The Benefits of Being Engaged in Your Work

Let’s be honest — our generation gets a bad rap, particularly in the world of work. Publications like the New York Times and Philadelphia Business Journal along with huge companies like PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte — and seemingly every group in between — have spoken out about “Millennials in the Workplace”.

Some call us entitled, lazy and arrogant; others call us innovative, energizing and intense. Though individual truth may be in the eye of the beholder, each of us has a choice to make once we get hired — will we be engaged in our job?

When we get hired, whether for internships or for real jobs, employers are taking a risk. Basically, it’s a sink-or-swim deal. If we succeed in our new role, many new doors will open in our career. If we fail to provide our employer a return on their investment, then we’ll be resolutely escorted to the nearest exit.

The best way for us to give our new bosses a rock-solid ROI is by being engaged in our work. Being engaged is much more than being simply satisfied:

Employee satisfaction involves a transactional (this-for-that) relationship between the employee and the employer. Satisfaction is the foundation for all success (or failure) in the workplace. We are satisfied when we receive fair compensation/benefits, a safe work environment and access to resources. Our bosses control 90 percent of this relationship, giving us various workplace perks; we use our 10 percent control to simply accept these provisions.

Employee engagement involves something deeper than just satisfaction. When we’re engaged, we have feelings of meaning and purpose in the work we do. We are given the appropriate levels of self-direction, plenty of learning and development opportunities and we ultimately find ourselves in an environment that promotes the development of new friendships and professional connections.

What’s the difference between a satisfied and an engaged employee? Engaged employees apply discretionary effort to their work — they go above and beyond the call of duty, because they find high value in their responsibilities. Satisfied employees do just enough to get by.

Clearly, our employers want us to be engaged, but we control much more of our engagement than they do (let’s call it a 70/30 relationship). Even though our bosses ultimately can’t control our personal levels of engagement, they’re sure as heck going to try — because they know that engaged employees provide the highest ROI. According to the Corporate Leadership Council, engaged companies grow profits as much as three times faster than their competitors, and highly engaged employees are 87 percent less likely to leave the organization.

“Profit growth 300 percent faster than my competitors? No, thanks,” said no one, ever.

The moral of the story? We need to be careful not to do ourselves a disservice. As we begin to enter the working world via internships, part-time jobs and full-time careers, we need to immediately prove our worth to our employers by choosing to be engaged.

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