What I Learned at HR Tech: Everyone Has a Different Definition of “Employee Engagement”

What I Learned at HR Tech: Everyone Has a Different Definition of “Employee Engagement”What does “employee engagement” really mean? It’s a big question, and at this year’s HR Tech conference, I learned there are as many answers as there are organizations asking it.

I started working at Talmetrix as an intern this summer. After a few months helping the team here fine-tune the Talmetrix employee engagement platform, working with customers to define and improve engagement, and learning more about the HR technology industry, I was hooked. I decided to stay on board with Talmetrix as an employee. That decision landed me at my first HR Tech conference this October.

What is engagement?

My biggest takeaway from the event: Employee engagement doesn’t have a single, static definition that rings true at every company — and there is no one-size-fits-all plan for improving engagement. Instead, every organization is responsible for creating a definition of engagement that works for its employees, then shaping a culture of engagement.

Ultimately, every organization wants happy, satisfied, productive employees; however, the way each organization defines peak engagement varies tremendously.

Some examples I’ve seen of how companies define engagement differently:

  • An organization that has experienced tremendous growth due to an acquisition, expansion or merger may be most concerned with cultural alignment. In this scenario, an engaged workforce is one that has consistent values.
  • An organization that is running a new HR initiative, like a new incentive plan, may define an engaged workforce as one that understands and buys into the company’s vision and plan.


What that means for me, as someone who’s interested in building technology that helps HR leaders drive engagement: All engagement tools need to be flexible so that organizations can use them to create and boost engagement in a way that meets their definition.

What role should technology companies play?

Like I said before, I’m a newbie in the HR tech market, so I was focused on understanding what different providers are offering.

Here’s what I noticed at HR Tech: Many employee engagement solution providers offer a single-model approach to employee engagement. Organizations come to the provider for help. The provider shares an out-of-the-box solution that forces the organization into a specific mold. But that model doesn’t always work, because every organization’s engagement definition and efforts vary, and every organization’s workplace demographics are different.

If I were an HR practitioner looking for help boosting engagement, first I’d ask: What does engagement mean at my organization? Then I’d look for a technology provider who could help me create my vision of engagement.

Who’s responsible for engagement?

One theme I heard over and over at HR Tech: Engagement should start from the bottom up, with employees on the ground. When executive leaders define and plan engagement on their own, their efforts fall flat. But when engagement is a collaborative effort — a conversation — throughout the organization, real results start to show up.

Here’s what everyone at an organization should contribute to employee engagement:

  • Employees: An investment in the organization and the plan to improve engagement; a willingness to try new tools and approaches.
  • Managers: A commitment to communicating with employees about their feedback and ideas. Managers are a key part of understanding the pulse of an organization.
  • HR: An understanding of the organization’s objectives and a willingness to think creatively about ways to improve engagement.
  • Senior leaders: An appreciation that employee engagement ties into other key corporate objectives — and the bottom line. In order for engagement efforts to be successful, senior leaders must acknowledge that engagement isn’t just a feel-good issue that belongs only to HR. It’s an integral element of the organization’s success.


At Talmetrix, we work with organizations to define, measure and improve employee engagement. We’re already applying what we learned at HR Tech to better meet our customers’ needs. Interested in the work we’re doing and how we could help you boost engagement? Contact us to set up a demo.

Download our guide to employee engagement

Talmetrix is an employee feedback and insights solution that helps organizations better attract and retain talent to achieve business goals. Our solution makes it easy for organizations to capture employee feedback (feelings) and organizational data (facts) to discover actionable insights. With a unique combination of software, content, data, and advisory support we can help you measure and improve your employee experience. Contact us today to learn how your company can start achieving better business results.

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