Over the last 8 years that I’ve been studying engagement, I’ve spoken to hundreds of people about the subject, and during that time, I’ve seen that there are 4 types, or scenarios, or fields, of engagement.

You can see them in this handy 2×2 matrix (the consultant’s most used tool!)


Let’s cover them briefly:

1. Inter-personal engagement

This is social driven within a contained network. This is the realm of friendship and family, but perhaps more relevant for readers of this newsletter, the place of colleagues, partners and audiences. For instance, if I am coaching someone to deliver a speech or get a particular person engaged, I consider this to fall under inter-personal engagement.

2. Employee engagement

On occasion also called “ingagement” (which I like!), this has become big business, where innumerable tools and organisations exist to help people engage their employees. Sadly, many of these reduce employee engagement down to taking a survey. That is not engagement! I believe this is better understood by thinking about teams and leading those teams by creating meaningful work that people want to be engaged in.

This is commercial driven (it’s work we are talking about), but within a contained network (the workplace).

3. Consumer / customer / brand engagement

This scenario gets multiple names, often determined by who precisely is being engaged. Consumer or customer engagement is where the brand engages the buyer. Brand engagement is where the buyer engages the brand.

It’s commercially driven, but in an open network, as it is often a function of marketing.

Speaking of things being reduced to ideas that are far below their importance, brand engagement is often talked about in relation to social media and how many people comment on a Facebook post. That is a poor rendering of engagement!!!

4. Community engagement

Of all the alternate names that can be given to the above scenarios, this one gets the most. Community engagement is anything that is socially driven, within an open network. Instances include:

  • public engagement (universities getting their research engaged with by non-academics)
  • civic engagement (the realm of politics and government)
  • social engagement (people’s involvement in groups)
  • community engagement (which as a technical term is used by planning organisations before building is done, but in a local council sense, is a technical term for literally engaging a community or parish)

(This is my favourite area, and where I’ve spent most of life working.)

What you might notice here is the opportunity for people to be confused or miss your meaning when you talk about engagement, as what is engagement to one (say, community engagement for their local sports club), is not what is engagement to another (getting people motivated within their company).

But of course, really, they are all the same. They are all about being better together, about building strong connections, and about unlocking potential through those connections.

And that is something I think is worth putting 8 years of research and 16 years of practice into!