Focusing on the Real Purpose of Employee Engagement

I’ve been writing and speaking about the importance of employee engagement for well over a decade, years before engagement became the commonplace term it is today.

Like you, in this last decade I’ve read countless research reports, news articles, blog posts, case studies, etc., on employee engagement and am beginning to wonder if the amount of information is making the ideal of employee engagement seem ever more out of reach for organization.

And then, I read a Harvard Business Review blog post that reminded me of the simple truth about engagement. John Baldoni shared this as part of a discussion with Gallup Research Chief Scientist Jim Harter, PhD:

So where do you begin if you’re committed to improving engagement…? One way to simplify it is to focus on purpose. Communicate the purpose of the organization, and how employees’ individual purposes fit into that purpose. When employees ‘clearly know their role, have what they need to fulfill their role, and can see the connection between their role and the overall organizational purpose,’ says Harter, that’s the recipe for creating greater levels of engagement.”

It really is as simple as that – helping employees answer the questions of purpose: “Where do I fit? Is what I’m doing important to others?”

One of the most positive and effective ways of answering these questions is strategic, social recognition. Empower every employee to notice and appreciate the efforts of those around them. Encourage them to share their praise of colleagues and peers through detailed, specific messages that reflect the company values and objectives and communicate how the employee’s efforts made a difference in the bigger scheme of things.

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How would you describe your purpose at work?

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

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at


3 Comments on “Focusing on the Real Purpose of Employee Engagement

  1. I agree that when an employee aligns their work with the organizational purpose you enable engagement. I would further suggest that when the employee aligns their personal purpose with that of the organization you enable INSPIRATION. An Inspired employee is even more productive, and operates at their best much more frequently. I believe inspired employees is what an organization must have in today’s highly competitive marketplace, engagement is not enough!

  2. Thanks for the article Derek. It’s a conversation that needs to be happening all over. Here are two of the key problems we found at the core of this issue though:

    1) Most organizations can’t easily articulate what they’re purpose is, other than making money. So how can they align the right people?

    2) They vast majority of society can’t define their own purpose, so how can they define it at work? So how do they know if they’re really working for the right company or looking for work at the right company..?

    Separately, organizations have to clearly define and be able to articulate their purpose, much like values. But very few have started that process. Same goes for individuals. Sadly though, the fact is; the vast majority of society doesn’t truly know where they fit, because they haven’t been asking the right questions…

  3. I work in an outsource contact center here in the Philippines but I directly report in our headquarters at Utah. One problem our company encountered is the culture differences and how to impart the company’s vision to their outsource call centers in the Philippines and India. Our company then closely examine the specific needs not only by the agents but of their families as well, they also started educating it’s employees on aspects of other cultures around the world. Here’s the link to the entire blog if you’re interested, That is how we’re able to resolve our differences and positively recover our agents engagement in our common goal to serve not just our clients but the community as well.

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