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Employee engagement has become a topic of interest to HR practitioners and line managers Employee engagement can be defined as the connection an employee has with their workplace. It relates to job satisfaction, motivation and involvement at work. Employee engagement has received a great deal of consideration in the last five years, especially in the popular press and among consulting firms. It has often been described as the key to an organization’s success.
The performance of an organisation is dependent on its employees. After all, your employees are the engine of your organisation. They are the driving forces in keeping it running. Organisations consistently link highly engaged employee with high organisational performance.
A review of the literature on the definitions and drivers of employee engagement, performance measures and an examination of the relationship between employee engagement and organisational performance should be done to know the linkage.
The relationship between employee engagement and organisational performance can be understood through series literatures. Some of the links are strongly supported by research and clearly defined in the literature.
Gibson, J (2006) defined employee engagement as a “heighted emotional connection that an employee feels for his or her organisation, that influence him or her to exert greater discretionary effort to his or her work” ( as cited in khan 2007, para 5).
Harter, J., Schmidt, F. and Hayes, T. (2002) define employee engagement as “the individual’s involvement and satisfaction with as well as zeal for work” (p. 269).
Schaufeli and Salanova (2007) claim that engagement is “crucial” for present organizations given the many challenges they face (p. 156) and Macey, W.H., Schneider,B., Barbera, K.M., Young, S.A. (2009) argue that organizations can gain a competitive edge through employee engagement.
Institute for Employment Studies, (2004) defines engagement as “a positive attitude held by the employee towards the organisation and its values. An engaged employee is aware of business context, and work with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organisation. The organisation must work to develop and nurture engagement, which requires a two way relationship between employer and employee”
Schaufeli and Salanova (2007) suggest that engaged employees are energetically and effectively connected to their work. This can occur through the investment of one’s “self” in work activities. In his work on personal engagement, Kahn (1990) suggested that engagement involves “the harnessing of organizational members’ selves to their work roles; in engagement people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally during role performances” (p. 694).
Kahn (1990) further notes that, Personal engagement is the simultaneous employment and expression of a person’s “preferred self” in task behaviors that promote connections to work and to others, personal presence (physical, cognitive, and emotional), and active, full role performances (p.700).
Numerous writers have indicated the role of engagement in individual attitudes, behavior, and performance as well as organizational performance, productivity, retention, financial performance, and even shareholder return ([Bates, 2004], [Baumruk, 2004], [Harter et al., 2002] and [Richman, 2006])..
However, arguments exist regarding the definition of employee engagement. Macey and Schneider (2008) note that there are many definitions, but that they all agree that employee engagement is desirable, has an organizational purpose, and has both psychological and behavioral parts in that it involves energy, flare, and focused effort. Schaufeli and Salanova (2007) note that being fully absorbed in a role comes close to what Csikszentmihalyi (1990) calls “flow.” They suggest that the distinction lies in the fact that whereas engagement is a persistent work state, flow is a more complex concept that involves momentary peak experiences that can occur outside of work.
HOW EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT INFLUENCE ORGANISATIONAL PERFORMANCE
There are several studies have showed the influence employee engagement on organisational performance for example why engaged workers may perform better than their non-engaged counterparts?
Firstly, engaged employees often experience positive emotions (Bindl & Parker, 2010). Happy people are more sensitive to opportunities at work, more outgoing and helpful to others, and more self-reliant and expectant (Cropanzano & Wright, 2001). Thus, engaged workers may perform better because they often experience positive emotions and are open to new experiences.
A second reason why engaged workers may perform better is that engaged workers have more physical resources. Indeed, research has generally shown a positive relationship between work engagement and health. For example, a recent study by Schaufeli, Taris, and Van Rhenen (2008) showed that engaged workers reported fewer emotional complaints than their non-engaged colleagues. Similarly, Demerouti, Bakker, De Jonge, Janssen, and Schaufeli (2001) found moderate negative relationship between engagement (particularly drive) and psychosomatic health complaints (e.g., headaches, chest pain). Several recent studies have indeed shown that work engagement is positively related to job performance (Demerouti & Cropanzano, 2010). For example, Bakker and Bal (2010) showed that engaged teachers received higher ratings from their supervisors on in-role and extra-role performance, indicating that engaged employees perform well and are willing to go the extra mile. Moreover, Xanthopoulou et al. (2009) conducted a diary study among employees working in a Greek fast-food restaurant, and found that day-levels of work engagement were indication of equitable daily financial returns.
However, it has also been reported that employee engagement is on the decline and there is a deepening disengagement among employees today ( [Bates, 2004] and [Richman, 2006]). For example, roughly half of all Americans in the workforce are not fully engaged or they are disengaged leading to what has been referred to as an “engagement gap” that is costing U.S. businesses $300 billion a year in lost productivity ( [Bates, 2004], [Johnson, 2004] and [Kowalski, 2003]).
DRIVERS OF EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT
1. Job design.
We contend that effective engagement may involve allowing employees to have a say in the design of their work, and the roles and assignments they perform. Doing so will promote psychological meaningfulness and encourage engagement by better allowing employees to bring their true selves to their role performances
The constructs of job change negotiation (Ashford & Black, 1996), job crafting (Wrzesniewski & Dutton, 2001), proactive behavior (Grant & Ashford, 2008) reflect the idea that employees can be partial architects of their jobs. For example, Wrzesniewski and Dutton (2001) explain that one way employees modify their work is by “changing the number, scope, or type of job tasks done at work, by choosing to do fewer, more, or different tasks than prescribed in the formal job, employees create a different job” (p. 185). In particular, work that is challenging, clearly delineated, varied, creative, and autonomous is most likely to be associated with the experience of a sense of value. In addition, people feel safer when they have some control over their work.
Jobs that are high on the core job characteristics provide individuals with the room and incentive to bring more of themselves into their work or to be more engaged (Kahn, 1992). Several studies have found that autonomy/job control and performance feedback are related to positive work outcomes ( [Bakker et al., 2004], [Bakker et al., 2007] and [Schaufeli and Bakker, 2004]). Finally, when assigning employees to tasks, managers must also ensure that there is a good fit between employee skills, needs, and values. According to Kahn (1990), individuals who are sure of their fit with a social system are more likely to derive greater meaning from it and to become more engaged. Thus, employees are more likely to engage themselves when they perceive a good fit between themselves and their job and organization.
2. Senior management communication
Managers play a vital role in the outcome of employee engagement and organisational performance. For example, the quality of the exchange relationship between leaders and subordinates has been shown to be positively related to subordinates’ satisfaction with their performance appraisals and motivation to improve (Elicker, Levy, & Hall, 2006). Managers also play a crucial role in fostering the engagement of subordinates by involving them in decision that concerns their jobs. Managers who are high in task behavior and support behavior have been shown to be particularly effective at promoting engagement (Schaufeli & Salanova, 2008). Not only can leaders provide employees with social support,(wellbeing) they can also develop engagement by providing assignments and experiences that are challenging, provide some control, autonomy, performance feedback, and allow for participation in decision making.
3. Coaching and Training
Schaufeli and Salanova (2007) suggest that coaching employees and helping them with planning their work, highlighting potential difficulties, and offering advice and emotional support helps to encourage engagement. It also helps to impart confidence or self-competence among employees
In the context of Kahn’s (1990), training is especially relevant for providing employees with resources that will make them feel available to fully engage in their roles (e.g., knowledge and skills required to perform one’s work tasks). Training can also make employees feel more secure about their ability to perform their job thereby lowering their anxiety.
As described by Kahn (1990), individuals are more available when they feel secure, and self-competence. Schaufeli and Salanova (2008) suggest that enhancing engagement can be promoted by offering employees training that provides experiences of vocational success, encouragement, and reducing the fear of failure. Although Schaufeli and Salanova (2007) suggest that promoting self-competence is the cornerstone of encouraging engagement through training.
Latham et al. (2005) suggest that in order to promote the development of a “can do” mindset, the training process should help to promote employees’ self-competence.
Employee engagement is most commonly measured using surveys. The Gallup Q12 framework is a standardized survey consisting of 12 questions that measure employee engagement in an organisation. The Q12 survey targets elements of employee engagement which are correlated to financial performance, productivity and customer loyalty (Thackeray, 2001). The Q12 has been applied to a wide range of private, non-profit and public organisations. It is a standard starting point for measuring employee engagement.
Apart from surveys, employee engagement can also be measured directly through interviews, focus groups, and case studies (National Health Services, 2008) and indirectly from Business figures, such as the rate of Employee Turnover and Absenteeism (Gennard, Soltani. Van der meer and Williams 2005)
Employees can be categorized as engaged, non-engaged or actively disengaged (khan, 2007). The proportion of employees in each of the three classes provides a measure of overall engagement in their organisation
ORGANISATIONAL OUTCOMES OF EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT
There are some outcomes of employee engagement listed in the Scottish government report, Employee Engagement in the Public Sector: A review of the literature (2007).
Customers Outcomes: engaged employee have a better understanding of how their actions contribute to the organisation’s customer needs
Productivity: engaged employee reduces operating costs because thy demonstrate more commitment and perform better than non-engaged employees.
Employee retention: engagement encourage employee to stay, increasing the retention of valuable employee
Meaning at work, Advocacy for the organisation and Organisational climate: These outcomes are products of a healthy workplace in which employees are engaged not only with their work but also with the organisation. This kind of engagement can lead to discretionary effort on the part of the employees. Discretionary effort can be defined as the “extent to which employee put their full effort into their job, are constantly looking for ways to do their job better are willing to put in the extra effort to get the job done when necessary and believe that people would describe them as enthusiastic about the work they do” (Corporate Leadership Council, 2002, as cited in the Equal Opportunities Trust [EEO], 2007, p.16).
CRITICISM OF EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT
As suggested by the descriptions above, employee engagement has also been criticized for lacking a consistent definition and measurement (Masson, Royal, Agnew, & Fine, 2008). A recently published paper defined and measured employee engagement as satisfaction, commitment and discretionary effort (Fine, Horowitz, Weigler, & Basis, 2010). Advances in understanding employee engagement will be difficult if not impossible to achieve until a consensus is reached on a definition and measurement of the term. The present paper builds on the definition of engagement advanced by Kahn (1990) in the first published work on the topic. This definition has been used in organizational research consistently since its introduction.
However, both the concept of employee engagement and research on it has been subject to criticism. For example, it has been suggested that there may be substantial overlap and redundancy between engagement and other term such as job satisfaction ( [Newman and Harrison, 2008] and [Wefald and Downey, 2009]). Such levels of association still leave room for differential relationships with other outcome variables of interest and can add to our understanding of organizational processes
Additionally, research on employee engagement has been criticized for treating engagement almost exclusively as a constant trait (Dalal, Brummel, Wee, & Thomas, 2008). This is a valid point given that Kahn (1990) discussed engagement as a state-like phenomenon in which people adjust their selves-in-role in response to the delays and flows of daily work. However, some recent research does treat engagement as a state-like phenomenon (e.g., Xanthopoulou, Bakker, Demerouti, & Schaufeli, 2009). In our model, levels of employee engagement are assumed to change in response to the degree to which the organisation is designed to promote its occurrence.
Some have argued that engagement is just another form of Control and is associated with work intensification and the outcomes detrimental to employee (burnout) Purcell, (2010).
However academic research has lagged behind practitioner interest and many unanswered question remain about d status of employee engagement as a term and how there is link between engagement and performance and whether engagement is something that can be managed. Employee Engagement can have multiple meanings and in fact may represent merely the latest manifestation of longstanding issues of how to manage and motivate staff. First of all, engagement is a behaviour/ conscious choice something people at work do to a greater or lesser extent.
It is important to make clear that engagement is not something that an organization can do to its workforce, its management’s responsibility to create an environment that is sufficiently attractive to their workers and those people will choose to engage. The environment can be physical (lighting, heating, comfort, tools and equipment, etc.) and even more importantly, what we call “psychosocial.” the latter means how people are treated, both in formal ways (performance management, etc.) and in the many informal ways in which the relationship between workers and their organizations plays out.
Engagement involves the emotional component of feeling good enough about the job and its environment to want to take the behavioral step of enthusiastic commitment to the organization’s goals and to one’s role in the achievement of them. It means that a worker is willing to “go the extra mile,” above and beyond simply “doing the job.” These are not the people who rush to leave at 4:00 p.m. sharp, even when a customer is calling on the phone! They have subordinated their own needs to a greater degree than those not engaged so that they can support the organization’s needs.
The relationship between engagement and performance is fluid and difficult to quantify however the links are intuitively clear. A culture of engagement leads to a culture of performance.
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