Many studies have shown that companies with engaged workers perform better financially than those who don’t. To reap these benefits, it’s important to understand what engaged employees look like.

An engaged employee looks like a happy customer

A company’s customers are a good reflection of how engaged their employees are. In 1994, the Harvard Business Review published a ground-breaking white paper called “Living the Customer Value Chain”, which found a very real and predictable link between employee commitment, customer satisfaction, revenues, and shareholder value. In other words, companies with engaged employees perform better financially because their customers are happier. The article was updated in 2008, and is still relevant today.

Engagement looks like hard work

“Engaged employees takes pride in their work,” says Don Smith, Vice President of Operations at ClearPicture. “They feel like they make a difference.”

In the workplace, this translates into hard work. Engaged employees do what it takes to get the job done, and they focus on quality as well as timeliness. They are good team players who enjoy working with customers. They also exhibit a high degree of trust in the management and leadership teams.

Conversely, disengaged employees show up for work and do the job, but with minimal effort. They think of customers as a necessary evil, tend to resist change, and are seldom happy with management.

Engagement is motivated by more than money

Engaged employees are willing to work to earn increases in pay and benefits, and tend to think about their work off the clock. And, says Smith, money isn’t their primary motivator.

“When you look at the priorities of engaged employees, money is usually number three or four on their list.” says Smith. “Responsibility, autonomy, and challenge rank highest for engaged employees.”

On the other hand, he says, disengaged employees are motivated by their paycheque, and they want more pay and benefits before doing more.

Engagement is more than satisfaction

When you compare the attributes of an engaged worker to a disengaged worker, it is easy to see why companies want to attract engaged people in the first place.

Companies also need to recognize the difference between employee engagement and employee satisfaction. Although these two ideas are related, they are not the same. Just because someone is happy at their job doesn’t mean they’re engaged.

Taking a broader view of engagement — one focused on how committed employees are to the organization — will give companies a strategic advantage in competing for customers and for top-notch employees.