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Employee Engagement and Its Aspects Dissertation

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Updated: Aug 8th, 2020

The problem of employee engagement has been studied actively throughout the past decades. The expert community is mainly focused on determining the key triggers of employee engagement such as managerial attitudes. A particular emphasis is likewise put on the potential outcomes that a consistent engagement implies.

Also, it should be pointed out that there is currently no consensus regarding the proper interpretation of the term itself. In other words, different researchers offer individual variants of “employee engagement’s definition. The paper at hand is aimed at summarizing the scope of the relevant literature and providing a brief review of the problem from four perspectives: the term’s interpretation, the main engagement-related outcomes, key triggers, and potential challenges.

First and foremost, it is essential to review the way that the term engagement is defined in different scientific sources. As has been already noted above, the notion is interpreted differently within the expert community. The lack of consensus might seem surprising, taking into account the fact that the term has been used for more than a decade. From this perspective, it seems to be most rational to refer to Robertson-Smith and Markwick (2009) that performed a thorough analysis of a large scope of the relevant literature to work out the most complete definition.

Hence, the researchers note that, despite the lack of unity in the experts’ opinion, the major part of the analyzed sources implies that engagement stands for the positive outcomes that employees might potentially bring in the company. Moreover, the researchers note that the engagement phenomenon likewise comprises a sense of commitment. Upon a detailed analysis of the literature, Robertson-Smith and Markwick (2009) composed a shortlist of common traits that most specialists assign to employee engagement.

First and foremost, the majority of experts describe an engaged employee as the one that is satisfied with the work performed and ready to contribute to the possible improvements. The contribution aspect is particularly critical as many consultants, that target to increase the engagement, focus specifically on those psychological factors that the employees need to realize their contributing value. Second, the researchers note that the security factor is also a common characteristic assigned to the engagement structure.

Hence, it is assumed that employees might show complete involvement in the working process on the condition that they feel safe. Otherwise, their intellectual and emotional potential cannot be fully elicited. Finally, Robertson-Smith and Markwick (2009) point out the reciprocal character of employee engagement that is commonly emphasized by different academics. Hence, the definition of the engagement term suggested by Robertson-Smith and Markwick (2009) seems to be most detailed and complex as it relies on the general summarization of a wide range of studies and research.

Meanwhile, it is likewise essential to elucidate another interpretation offered by Harter and the co-authors (2002) that put a particular focus on the factor of enthusiasm. Otherwise stated, the authors mainly expect engaged employees to be fully absorbed into the working process and united by the common feeling of involvement (Harter et al., 2002, p.269). This interpretation resonates with that proposed by Robertson-Smith and Markwick (2009) as the latter likewise describes an engaged employee as the one ‘absorbed, charged with energy, vigor and focused, so much so that they lose track of time at work’ ( p. 11).

The next question that needs to be elucidated in the framework of this literature review is the outcomes of employee engagement and different engagement-related levels. Summarizing the relevant literature, it might be concluded that the outcomes of employee engagement are evaluated positively in general. Hence, it is assumed that being sincerely engaged in the working process is associated with positive emotions and, thus, has a positive impact on the employee’s health. As a result, many researchers believe that engaged employees are less likely to experience stress-related disorders.

Also, engaged employees are generally more successful. For example, Dicke and the co-authors (2007) state that engaged employees have better chances to be well-paid and rewarded. Lewis and the co-authors (2012) explain this phenomenon by the fact that engaged workers try harder than their colleagues and, thus, they are more likely to achieve better results and get promoted.

This point of view is likewise expressed in the work of Alfes and the co-authors (2013) that point out that engaged employees are more concentrated on the quality of their performance. Moreover, the researchers note that the successful performance of engaged employees can be partially explained by the fact they tend to be highly creative due to the emotional involvement that allows them to come up with new ideas and alternative solutions.

It should be pointed out that the positive character of the engagement outcomes has been empirically proved by different researchers. Hence, for instance, Dromey’s (2014) findings reveal that engaged employees are more productive, while Harter and the co-authors (2002) provide the evidence of them being more satisfied and loyal to the relevant organization.

Meanwhile, it is also necessary to summarize the negative outcomes associated with engagement that some researchers describe. Hence, for instance, Truss and the co-authors (2013) align high engagement with additional work intensification that employers tend to take advantage of, without offering the relevant reward. Lewis and the co-authors (2012) likewise note that engaged employees are more exposed to work-related burnouts and stresses as they are excessively concentrated on achieving the best results.

Another question that needs to be essentially discussed is the key engagement triggers. Hence, the major part of the experts agrees upon the point that the main determinant of a consistent engagement is managerial attitudes. In other words, it is believed that employee engagement should be regulated from the outside – managers are obliged to ensure the environment that would help the employees feel engaged (Gruman & Saks, 2011).

Kahn (1990), in his turn, insists that engagement is mainly dependent on the inner psychological triggers such as meaningfulness, availability, and safety. The former might be interpreted as the employee’s satisfaction retrieved from the sense of being valuable. Thus, for instance, Hodson (2005) mentions those employees that enjoy their meaningfulness while mastering a particular skill.

The availability factor, according to Sonnentag (2003), is associated with an appropriate work-life balance that allows an employee to restore the lost energy quickly. The safety element is necessary to ensure the sense of stability that allows an employee to engage in the work process without experiencing tension from the outside (Hodsen, 2005).

One of the most important triggers, that is commonly pointed out, is leadership. Hence, Purcell and Hutchinson (2007) assume that line managers are naturally responsible for promoting effective practices to get their employees more motivated and, thus, engaged in the working process. Thus, managers are in charge of creating a favorable team atmosphere, within which productive communication and collaboration can be established. For example, Tamkin and Robinson (2012) note that the manager must avoid potential conflicts and reduce the tension that distracts the employees and prevent them from being fully engaged in the process.

Apart from the positive engagement triggers some experts likewise point out the negative determinants. Hence, for instance, Tamkin and Robinson (2012) note that poor managerial practices that imply inconsistent communication and lack of motivation are likely to prevent employees from showing engagement. Also, it is assumed that employee disengagement might be often explained by the lack of the relevant skills and knowledge that does not allow an employee to fulfill the relevant responsibilities in an expected manner (Gallup, 2013). These factors need to be considered while generating a relevant management strategy.

Finally, it is essential to mention the challenges that researchers are likely to face while examining this field. Hence, the main problem that the majority of authors point out is the lack of relevant studies. For example, Truss and the co-authors (2013) note that the field is poorly examined – there are little practical and experimental studies described.

As a result, the expert community is incapable of suggesting any practical recommendations for raising employee engagement (Alfes et al., 2010). Also, the literature review shows that there is a lack of relevant evaluation practices. Thus, Bersin (2015) points out that the major part of organizations realizes the need to elevate employee engagement though it is ignorant of the ways to evaluate its current state properly. Therefore, it might be concluded that the problem needs further investigation.

Reference List

Alfes, K., Truss, C., Soane, E. C., Rees, C. and Gatenby, M. (2010) ‘Creating an engaged workforce’. London: CIPD.

Alfes, K., Truss, C., Soane, E. C., Rees, C. and Gatenby, M. (2013) ‘The Relationship between Line Manager Behaviour, Perceived HRM Practices, and Individual Performance: Examining the Mediating Role of Engagement’. Human Resource Management, 53:6, 839-859.

Bersin, (2015) ‘Becoming irresistible: A new model for employee engagement’. Deloitte Review, 16, 146-163

Dicke, C., Holwerda, J. and Kontakos A. (2007) ‘Employee Engagement: What Do We Really Know? What Do We Need to Know to Take Action?’ Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies (CAHRS).

Dromey, J. (2014) ‘MacLeod and Clarke’s Concept of Employee Engagement: An Analysis based on the Workplace Employment Relations Study’. London: Acas.

Gruman, J. A. and Saks, A. M. (2011) ‘Performance management and employee engagement’. Human Resource Management Review, 21, 123-136.

Harter, J. K., Schmidt, F. L. and Hayes, T. L. (2002) ‘Business-Unit-Level Relationship between Employee Satisfaction, Employee Engagement, and Business Outcomes: A Meta-Analysis’. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87: 2, 268–279.

Hodson, R. (2005) ‘Management Behaviour as Social Capital: A Systematic Analysis of Organizational Ethnographies. British Journal of Industrial Relations, 43:1, 41-65.

Kahn, W. A. (1990) ‘Psychological conditions of personal engagement and disengagement at work’. Academy of Management Journal, 33, 692-724.

Lewis, R., Donaldson-Feilder, E. and Tharani, T. (2012) ‘Managing for sustainable employee engagement: Developing a behavioural framework’. London: CIPD.

Purcell, J. and Hutchinson, S. (2007) ‘Front-line managers as agents in the HRM-performance causal chain: theory, analysis and evidence. Human Resource Management Journal, 17:1, 3-20.

Robertson-Smith, G. and Markwick, C. (2009) ‘Employee Engagement: A review of current thinking’. Brighton: Institute of Employment Studies.

Sonnentag, S. (2003) ‘Recovery, work engagement, and proactive behaviour: a new look at the interface between non-work and work’. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88 (3), 518-528.

Tamkin, P. and Robinson, D. (2012) ‘Teams and the Engaging Manager’. Brighton: Institute of Employment Studies.

Truss, C., Shantz, A., Soane, E., Alfes, K. and Delbridge, R. (2013) ‘Employee engagement, organisational performance and individual well-being: exploring the evidence, developing the theory’. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 24:14, 2657-2669

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