When discussing the question of whether employees should be fully engaged in an organisation or not, it is necessary to consider some fundamentals. First of all, it should be pointed out that employee engagement can be regarded as an important management tool, which allows improving performance within the workplace.
When working, employees should be cognitively and emotionally involved in numerous organisational processes; moreover, they must not differentiate between the self and the environment. For this reason, one is to keep in mind that the principal difference between engagement and job is that engagement “is concerned more with how the individual employs his/her self during the performance of his/her job” (Vazirani n.d.).
Emotional responses, however, cannot be neglected. If a job is mostly related to a person’s cognitive involvement in organisational processes, then for engagement not only cognitive variables are important, but also physical and emotional ones.
Engagement can be regarded as a key to competitive advantage. Taking into account the extremely high demands of the modern business world, one can conclude that fully engaged employees can contribute in a positive way to the achievement of organisational objectives. In fast-changing environments, engagement is considered to be a key to increasing organisational effectiveness.
Engaged employees vs. non-engaged employees
One of the most important aspects of employee engagement is the difference between engaged employees and non-engaged ones. Thus, there is a need to clarify that engaged employees work to achieve results. They focus on the final goals rather than on performing certain tasks. On the other hand, non-engaged employees are interested in short-term activities rather than achieving a final outcome.
The key variables of employee engagement
In most cases, the term engagement is mostly associated with turnover and productivity (Harter et al. 2002); although it should be noted that there is a wide range of organisational outcomes to which engagement can be related. While considering engagement as a necessary condition, one should understand that there are numerous attitudinal and psychological aspects, which seem to be of great importance to a company’s effectiveness (Macey & Schneider 2008).
Some of the key variables that lead to employee engagement are job satisfaction, pay and benefits, performance appraisal, equal opportunities, empowerment, clarity of company values, family friendliness, interaction, and effective management of talent. It is clear that there are employees who want to belong to a company (employees with a high level of motivation), and those who are obliged to belong to a company in order to get an opportunity to satisfy some basic requirements (employees who work for salaries).
Of course, organisations are mostly interested in employees who are ready to move their organisation forward. For this reason, a basic task that managers of an organisation must think over in order to increase their organisational effectiveness is how to create productive relationships between employees. It should be pointed out that attaining a high level of employee activity depends upon the conditions in which employees work (Dvir et al. 2002).
The constituents of employee engagement
As the term engagement includes a variety of notions, one must differentiate between the constituents of employee engagement. Trait engagement, state engagement, and behavioral engagement are considered to be the key elements of employee engagement. Trait engagement includes positive views of life and job; state engagement involves feelings of energy; and behavioral engagement is associated with psychological attitudes.
Taking into account the fact that work affects employee engagement (Hackman & Oldham 1980), one can conclude that work affects a company’s organizational effectiveness. In other words managers of an organisation should consider in detail the many facets of employee engagement.
The types of engagement
- Engagement as a psychological state means more emphasis on passion, and less emphasis on satisfaction.
- Engagement as satisfaction means more emphasis on affect and conditions employees work within. Thereby, it is evident that employees feel satisfaction because they are important members of a company and because they feel satisfied with the work they do.
- Engagement as commitment is an employee’s willingness to be an integral part of an organisation.
- Engagement as job involvement means more emphasis on work.
- Engagement as psychological empowerment involves the issues of authority and responsibility.
- Engagement as positive affectivity includes the variables of emotional engagement.
- Engagement as involvement of the self means employees’ concentration on the roles they perform.
Keeping in mind a variety of perspectives, it becomes evident that organisational outcomes are determined by the combination of the listed types of engagement. In other words, when speaking about employee engagement, one can suppose that, on the one hand, the phenomenon is to be analysed rather ambiguously; on the other hand, “it is common to define employee engagement as putting forth discretionary effort, defined as extra time, brainpower, and energy” (Towers-Perrin 2003).
The meaning of employee line of sight and an organisation’s HR system
These days, the diversity of the workforce, paired with the numerous changes companies undergo, gives us an opportunity to conclude that without fully engaged employees, organisations will not survive. On the other hand, employees who are enthusiastic about their work remind us of some fictional characters (Seijts & Crim 2006).
Of course, nobody will deny the fact that in the modern business world a shortage of talents is considered to be a global problem. According to Boswell and Boudreau (2001), companies need employees who are able to understand various organisational objectives, as well as the ways to achieve these objectives. Such an employee understanding is called the line of sight. Engaged employees should be deeply concerned about the basic strategic outcomes, namely customer satisfaction, productivity, and quality.
In order to fully engage all employees in an organisation, a special HR system must be created. The principal purpose of the system is to develop employees’ cognitive abilities in order to increase competitive advantage. Thus, the strategies of HR system should contribute to an effective working environment. In other words, if employees’ work is controlled and coordinated by effective management, employees will be motivated “to behave in ways that benefit the organisation” (Castellano n.d.).
The interdependence between employees’ work and organisational performance: a classic example
Managers of an organisation should give employees the opportunity to see how their work affects organisational performance. The effectiveness of this method was confirmed in the early nineties when The Sears Roebuck & Co. turnaround took place:
“Total Performance Indicators” were created to gauge how well Sears was doing with its stakeholders – employees, customers and investors. The result – an employees’ understanding of the connection between work – as operationalised by specific job-relevant behaviors – and the strategic objectives of the company had a positive impact on job performance (Kontakos n.d.).
It was proven that the most important variables that impact organisational effectiveness involve employees’ attitudes towards their responsibilities and organisational objectives. Numerous other factors were less important in comparison with the above-mentioned one. The Sears Roebuck & Co. case showed how employees’ awareness of the importance of their work influences revenue growth and customer satisfaction.
Variables that affect employee engagement
The employee brand
The notion of the employee brand in relation to employee engagement should be analyzed in detail. The employee brand determines an organisation’s importance. In other words, an organisation’s value depends upon employees’ choices: “Both the line of sight and employer brand are reinforced through leadership, communication, employee development and corporate and social responsibility to create and build employment engagement” (Kontakos n.d.).
The leadership team
Another important aspect that employee engagement depends upon is the leadership team. One of the key leader’s tasks is to determine the best ways to motivate employees. As far as employees’ levels of motivation vary, one can conclude that the leader’s primary purpose is to develop an individual approach towards every employee in an organisation. The role of the leader is really important as, in most cases, it is the leaders who create engaged employees.
It must be noted that continuous communication is extremely necessary to engagement. Employees must be informed of the various changes that an organisation faces, in order to be ready to meet new requirements of the organisation. Feedback is also essential to employee motivation. It is necessary to keep in mind that feedback gives employees the opportunity to realise what is expected of them.
Employee development is also essential to organisational effectiveness, as employees should understand what strategic goals a company wants to achieve. Managers of an organisation can create an employee development plan. The development plan should reflect employees’ principal strategic objectives. The plan can help employees understand their unique contribution to the achievement of a common organisational goal (Wellin & Concelman 2005).
Creating a sense of obligation in employees is important to achieve employees’ desired productivity. Providing employees with benefits and career opportunities may help encourage employee development. In view of the aforesaid, one can conclude that there is a direct relationship between employee development and engagement.
Corporate and social responsibility
An organisation’s HR system should also determine corporate and social responsibility (CSR). The interdependence between employee engagement and CSR seems to be obvious, as CSR influences employee emotionality. One is to keep in mind that “CSR may have been initially seen as a powerful tool for attracting potential employees. After all, CSR, (at its core), is a relationship engagement strategy” (Googins 2005).
So, the employee brand, the leadership team, continuous communication, employee development, corporate and social responsibility are the most important variables that affect employee engagement.
In the era of fast-changing environments, it is evident that one of the primary tasks companies must achieve is to fully engage all employees in their organisation. Engaged employees are able to perform various complex tasks and enhance a company’s competitive advantage.
Engaged employees work for the benefit of a company; they focus on a final organisational objective and do not differentiate between the self and environment. Without engaged employees, modern organisations will not survive.
An interdependence between employee engagement and profitability, a high level of performance, a direct relationship between employees’ emotional attitudes and customer satisfaction, an increased level of employee motivation, and a high-energy working environment are recognised to be the basic advantages of engaged employees.
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