Recognizing Employee Engagement in the Workplace

Recognizing Employee Engagement in the Workplace
Human Resources

There’s a lot of talk about employee engagement these days, but how do we recognize these engaged employees and show appreciation for the things they do to support the company? It’s not always easy to distinguish what exactly engagement in the workplace is, and it can be demonstrated differently depending on a person’s role and the function of their company.

When I think of engagement, I consider it to be those behaviours and actions that warm the heart. I can picture specific employees I’ve worked with over the years and the behaviours I’ve witnessed that have touched me. And perhaps you’ve seen them too. These behaviours show that the employees care about the company, their coworkers, and the integrity of the company. They do this through their words and actions, both inside and outside the workplace.

See if you’re familiar with the examples below of engaged employees:

Caring about the company

  • The employee who is crying because her car got hit in the parking lot, but is sweeping up the glass so it does not look bad to the customers and so no one gets hurt.
  • The employee who volunteers on his or her own time to represent the company at events, even when unsure of what the event is all about.
  • The employee who drags out friends and family members to volunteer events to help get even more company representation out there.
  • The employee who defends the company to someone who has made a derogatory remark about his or her workplace.
  • The employee who recommends a family member or friend for employment because it is such a great place to work.

Caring about the staff

  • The employee who brings in baked goods to fellow staff on her day off because she is thinking about them at work even though she is not there.
  • The employee who sends a thank you note after a meeting about how grateful they are to be part of the company.
  • The employee who reminds others how lucky they are to work in such an environment and gives examples of the behaviour they are grateful for.
  • The employee who sends a recognition award to someone in management to thank them for leading and supporting a great culture.
  • The employee who takes the effort to really train the new person well, in the best interest of the customer and to protect the reputation of the company.

Caring about integrity

  • The employee who gets her husband to come in and help move her to a different office so the company doesn’t have to pay a mover, even when budget allows for moving expenses.
  • The employee who doesn’t have all the facts, yet still defends a change or decision that has been made that is not popular.
  • The employee who asks for a project or assignment in addition to what they are already doing because they are excited about the prospects of the new work.
  • The employee who blogs and tweets with excitement about their workplace events.

To me, this is the essence and heart of employee engagement. You probably all know employees like this.

I have come across many definitions of employee engagement, depending on where you look. In that familiar space we all know as Wikipedia, I found, An ‘engaged employee’ is one who is fully absorbed by, and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests.”1

Browsing through Forbes on the topic of ‘what is employee engagement’, the following surfaced: “Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. This emotional commitment means engaged employees actually care about their work and their company.”2

Sounds good on paper, right? But something is definitely missing. No “definition” can give justice to the feeling that you get when you experience engagement.

So how do we demonstrate appreciation for this type of engagement?

Demonstrating appreciation for engagement

Showing engaged employees that you appreciate their commitment to the company doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. It can be as simple as a comment to let them know you notice and acknowledge their actions. There are several things we can do to say T.H.A.N.K.S to these valuable workers:

T – Take the time to comment on your appreciation of the behaviour that you are witnessing at the time. For example:

  • “Thank you for bringing your sister out to the event today. It really shows your passion for the organization when you not only come out to assist, but you also bring a family member along.”
  • “I read your blog and agree that was an exciting event. Thank you for taking the time to share such positive excitement with others.”
  • “Thank you for defending that decision yesterday. I was impressed with how you had so many facts to back up your point of view and glad you understand and believe in the reasons behind that decision.”

H – Have a conversation about your appreciation.

  • Emails and thank you cards are wonderful ways of expressing your appreciation, but very common in today’s digital world. Having a face to face conversation makes it so much more personal.

A – Acknowledge the actions of engaged employees in various ways.

  • Quote them when you are telling their story to others or use their comments as testimonials (with their permission) on your intranet or LinkedIn company page.
  • Take pictures of them for your company Facebook page.
  • Talk about what you witnessed to others.
  • Give them fun assignments related to their engagement, such as letting them lead a focus group or volunteer activity.

N – Notice their behaviour.

  • “I read how passionately you felt about that.”
  • “I noticed the sparkle in your eyes when you started talking about that.”
  • “I saw how excited you became when you were at that event.”
  • “I saw you light up when you were demonstrating that.”

K – Know what kind of recognition that employee likes to receive.

  • Recognition in front of peers to someone who does not like public recognition is not special and is not encouraging.
  • A quiet thank you for someone who likes public displays of appreciation won’t cut it, the same way as a public display of appreciation won’t be appreciated by someone who likes a quiet thank you.
  • Posting on the company Facebook page about an employee who is not a Facebook fan does not make it special. Know your employees and what they like. How do you find out? Ask him/her.

S – Specialize your message.

  • Make it personal to the employee and mean what you say. Think of what makes that particular action, behaviour or employee different and how you can express that speciality.
  • Trying to think of flowery terms or copying words from the internet is not as special as when it comes from the heart.
  • Employees know when you are being sincere and when you are not. Mass thank yous, while nice, are not as effective as specialized ones that are tailored just for that individual employee.

When we are talking about how to engage staff and how to recognize engagement we also have to look inside. Nothing can be more powerful than leading by example.

Ask yourself, “How do I demonstrate my own engagement in the workplace?” “How engaged am I?”


About the Author

Cavell Fraser

Cavell Fraser, B.A., C.H.R.P. is the Vice President Human Resources for Libro Credit Union. She recently achieved her Queen’s IRC Certificate in Advanced Human Resources. Cavell has taught human resources in the business program at Fanshawe College, Woodstock campus. She is a on the Executive of the Stratford and District Human Resources Association and is a Director on the Technical Training Board.  She is a former Director on the Board of the Foundation for Education and the Four County Labour Market Planning Board. Cavell and her family reside in St. Marys, Ontario.



1 accessed September 2014.

2 accessed September 2014.

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