The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

, ,

What’s the Difference Between Employee Engagement and Commitment?

systematicHR Avatar

Thanks to Terry for pointing me to an article Regina Miller wrote.  In it, Regina speculates at the different definitions of commitment versus engagement.  It seems that the world has been caught up by this employee engagement fanaticism, in the process discarding the old world employee commitment paradigms.  While it’s entirely possible that they are different terms for the same thing, Regina speculates they may not be.

According to Towers-Perrin-ISR, “the level of commitment that employees have to their company is a key driver of its financial performance. Committed employees are prepared to go the extra mile for their employer and to exert the maximum effort in their work for the benefit of the organisation as a whole. Commitment is measured by whether employees intend to stay.”

Patricia Soldati of the Management Issues Blog writes, “The Conference Board defines employee engagement as a heightened emotional connection that an employee feels for his or her organisation, that influences him or her to exert greater discretionary effort to his or her work”.

Is engagement the preferred state of a younger workforce? Do people so young want to commit?  Companies may decide based on current workforce demographics that they will expect turnover and will provide employees with the best working environment (engagement) to get the careers kick-started. This kind of employee “contract” generates a different kind of engagement. Companies just build this philosophy into business plans and have quite a different kind of company culture and employer brand.  ((Miller, Regina, July 9, 2007.  “Engagement, Commitment and the Employer Brand.”  Times Ascent.  Retrieved from on July 16, 2007.))

As we talk about Milennials and the differences in the work preferences in upcoming generations of workers, Regina brings up a very interesting point.  Is it possible that younger workers see no need to commit to an employer, seeing them only as stepping stones to the next, better job?  Is it possible that when we talk about providing great work environments and exciting work to engage employees, that we are doing just that at the expense of creating commitment to the organization?

I’d suggest that there is definite plausibility here.  We’ve certainly noted that younger generations of workers have no problem with employer transience, but we’ve also noted that there isn’t necessarily any diminishing of drive and desire.  We simply need to realize that perhaps we’ve engaged our employees to the work, but not to the organization.  As the world struggles with talent “shortages” we can pick our tactics and decide to engage the workforce, but realizing that the strong employer brand acts upon employee commitment will continue to be a critical element in our ability to retain and develop our workforces.

Tagged in :

systematicHR Avatar

9 responses to “What’s the Difference Between Employee Engagement and Commitment?”

  1. systematicHR – Human Resources Strategy and Technology » What’s the Difference Between Employee Engagement and Commitment?

  2. Sean Rehder Avatar

    With only a “gut feeling” to back me up, I think the best measurement of an employee’s “commitment” to anything can be found in their psych profile and not in the employer’s “comp package” or “list of corporate values.”

    With that said, though, a good/bad immediate boss can have a major impact either way on an employee’s commitment level.

    People commit to people…not to the corporate logo.

    One thing corporate America can learn from the military is not only its emphasis on leadership development (I said leadership…not management) but the requirement of it. Also, its use of a “promotions” board made up of peers…not just the boss man.

    Never…ever…underestimate the power of peer pressure.

  3. Ron Katz Avatar

    We hear a lot about the “disloyal” millennials, but there is a new survey from Manpower that offers another view. Check out this piece from Workforce Management Online:

    Employees Grow Loyal as Employers Grow Optimistic

    Nearly three-quarters of workers expect to remain with their companies at least five years. At the same time, Manpower Inc. says nearly 30 percent of U.S. firms will ramp up hiring activity during the fourth quarter.
    By Garry Kranz

    Loyalty and Hiring: Much has been written and said about the supposed mercenary nature of younger workers, who often are portrayed as willing to jump from job to job at the slightest hint of a better offer. Yet three-quarters of workers are planning to remain in their current jobs for at least five years. That’s a chief finding of “What Workers Want,” a quarterly barometer of employee trends produced by Express Personnel Services, a staffing company in Oklahoma City. About 54 percent of workers ages 25 to 44—which includes members of the so-called Generation Y—plan on staying put. All told, nearly half of respondents (48 percent) say they never intend to leave their current employer.

  4. systematicHR Avatar


    Interesting article excerpt. I’d pose the following question:

    — Intent = Current Satisfaction?
    — Actual Retention = Current Engagement?

    Therefore, the survey is only measuring an employee’s intention to stay, not their actual habit. This is quite different from the measurement of reality.

    Personally, I never intended to leave my last employer. The desire to do so came on quite suddenly (and was completely self motivated) due to a slowly decreasing sense of engagement (I didn’t feel like I was growing anymore). I didn’t even see it coming only 3 months before my departure.

  5. Scot Herrick Avatar

    It is a useful discussion to discern the differences and implications for what is “commitment” and what is “engagement.”

    I also honestly don’t believe that it has anything to do with generations either. Baby boomers are retiring at 59 and a large chunk of that (~40% from a study in “the new 65 is 59”) is because they have been laid off by their employer or health issues. Layoffs and corporate reorganizations continue unabated regardless of the generation, so I wouldn’t necessarily focus this on just Gen Y.

    To highlight the difference between engagement and commitment, I can be engaged in my work but have zero commitment to the organization or company. Of course, it depends upon how you define commitment — if it is intent on staying with a company, my answer would be 0% even though I’m 100% engaged in useful work that I want to be doing.

    I can also be working the extra hours and “go the extra mile” if I’m engaged in the work — but it is because I am engaged in the work, the resulting “commitment” to the corporation is a critical side benefit for the company.

    Do we have any data that suggest companies have policies for commitment and/or engagement? Policies is perhaps not the best word, but how would the practices of management translate into engagement and/or commitment?

    And some clarification on how engagement and commitment translate into behaviors or measures through their definition would be helpful to me and perhaps others.

    It is a needed discussion so managers and companies can focus on the right things to get intended results from their people. Thanks for writing this.

    @systematicHR: Circumstances can change quite quickly in a company and you can change from happy as a clam to needing to leave pretty fast: witness the virtual collapse of the mortgage industry and all of the layoffs there. That was fast and had nothing to do with engagement or commitment, but needed to be done for survival. So intent versus reality is a very good point.

  6. Wally Bock Avatar

    From my perspective, engagement is not with the company but with the work or workgroup. In my training programs we talk about it as a “willingness to pitch in.” Workgroups where people think it’s great to come to work have a high percentage of engaged people. But there are awful companies with workgroups inside them filled with engaged people. And there are great companies with workgroups where people generally hate it where they are and are planning to leave. The main driver of workgroup engagement is the supervisor.

  7. Terrence Seamon Avatar

    I am also trying to sort this all out. Here’s one attempt:

    – If I am motivated, I am moving in a focused direction toward goals.

    – If I am engaged, I am working on these goals even when I’m not at work (e.g., on the train).

    – If I’m committed, I am thinking of ways I can help the company beyond my own goals.


  8. Rob Robson Avatar

    I think that the biggest issue with engagement is that it is very difficult to pin down. Sometimes it is associated with positive feelings about work, sometimes with a more behavioural concept that it closer to commitment.

    In my opinion, a good definition or measure of engagement captures both positive feelings (and should do systematically), and commitment to the goals of the organisation. Unless it does, then it is just a nice idea.

    We also never really talk about the content of engagement – what are people actually experiencing. We’ve this notion that engagement is there or not – but I’m pretty sure that it has different “flavours” and that we should be talking more about “how” people engage with their organisation and not just “how much”.

  9. […] systematicHR – Human Resources Strategy and Technology » What’s the Difference Between Employee E… Good stuff about the difference between engagement and commitment. (tags: talentmanagement) […]