What exactly is employee engagement and why should you as a business leader care?

BlessingWhite defines employee engagement as ‘maximum contribution to the organisation plus maximum satisfaction for employees’.  But not everyone is fully engaged all of the time.

Individuals don’t always get what they are looking for.  They are at different levels of satisfaction.  The challenge for organisations is managing all different levels of satisfaction and contribution. Workforce engagement starts by looking at what an organisation is trying to achieve for success.

Success is defined by business goals and how well you achieve these goals is based on performance. Core values and behaviours are also an important part of any business strategy.

To stay relevant organisations need employees who are willing and able to perform at higher levels – to give maximum contribution.  Maximum contribution from employees is something you can’t delegate or mandate.  Individual employees are looking for what’s meaningful to them and what success means to them.  The organisation is pursuing its definition of success and employees are pursing theirs.  These two strategies intersect daily at the JOB level.  This is the point where what the organisation needs employees to give and what the employees want to get from the job come together.

Employee engagement is a shared responsibility which requires a team approach and made a daily priority.


  • Assess their goals
  • Community with their manager
  • Take action


  • Coach for performance and development
  • Align daily priorities
  • Recognise contributions and effort of success
  • Engage themselves and each individual on what matters to the organisation and them

EXECUTIVES need to make the CASE for engagement. They need to apply attention to their own engagement and that of their own reports.  They need to role model the behaviours and lead by example.  Set the tone and strategy.

  • Community – build a sense of community with the organisation
  • Authentic in their actions
  • Significance in the aim of the organisation (find meaning in the work employees do) and build
  • Excitement

The five levels of the XModel of Engagement require varying degrees of strategies to improve engagement.




The Engaged: High contribution & high satisfaction These employees are at “the apex” where personal and organisational interests align. They contribute fully to the success of the organisation and find great satisfaction in their work. They are known for their discretionary effort and commitment. When recruiters call, they cordially cut the conversation short. Organisations need to keep them engaged, because they can transition over time to any of the three adjacent segments, a move that would likely impact workforce morale and the bottom line.


Almost Engaged: Medium to high contribution & satisfaction A critical group, these employees are among the high performers and are reasonably satisfied with their job. They may not have consistent “great days at work,” but they know what those days look like. Organisations should invest in them for two reasons: They are highly employable and more likely to be lured away; they have the shortest distance to travel to reach full engagement, promising the biggest payoff.


Honeymooners & Hamsters: Medium to high satisfaction but low contribution Honeymooners are new to the organisation or their role — and happy to be there. They have yet to find their stride and clearly understand how they can best contribute. It should be a priority to move them out of this temporary holding area to full alignment and productivity. Hamsters may be working hard, but are in effect “spinning their wheels,” working on non-essential tasks, contributing little to the success of the organisation. Some may even be hiding out, curled up in their cedar shavings, content with their position (“retired in place”). If organisations don’t deal with them, other employees may grow resentful or have to pick up the slack.


Crash & Burners: Medium to high contribution but low satisfaction Disillusioned and potentially exhausted, these employees are top producers who aren’t achieving their personal definition of success and satisfaction. They can be bitterly vocal that senior leaders are making bad decisions or that colleagues are not pulling their weight. They may leave, but they are more likely to take a breather and work less hard, slipping down the contribution scale to become Disengaged. When they do, they often bring down those around them.


The Disengaged: Low to medium contribution & satisfaction Most Disengaged employees didn’t start out as bad apples. They still may not be. They are the most disconnected from organisational priorities, often feel underutilised and are clearly not getting what they need from work. They’re likely to be skeptical and can indulge in contagious negativity. If left alone, the Disengaged are likely to collect a paycheck while complaining or looking for their next job. If they can’t be coached or aligned to higher levels of engagement, their exit benefits everyone, including them.

We’ve drawn on BlessingWhites XModel of Engagement to describe the various levels of engagement as part of our change and strategic HR workshops.  We hope you will benefit in its use as we have.

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