Employee Relations

Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is an increasingly important concept for researchers and practitioners alike. However, confusion exists regarding its meaning and measurement, and whether in fact employee engagement represents a new concept, or one conveniently repackaged by those in practice, and the human resource consulting firms competing for their business.

Why Confusion Exists

Employee engagement has been conceptualized by some, and operationalized by others in many different ways. Some people equate employee engagement with job satisfaction, or job commitment. Others believe engagement aligns with feelings of empowerment, or positive affectivity. Yet others think of it more behaviorally as extra-role or discretionary effort invested in advancing organizational objectives. In sum, engagement has been thought of in three distinct ways: –  As more temporary psychological “states” –  As enduring personal “traits”, and –  As certain types of personal behavior. In reality employee engagement is none of these alone, but smaller facets of all of these together.

Facets of Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is a multifaceted construct, and some of its facets are listed below. –  Energy, enthusiasm, and similar affective states –  Task engagement and job commitment –  Feelings of empowerment, self-efficacy and control –  Positive affectivity related to the job and work setting –  Innovative, initiative and proactive behaviors to contribute –  Behaviors that go beyond what’s typical or expected –  Adaptive behaviors serving an organizational purpose Additionally, it is believed that environmental or situational considerations might also explain why some employees become more engaged than others. For example, to the extent employees feel a sense of trust with their leaders they may be more likely to become behaviorally engaged. Similarly, one might expect more engaged employees in work contexts and situations that promote or allow for engagement through, for example, its goals and values.

Implications for Practice

Several important implications come from this research. First, one should be aware that existing measures of “employee engagement” may not truly measure engagement. Rather they may measure certain aspects related to engagement, as well as aspects unrelated to engagement. Second, certain facets of employee engagement are relatively enduring personal characteristics of employees that are relatively stable over time, and less susceptible to organizational influence or training. Third, other more temporary psychological state-based facets of employee engagement do change over time and are mediated by various situational variables. Thus, the organization can create work contexts that encourage psychological and behavioral engagement. And finally, work contexts or situations may interact with state and trait variables differently for some people than for others.

Facilitating Engagement

What are some of the steps an organization can take in an attempt to create an environment more conducive for employee engagement? –  Treat employees fairly and with respect –  Create opportunities for learning and skill building –  Provide the resources people need to perform –  Maintain (or create) a trusting environment –  Hire people who are more prone to engagement, and –  Recognize and reward pro-active and extra role behavior. Regardless of complexity of the engagement construct or its measurement, research supports the contention that having “engaged” employees has a number of benefits for the organization. Research and practice should continue to provide guidance on how best to conceptualize, measure and influence employee engagement.

Interpretation by:

Anthony J. Adorno

DeGarmo Group

This was a summary of the research and practice implications from: Macy, W. H. & Schneider, B. (2008). The meaning of employee engagement. Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice, 1, 3-30.