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Our previous article emphasized that the level of employee engagement has an important impact on various business KPIs. We also explained that the engagement of employees is determined by what they experience. In this blog post we discuss in more detail how to measure employee engagement and capture its drivers.

The original definition by Kahn

Kahn was the first researcher to define employee engagement in 1990, and his conceptualization is still considered to be the most encompassing. He described engagement as a state where “organization members harness their full selves in active, complete work role performances by driving personal energy into cognitive, physical and emotional labors.” In other words, engaged employees are fully invested in their work. Secondly, engagement can be broken down into three dimensions:

  • Mental – how focused you are at work
  • Physical – how much effort you put into your work
  • Emotional – how enthusiastic you feel at work

Note that happy or satisfied employees are not necessarily engaged, and that engagement goes beyond happiness or satisfaction.

How to measure the three dimensions of engagement

Measuring engagement should be done both frequently and accurately. Professor of Work Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Ghent University, Frederik Anseel, states: “One of the main problems with engagement surveys today is that engagement is measured in a static way, only once a year. It’s like trying to summarize a year in one snapshot, one picture. We need a more dynamic view on engagement.” He suggests weekly, or even daily, pulse checks.

In order to capture fluctuations accurately, continuous scales are better suited than the traditional 5-point scales. The accuracy can be further increased by showing scores of previous checks. This helps people to evaluate how their engagement has changed.

Capturing the events that caused fluctuations is key

In our previous blog post, we emphasized that the engagement of employees is determined by what they experience. To understand changes in the mental, physical and emotional investment people put in their work, i.e. their engagement, we need to capture the events that drive these fluctuations. We can do so by asking team members to highlight which events they recently experienced as exceptionally positive and negative, e.g. from a predefined list. As a manager or team coach, the aggregated results then allow you to understand which and to what extent events have recently engaged and disengaged your employees.

When using a predefined list of events, it is important that these events do have an impact on engagement. Substantial scientific research has already been done to identify these events. Examples are receiving recognition from your manager (positive) and working under time pressure (negative).

In conclusion, we recommend to measure engagement frequently and with an accurate measuring method. It is also important to capture which events your employees are experiencing as most engaging and disengaging to understand fluctuations. The next step is then to define appropriate actions based on these insights. Stay tuned for our next blog post to find out how.