Science of Self ™ Knowledge Centre

What is Employee Engagement

Sep 4, 2011

engagement_series___what_is_engagement_1.png defines engagement as "to occupy the attention or efforts of a person." The word's origins can be found in the French word engager meaning "to pledge." If we combine the definition with the origin, we find that a person must pledge their attention and effort to the overarching cause in order to achieve a state of engagement.Stated another way: to be completely engaged, a person must be enriched at an emotional level by the task they are performing — truly, "their heart must be in it".

Have you ever watched a sports team in the dying minutes of a game that they will surely lose and found yourself saying, "their heart is just not in it"? It is true to say that it is exactly the same for a disengaged team member in an organisation. They have lost the connection between head and heart. They know what they are supposed to be doing, but have lost the emotional energy to do it at their best.


Because we are all motivated by different things, engagement is a deeply personal experience. After all, we are giving our hearts and minds to the task. By tapping into our emotional energy we can release the unlimited potential of "discretionary effort."

If we explore the two parts of the term "discretionary effort" we see:

  • Discretionary effort is defined as for any use or purpose one chooses; not earmarked for a particular purpose.
  • Effort is defined as exertion of physical or mental power.

When combined, discretionary effort is the exertion of physical or mental power for a purpose of one's own choosing. Thus, discretionary effort is not something for an organisation to take, but something for an individual to give. Engagement is being so connected to a goal that we are willing to give more than we are compensated to do. It means we find our own intrinsic reward in performing the task, and are wiling to give more of ourselves to experience those personal rewards.

In the literary review we have conducted, we have found 6 factors that seem to appear time and again when describing engagement and how to encourage it. These factors are:


These are by no means the only factors that contribute to engagement, they are simply the ones that seem to appear most often. Having spent the time to do the research, our engagement series of blog posts will provide you with some of the highlights and "best of the web" based on our research.

Topics: Employee Engagement

Theo Winter

Theo Winter

Client Services Manager, Writer & Researcher. Theo is one of the youngest professionals in the world to earn an accreditation in TTI Success Insight's suite of psychometric assessments. For more than a decade, he worked with hundreds of HR, L&D and OD professionals and consultants to improve engagement, performance and emotional intelligence of leaders and their teams. He authored the book "40 Must-Know Business Models for People Leaders."


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