic voice
  • Leadership that cares about the well-being of employees.
  • A sense of purpose, and contributing to the good of the community or other stakeholders

In short, employee engagement is about removing anything impeding people from doing their best work. This is why improving employee engagement has been proven to improve performance, job satisfaction, productivity, and employee retention. When you take action to engage your employees, you’re ensuring the elements listed above are present for each role within the organisation.

Often, leaders sense something is wrong, but can’t pinpoint the issue. A comprehensive employee engagement survey will provide leaders with a clear view of where the organisation stands, and where they need to focus efforts in order to right the ship. While it might seem like surveying employees during a time of crisis and uncertainty wouldn’t be useful, the exact opposite is true. When a team is feeling pressure, it’s especially important to understand where they stand. If you don’t have access to a survey tool, you can try ours, free.

How the pillars of employee engagement work:

While there are multiple dimensions of employee engagement, these seven components hold true for almost every team, in every kind of organisation.

An easy way to understand the component, how they work, and why they’re important is simply to imagine a workplace in which the components are either absent or dysfunctional.

Roles & responsibilities:

Do employees have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities? 

Without clarity around one’s responsibilities, or the tools needed to actually do the job, it’s not too difficult to imagine the frustration that would quickly ensue for an employee. Instead of productive and satisfying work, they’d spend their time stepping on others’ toes or attempting to hack a solution they know could be easier and more efficient.


Are employees consistently recognised for their contributions? 

The sincere act of recognising a job well done is a simple but powerful act that’s easy for a manager to take – so simple, in fact, it’s often overlooked. However, when one thinks about the anger and bitterness that arises when one person takes credit for another’s work, the power of recognition becomes clear.

Career paths & professional development:

Does the company provide a clear path or framework for advancement? 

A clear career path is a powerful motivator for many employees, however, it’s also important that the playing field is even and fair. Favoritism, discrimination and other practices perceived to be unfair are not only demotivating for employees, but they could also pose a legal risk for the company.

Freedom to have a voice, and leaders that care about them and their wellbeing:

Employees can be themselves at work, and their leaders value them as individuals. 

Creating an environment in which employees are allowed to be themselves, voice their opinions, and provide feedback goes hand in hand with a leadership team that values their employees as individuals and cares about their wellbeing. Taken together, it’s easy to understand how a workplace with these characteristics would be safe, comfortable, and welcoming.

A sense of purpose:

What impact does the organisation have upon the wider world, and do employees understand how they contribute? 

A strong purpose unites employees, bringing added meaning to their work and giving them the “why” that inspires them to show up. Workplaces lacking the unifying power of purpose tend to be less profitable, and their workers less fulfilled, than those with a clear and compelling purpose.

Employee engagement is important to business performance. Thinking about employee engagement in terms of the underlying drivers helps frame the task at hand when one decides to start improving it, and the timely adjustments especially for remote teams will help leaders adjust procedures to ensure they’re continuing to support and engage their teams, even when they’re working from home.