The 14 Keys of Employee Engagement

“You sort of smell it, don’t you, that engagement of people as people. What goes on in meetings, how people talk to each other. You get the sense of energy, engagement, commitment, belief in what the organisation stands for,” is how Lord Currie, former Chair of the Office of Communications (Ofcom) and Dean of Cass Business School, puts it. From the United Kingdom MacLeod Report: “Engaging for Success: Enhancing Performance through Employee Engagement”.

Employee Engagement, as a term, has been around since the 1990’s and has recently gathered exponentially increased attention. The United Kingdom just released the above-mentioned MacLeod Report: Engaging for Success: Enhancing Performance through Employee Engagement to bring engagement to the top of everyone’s agenda. The United States government released two reports entitled The Power of Federal Engagement and Managing for Engagement.  A Google search of employee engagement 2 years ago found about 300,000 resources while a Google search of employee engagement today revealed 1,640,000 resources.

So what is engagement? Employee engagement is a lot like love. You don’t have to wear a ring and always love your job but employee engagement and love are defined in so many different ways. Each consulting company seems to have their own definition. Some seem to define it as feeling good about your company, some define it as getting more discretionary effort from employees and some define it as a high response to 12 questions that include having a friend and getting feedback.

The Zinger definition of engagement.

Employee engagement is the art and science of engaging people

in authentic and recognized connections to strategy, roles, performance,

organization, community, relationship, customers, development, energy, and happiness

to leverage, sustain, and transform work into results.

Let’s look at a couple of case studies on employee engagement.

Case study #1:

Tina works at a local gas station as the cashier. Tina is fully engaged. She offers welcoming teasing/banter with each customer, she is the most efficient person I have seen on a cash register, she engages the other employees and has them providing more efficient service, and she uses the word ‘we’ when she talks about the company she works for. I will go out of my way to get gas when Tina is working there.

Tina is an exceptional model of employee engagement. She doesn’t know what the term means; she has never been surveyed. When I asked her about her approach to work and her level of engagement,  she was surprised by the question and took it for granted that everyone should be engaged.

Case study #2:

Bob is the antithesis of Tina and was chronically disengaged on the job before finally retiring. He even built a spreadsheet to determine when his last day of work would be and couldn’t wait till the day arrived. He hated his job, he hated the people he worked with, and he didn’t care for his company. When I asked him if there was something he did like, he replied, “golf.”

I bumped into Bob a year after he retired and he still looked miserable. I asked him about golf and now he hated golf. He told me it was like a job to him and exhibited how disengagement at work can seep into the rest of our lives outside the company.

The ‘key’ to successful employee engagement

Whether you’re a Tina or a Bob, when it comes to employee engagement, I believe there is value in the plethora of perspectives to show the richness of the concept and that it is necessary to give space for each company, organization, and individual to play engagement in their own key.

I have been immersed in the subject for the past 5 years and recently created a comprehensive model for engagement focusing on results, work, self, and other. I believe engagement must contribute to results while being of benefit to all. Engagement helps employees remain valuable while ensuring the organization is viable. CARE is at the core of engagement and engagement is demonstrated externally while also being experienced internally. Engagement is not only how we approach work but can also act as a compass to powerful leadership, management, and performance.


The Zinger Model on Engagement for Results

  1. The Core of employee engagement is CARE: Connection, Authenticity, Recognition, and Engage. We need robust connections between all the engagement keys. These connections must be authentic. Recognition of each other and the keys is central. Engagement is not a noun but a dynamic verb — engage!
  2. The green arrow represents results and growth.  We must determine the results we are trying to achieve, determine a strategy to achieve those results and enliven our work roles while excelling at performance.
  3. The top part of the model  in blue signifies others and the outer part of engagement. Engaged employees are a part of their organization — not apart from their organization. The organization strives to create authentic community while building relationships as everyone engages in serving the customer.
  4. The yellow, lower part of the model outlines the benefits and requirements for employee engagement to help each individual employee develop personally and professionally, to manage, master, and leverage their energies in the service of engagement, and to experience genuine happiness through their work.

The Zinger Model offers 14 keys to engagement while putting engagement into a new key.  They are:

  1. Strengthening connections
  2. Maintaining authenticity
  3. Ensuring recognition
  4. Acting in a fully engaging manner
  5. Achieving results
  6. Crafting strategy
  7. Enlivening work roles
  8. Excelling at performance
  9. Identifying with the organization
  10. Fostering relationships and community
  11. Serving customers
  12. Developing professionally and personally
  13. Leveraging energies
  14. Attaining  genuine happiness

Here are a few additional points about creating employee engagement in a new key:

  • Employee engagement must be for all, and managers and leaders must see their own roles as employees of the organization.
  • Employees must know and experience the personal benefits of engagement. It cannot be an effort to merely get more work from already taxed employees.
  • Most surveys results in some version of the bell curve. I encourage you to survey less and intervene more. If you do survey, ensure employees have a role in creating the survey and the results are returned to employees ASAP.
  • Managers and leaders play a strong role in engagement initiatives – ensure they understand the benefits and importance of engagement while also being energized and engaged.
  • Engagement implies action. I encourage you to work on your own engagement while promoting the engagement of others.

To further your study of engagement, here are 5 simply excellent resources:

  1. The Free and Freeing Employee Engagement Network – Over 1570 members engaging in over 400 forums on employee engagement.
  2. The Free PDF Book on 300 Keys for Engagement – A practical resource based on alphabetical keys to engagement from 12 different authors.
  3. 21 Points on The MacLeod Report and a Link to the Free Report –A well-written and expansive report from the United Kingdom on the importance of creating more focus on employee engagement.
  4. Managing for Employee Engagement – A major report for the United States Federal Government.
  5. David Zinger Associates Website – Over 800 eclectic blog posts related to employee engagement.

Take a small and significant step towards fuller engagement. Determine the smallest and most significant engagement steps you can take today. Start moving forward…small is the new significant!

David Zinger’s original version of this post can be viewed at Simply Communicate.

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