Employee Engagement

Posted on February 5, 2013 by


One of the biggest challenges leaders face is engaging the workforce.  Engagement can be defined a number of ways:

  • “…the degree to which individuals make full use of their cognitive, emotional, and physical resources to perform role-related work” (Xu & Thomas, 2011)
  • “…harnessing of organization members’ selves to their work roles, in engagement, people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally during role performance” (Kahn, 1990)
  • “…as a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption” (Schaufeli, 2002)
  • “Engagement has to do with how individuals employ themselves i the performance of their job” (Saks, 2006)

There has been a great deal of time spent exploring factors that influence employee engagement.  These factors include leadership behaviors, supervisor support, and leadership position.  Organizational leadership and the behaviors of one’s direct supervisor have been found to ahve significant impact on engagement.  Leadership factors such as integrity, expressions of genuine care and concern, and trust have a  positive influence on employee engagement.  Additionally, it could be argued that the higher the position an employee holds within an organization, the greater their perceived engagement because they can contribute more and experience a higher level of autonomy as it relates to decision-making and performance of their job.  These leadership behaviors and other factors create an environment in which the employee feels he or she can positively contribute to the organization, feel safe taking risks and even fail without fear of consequences, and feel as though they can more freely engage in work.

Because employee engagement has a significant impact on the overall performance, organizations often seek to understand the level of engagement of their workforce and subsequently identify and employ strategies to improve employee perceptions in key areas to increase the level of engagement of the workforce.  These strategies include organizational culture surveys, leadership 360-degree feedback surveys, focus group meetings, or diagonal slice discussions facilitated by HR.  Organizations can then use the information gleaned to develop strategies specific to generational cohorts, gender groups and levels within the organization as well as strategies to improve engagement during various stages of organizational growth (start-ups, expansion, etc.) and change (downsizing, mergers/acquisitions, etc.).

Leadership should remember, as it relates to employee engagement, the work environment should be able to not only sustain the employee’s well-being but also their satisfaction.  In doing so, leaders are able to create a work environment that supports involvement, creativity, and drives the desire to contribute to the best of their abilities on a daily basis.

Kahn, W.A. (1990). Psychological conditions of personal engagement and disengagement at work. Academy of Management Journal, 33(4), 692-724.

Saks, A.M. (2006). Antecedents and consequences of employee engagement. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 21(7), 600-619. DOI: 10.1108/02683940610690160

Schaufeli, W.B., Salanova, M. and Bakker, A.B. (2002).  The measurement of engagement and burnout: a two sample confirmatory factor analytic approach. Journal of Organizational Behaviour, 25(3), 293-315.

Xu, J. and Cooper-Thomas, H. (2011). How can leaders achieve high employee engagement? Leadership & Organizational Development Journal, 32(4), 399-416. DOI:10.1108/014377311111134661