ATD Blog

Differentiating Between Different Levels Of Employee Engagement

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I’m taking a different tack for this month’s contribution to the Workforce Development blog series. I’m in the middle of writing a new book, The First-Time Leader (due for release by Wiley in 2014), and was wondering if any of you would like to provide input on one idea.

Here’s the idea:

Crossing the secret of happiness (good for others, good for me, good at it) with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs produces a new way to look at the different levels of engagement (disengaged, compliant, contributing, committed). Here’s how it works out:

  • Disengaged. Those disengaged or engaged with the wrong things hurt the organization. They don’t meet the minimum standards and distract others.
  • Compliant. At the first level of engagement, compliant people do no harm. They show up. They observe. They focus on what’s “good for me” and meet the minimum requirements to satisfy their biological and physiological needs.
  • Contributing. One level up, contributors do things they are “good at.” They collaborate with others and help as they seek belonging and self-esteem.
  • Committed. At the highest level are the people trying to do “good for others.” They care about the organization’s purpose and teach others as part of their own self-actualization. 

With the growing number of organizations taking “engagement” more seriously, I  think it’s not going to be good enough to distinguish merely between “engaged” and “not engaged.” Instead, a framework like this one will help leaders be more discriminating in engagement activities, tailor their efforts to different groups, to not settle for compliant employees when they can get real contributions, and to not settle for contributions when they can get commitment.
Any thoughts? Please add your comments below or contact me at [email protected].

About the Author

George Bradt has a unique perspective on transformational leadership based on his experience as a business leader, consultant, and journalist. He progressed through sales, marketing, and general management roles around the world at companies including Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, and J.D. Power’s Power Information Network spin-off as chief executive. Now he is a principal of CEO Connection and managing director of the executive onboarding group PrimeGenesis.

George is a graduate of Harvard and Wharton (MBA), co-author of four books on onboarding, including The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan, and co-author of a weekly column on, The New Leader’s Playbook.

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