Recognise This! – For all the academic definitions of employee engagement, seeing a truly engaged employee at work is the most meaningful.

I think there are more definitions of employee engagement than organisations pursuing it. I like the definition below from recent Temkin Group research because it focusses on the outcomes of true engagement:

“Engaged employees are extremely valuable; they are more than twice as likely to do something good for the company that is unexpected of them, almost three times as likely to make a recommendation for an improvement, and six times as likely to recommend that a friend or relative apply for a job with their employer.”

What does all that boil down to? They’ve got the best interests of the company in mind and they’re willing to go the extra mile to achieve those interests. That’s the classic definition of engagement – “I know what’s expected of me, personally. I know how that fits into the bigger picture of company success. I’m willing to give additional discretionary effort to deliver on both.”

The impact of engagement is the real crux of the matter, however. Out of the recent ice storms in the American South have come several stories of people helping people, as well as this one about the life-or-death impact a truly engaged employee can have:

“Dr. Zenko Hrynkiw had to travel from Birmingham [Alabama]‘s Brookwood Medical Center to Trinity Medical Center to perform [emergency neurosurgery] Tuesday, but a sudden snowstorm had snarled all traffic, with thousands of drivers getting stranded for hours.

“Getting to the hospital by car would’ve been nearly impossible. Instead, the neurosurgeon decided to make the [six mile] trek by foot.

“Hrynkiw said Thursday, ‘I walk a lot, so it wasn’t that big of a deal.’

“He said he left Brookwood  around 10:45 a.m. ET — and by 12:45 p.m. he was already operating on the patient…The emergency surgery was for a traumatic brain injury and Hrynkiw is Trinity’s only brain surgeon, according to The Associated Press.

“‘He had a 90 percent chance of death,’ Hrynkiw said. ‘If he didn’t have surgery, he’d be dead. It’s not going to happen on my shift,’ he added.”

This doctor had several legitimate excuses to stay put. It was dangerous outside. A state of emergency had been declared. There was no easy way to get to the other hospital. But he knew the bigger picture and was willing to go the extra mile (literally) to get the job done.

Now, we don’t all hold others’ lives in our hands in our daily work. But the work we do does matter (or the job wouldn’t exist). Helping others understand that importance and recognising them for doing whatever needs to be done to achieve needed results – that’s how we all can contribute to increasing engagement among our colleagues and ourselves.

What’s your favorite story of engagement in practice?