The Fundamental Currency of Engagement

How Energy Is Being Used, Not Time

By Tom Roth

Recent research has indicated that a large majority of managers understand the importance of employee engagement to achieving business results. Yet, further research over the last few years shows that the number of employees who report being fully engaged is decreasing to dangerously low levels. Why is this?

As I have worked with leaders from a number of organizations in a variety of industries, I have observed that there is really no common understanding about what engagement means, let alone what to do about it. Two important points about engagement need to be made.

First, how energy is being used, not time, is the fundamental currency of engagement. By that I am referring to the combination of employees’ perceptions (from negative to positive) of the changes occurring in the organization and the amount of physical energy expended (from low to high) responding to external and internal demands. Simply stated, engaged employees are those who perceive what is happening in the organization as positive and choose to put forth high energy as a result.

That leads to the second point. You cannot force someone to be engaged—it is their choice. You can mandate the amount of time employees put in, but how they use their energy is their choice.

What does this mean for leaders in your organization? Among all the responsibilities of a leader, one of the most important is to actively and intentionally work to create a culture of engagement. You do this by being a positive role model for the beliefs and practices you want shared by all employees and by encouraging them to share those same beliefs and practices.

What should leaders do? I suggest you find out what is most important to your employees and identify the critical elements that influence their choice to engage or not. Then, proactively do what you can to ensure those elements are part of an engagement culture.

What do you think are the most important elements of a culture of engagement?


Tom Roth

Tom Roth is Chief Operating Officer of Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc. (U.S.) and President of Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc. (Japan). With more than 40 years of experience developing and implementing human performance improvement solutions, Mr. Roth is responsible for the strategic direction and business performance of Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc. operations. In addition, he leads the global marketing services and R&D solutions group, which is responsible for the research and development of all solutions and position papers. Mr. Roth assists global executive leadership teams with issues related to employee engagement, leadership development, strategy alignment, and business transformation. Before assuming his current role, he was President of the global R&D and solution development groups and also served as President of Wilson Learning Corporation.

Mr. Roth has extensive experience developing and implementing human performance improvement solutions. He is coauthor of the book Unplugged: How Organizations Lose Their Energy and How to Get It Back, coauthor of the book Creating the High-Performance Team, and is published in numerous business publications. Mr. Roth is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences and client events, presenting on a wide variety of issues including leadership, employee engagement, change, and strategy implementation.