Victor Lipman is a management trainer, author, and coach. His online courses on Udemy include “How to Manage Difficult Employees” and his book is The Type B Manager. He has more than 20 years of Fortune 500 management experience. He contributes regularly to Forbes and Psychology Today, and his work has appeared in Harvard Business Review.
Employee engagement is one of those intangible concepts that has a different definition depending on the organization assessing it. There’s no universal agreement on exactly what it means, which has led some people (and organizations) to question whether it means anything at all.
One thing I can tell you from a boots-on-the-ground management perspective is that—having managed disengaged and highly engaged employees alike—I sure know whom I’d rather be managing: the engaged folks. As a manager, I could tell you every time whether an employee was highly engaged or not. Theoretical arguments over precise definitions aside, it’s plenty tangible and clear, if you know what to look for.
Here are six of the key characteristics of engaged employees I’ve observed over several decades in management.
The employees have spoken.
Find out why some employees go above and beyond (and why others quit).
1. Engaged employees are emotionally committed to their organization.
They like their company and genuinely want the best for it. They see its success as aligned with their own.
2. Engaged employees have an excellent attitude.
They have a positive, can-do way of approaching daily work—no grumbling or shuffling. They’re happy to be members on all kinds of teams, even if it’s not in their core area of business interest.
3. Engaged employees go the extra mile.
They do what’s needed to get a project done, and aren’t lined up like sprinters waiting for the starting gun to bolt out the door at 5 p.m. It’s about the work, not the time.
4. Engaged employees are collaborative.
As might be expected, they’re excellent team players and get along well with others. As a manager, there’s no need to worry about delicate, dicey team dynamics. (Or, if there are still some challenging team dynamics, dollars to doughnuts engaged employees won’t be contributing to them.)
5. Engaged employees are responsible and reliable.
If they say they’ll do something, they will; you don’t need to remind them three times. Diligence is part of the fabric of how they work. And for this reason—depending on other characteristics too, like authority combined with interpersonal skills—they can be good potential candidates for management as well.
6. From a management standpoint, engaged employees just plain old easy to work with.
For all the reasons noted above. I’ve written before about a management variant of the old 80/20 rule (80 percent of your business tends to come from 20 percent of your customers). It goes like this: “80 percent of your time tends to be spent on the 20 percent of your employees who are more challenging and demanding.” Your highly engaged employees definitely aren’t among that demanding, time-devouring 20 percent. They do an outstanding job with very low management maintenance.