HR Learning: 2 Types of Employee Engagement State

September 17, 20201:31 pm1851 views
HR Learning: 2 Types of Employee Engagement State
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As a concept that has developed over time, employee engagement has been defined in numerous, often inconsistent, ways in the literature, so much that the term has become ambiguous to many and it is rare to find two people defining it in the same way. 

Robertson-Smith and Markwick’s article suggested that engagement has variously been conceived as a psychological or affective state, a performance construct, or an attitude. Some even relate the concept to other specific constructs such as altruism or initiative. In the concept of employee engagement, organisations are where the theory of engagement is ultimately put into practice. Organisations can offer a great insight into how engagement is viewed and used in ‘the real world’. The following examples illustrate how organisations across various industries in the public and private sectors define employee engagement.

See also: Employee Engagement: Six Stages for HR to Focus On

Engagement as a psychological state 

Engagement in terms of a psychological state can be defined as the harnessing of organisation members to work roles. In engagement, people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally during role performances’. 

William Kahn in his study explored workplace conditions in which people engage with or disengage from their organisation. He found that engaged individuals express and fully involve their sense of self in their role with no sacrifice of one for the other. Kahn proposed that engaged individuals are prepared to invest significant personal resources, in the form of time and effort, to the successful completion of their task, and that engagement is at its greatest when an individual is driving personal energies into physical, cognitive and emotional labours. 

Engagement as a behavioural outcome 

Other academic definitions have focused more on the outcomes of engagement, much in the same way as those proposed by companies. As cited by Kaufman et al., an engaged employee extends themselves to meet organisation’s needs, takes initiative, is proactive, reinforces and supports organisation’s culture and values, is in the flow, shares the values of the organisation, stays focused and vigilant and believes he/she can make a difference. 

Whilst academic definitions of engagement also tend to focus on the outcomes of engagement (advocacy, dedication, discretionary effort), much in the same way as companies, they do, however, pay more attention to the psychological state of engagement. Researchers describe engaged employees as being fully involved in their task, absorbed, charged with energy, vigour and focused, so much so that they lose track of time at work. The academic definitions are consistent with those posed by the companies in their view of engagement as an outcome. 

Researchers also point to the two‐way beneficial relationship between employer and employee, but do not mention anything about what organisations do in practice to enable experience of the state of engagement and to experience the outcomes. The problem with academic definitions is they often do not offer an explanation of how engagement is distinct from other concepts such as job commitment and involvement. 

Many business leaders today have come up with valuable yet effective ways to boost employee engagement based on experiences, which HR in Asia have covered in other articles here

Read also: More than Just a Feedback: Better Employee Engagement Strategy

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