The Short Version
Engagement represents the levels of enthusiasm and connection employees have with their organization. It's also a measure of how motivated they are to take positive action to further the organization and a sign of how committed they are to staying there.
The Longer Version
Employee engagement might be defined as a desirable psychological state that arises from the psychological contract we have with our employees. More specifically it is a state that results in personal connection with the company, commitment, enthusiasm, focused effort, and motivational components. The links that engagement has with other many important and desirable outcomes are summarised and referenced well in this Forbes article.
Our own Engagement Index was designed to include the most fundamentally important aspects in our experience and provide a balance of the types of questions usually used. We cannot measure every possible aspect that any particular practitioner might consider part of engagement but we do not need to because the elements tend to be highly correlated with one another. Instead, we use the work of those such as Macey & Schneider and our our own data analyses to arrive at questions that measure the most crucial aspects of engagement. We also use two retention or 'stay' focused questions because this is a critical thing for most companies and these types of questions also tend to show better variations in scores than other engagement questions.
Your engagement score is a key outcome and your score will be a function of the particular questions you use. If you use our standard questions the average score is somewhere in the 70%-75% range. A score above 80% is fantastic and above 85% is really all you might aim for - beyond that you're best focusing on maintaining your score and helping any lower scoring groups join the rest of the company up there. Scores below 60% will typically reflect significant portions of disengaged people in the company and below 50% should be taken as reasonably serious for the longer term if the trend down does not reverse.
Thoughts on Actions
The engagement factor and questions represent the psychological and behavioral outcomes that we are hoping to measure and impact - which means we don't aim directly to improve these questions. It is a bit like telling people to just be happier. Instead we identify the questions that drive engagement
in our results and we focus on actions to improve them. Just like happiness, we don't just get happier by focusing on being happy, we try to identify the things that make us happy and do more of them. For engagement, we use statistical analysis
to find out what appears to make employees engaged and we focus on doing better at some of those things.