Talent Management

Defining Employee Engagement: It Helps if You Can See It in Action

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One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “how do you define employee engagement?

There’s the technical definition – employee understanding of company goals and values and commitment to giving discretionary effort to achieve those goals – but even better are stories of engagement in action.

That’s why a better question to ask is, “What does employee engagement look like?

Stories that illustrate engagement in action

When I hear powerful stories of employee engagement in action, I like to share them with you. Many months ago I shared the story of a nurse fighting her way through Hurricane Sandy flood waters to reach her hospital because she knew she would be needed in a time of crisis.

Today, I’m sharing a story from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans as shared on the Chief Happiness Officer blog:

If you know someone with failing kidneys, you know that getting dialysis is incredibly tough physically. However, dialysis is what keeps you alive. If you can’t get your treatments, after just a few days your body shuts down and you die. This became critical after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans… Davita employee Brian Applewhite describes one attempt to locate a patient:

The first thing we did after the storm was start looking for our patients, and I literally had to cut through trees to find them. There was one lady that we called Mrs. B. She lived in a low-income area, and I was walking through the streets screaming her name, but no one was responding. I remembered that she once told me that people called her “Big Mama,” so I tried screaming that. They pointed me to the house with the big tree on it! Big Mama hadn’t dialyzed in three days, and when I walked in, she said she thought she’d seen a ghost.’

Brian got her to dialysis in time and she made it.”

Choosing to take the extra step

That’s employee engagement – going far beyond the formal job description to deliver the results needed. In this case, those efforts saved a life.

Perhaps in our own daily work we don’t have that opportunity, but we can choose to go the extra step to make the day better, more successful, easier or more productive for our colleagues, our customers and our company.

What’s your favorite of story of employee engagement?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is Vice President, Client Strategy & Consulting Service at Globoforce, a global provider of strategic employee recognition and reward programs. In his role as a thought leader for employee recognition at Globoforce, Derek helps clients set a higher ambition for global, strategic employee recognition, leading consultative workshops and strategy setting meetings with such organizations as Avnet, Celestica, Dow Chemical, Intuit, KPMG, Logica, P&G, Symantec, and Thompson Reuters. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.