Dictionary.com says: a person working for another person or business firm for pay.
Legal Dictionary says: a person usually below the executive level who is hired by another to perform a service especially for wages or salary and is under the other’s control.
Investorwords.com says: a person who is hired to provide services to a company on a regular basis in exchange for compensation and who does not provide these services as part of an independent business.
While an employee may be all of these definitions above (depending on your vantage point) there is 1 thing lacking in all of the definitions above to truly and adequately define what an employee is. That 1 thing is purpose. To touch on the aspect of purpose, I’d like to draw your attention to a passage from the book The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelley:
“The next question is: What is an employee’s purpose? Most would say, “to help the company achieve its purpose,” but they would be wrong. That is certainly part on an employee’s role but an employee’s primary purpose is to become the-best-version-of-himself or herself.” (pgs. 3-4)
Without purpose, an employee is an automaton with no thoughts, will, or dreams of its own; the employee essentially (as far as some employers are concerned) is a slave to the purpose of the employer and in some cases this leaks out into the personal time of the employee (especially those in a middle-management to executive level and depending on the business). With purpose an employee is looking to be the best that they can be so that the best version of who they are can help the company that is employing them become the best version it can possibly be. Let’s also remember that an employee is a human being that has many things to deal with both in and out of work so they are not going to perform perfectly everyday nor are they always going to be right all the time.
An employee is the most essential position in any company for without them there would be no one to help the company achieve its goals as the managers and leaders can’t do it all by themselves. The point I’m trying to make here with this post is that employees are people who have their own dreams and goals and deserve the opportunities to achieve them. Leaders will help them get there. Managers will try to keep them underfoot. Entrepreneurs will try to liberate them (even though every employee is not capable of being an entrepreneur) to live “their dreams”. But ultimately, employees are the backbone of any company and if you want to retain and maintain a valuable workforce, you need to treat them correctly and find ways to keep them from getting disengaged with their work which will cause them to either seek “greener pastures” elsewhere or give you work that is well below what they are capable of.