Describing work engagement can be difficult, but you know it when you have it, and when you don’t. When I was 16 years old I had a summer job working at a raspberry plant emptying containers of raspberries onto a conveyor belt for 12 to 16 hours – all at night. The work was consistent, structured and routine, and provided stable employment. These are aspects of employment that many people find engaging. Yet other than the pay check, there was nothing about the job that I enjoyed. I dreaded going each day and I was not engaged. Instead of rotating workers through different jobs, and giving us the opportunity to learn something new, we were kept at the same job for the entire summer. Rather than communicate how many berries we needed to process, we were kept guessing. The organization failed to notice these opportunities to engage employees. The following summer I got a job as a truck driver for a construction company. I spent my days picking up and delivering construction materials and had the freedom to plan my routes, schedule my daily activities, and learn many new things from the job supervisors I interacted with. Along with the pay check, I enjoyed every aspect of the job. Work engagement is generally defined by its results – engaged people demonstrate higher levels of performance, commitment and loyalty to the company they work for. Engagement focuses on the connection that an employee has to the organization that results in putting forth a greater effort in their work. It is obvious that all organizations want to increase engagement – who does not want higher performance and greater commitment? Research shows that engagement is affected by many things including the nature of the job, career opportunities, relationships with co-workers and leaders, and pride about the company. To increase engagement a company needs to consider each of these. So where can an organization start? It makes sense to start at the beginning, when an employee is first hired. Since engagement is increased when an employee has the opportunity to use their skills and talents, person-job fit is very important. Consider how you evaluate candidates and link their skills to the requirements of the job. A good fit will give the employee the opportunity to do what they are good at and feel engaged. A poor fit will require the employee to use skills they may not have or want to acquire, leading to disengagement. With appropriately implemented application reviews, psychometric assessments, and interviews you can better hire people who will be engaged. A second driver of engagement is providing current employees with the opportunities to stretch and develop new skills. These are key activities in any career growth and employee development program. Consider the efforts your organization makes to develop employee skills and provide future opportunities for growth. Effectively helping employees identify these opportunities to develop will drive engagement. When people see little to no future opportunities engagement starts to lag. Each of these activities comes down to an awareness of people. Increasing what you know about people, their skills and talents, needs and desires, will greatly increase your ability to enhance employee engagement.

About Shawn Bakker, M.ed R.Psych

Shawn Bakker is a registered psychologist in the province of Alberta, and holds a Master’s Degree in Counselling Psychology from the University of Alberta. During his 14 year career, he has helped organizations with team building, succession planning, staff selection, and training. Shawn is the editor of Psychometrics Canada’s newsletter, Psychometrics Direct, and writes about ways to use MBTI® instrument to help people in their work and personal lives. He has also written numerous articles on the use of psychometric assessments in the workplace, and has spoken at many HR industry events. Shawn’s first experience with the MBTI® assessment was in college, where he examined the links between personality type and learning style. In addition to his consulting work, he is committed to helping organizations develop effective and innovative assessments of the talents that people bring into the workforce. Shawn is the co-author of the Work Personality Index, Career Values Scale and Career Interest Profiler