An organization is always in the need to successfully understand and use the employees’ talents, knowledge, skills, and vigour. Employee engagement is a fundamental concept in the effort to understand and describe, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the nature of the relationship between an organization and its employees. It is a workplace approach resulting in the right conditions for all members of an organization to give their best each day, committed to their organization’s goals and values, and motivated to contribute to organizational success with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.
There are four main sub-concepts within the term employee engagement. These are (i) ‘needs satisfying’ approach, in which engagement is the expression of one’s preferred self in task behaviours, (ii) ‘burnout antithesis’ approach, in which energy, involvement, efficacy are presented as the opposites of established ‘burnout’ concepts consisting of exhaustion, pessimism, and lack of accomplishment, (iii) satisfaction-engagement approach, in which engagement is a more technical version of job satisfaction, and (iv) the multi-dimensional approach, in which a clear distinction is maintained between job and organizational engagement, normally with the primary focus on antecedents and consequents to the role performance rather than the organizational identification.
Employee engagement is defined by William Kahn as ‘the harnessing of organization members’ selves to their work roles; in engagement, people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally during role performances’. It is translating employee potential into employee performance and organizational success. It can also be defined as a set of positive attitudes and behaviours of the employees enabling their high job performance of a kind which is in tune with the organization’s mission.
An engaged employee is defined as one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about his work and so takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests. The engaged employee has a positive attitude towards the organization and its values. On the other hand, a disengaged employee is the one who can range from someone doing the bare minimum at work, upto an employee who is actively damaging the organization’s work output and reputation.
With employee engagement, the organizational management can engage employees’ heads, hearts and hands. This is done with the ten ‘C’s of employee engagement which are described below.
Connect -The management is to value the employees. Employee engagement is positively related with the behaviour of the management with the employees. Hence, it is necessary that the management is properly connected with the employees.
Career -The management is to provide the opportunity for growth and development of the employees. Proper training and induction programme are very important for the career advancement of the employees.
Clarity -The management is required to communicate the goals and objectives of the organization. The success of the organization is mainly dependent on the clarity of goals and objectives among the employees.
Convey -The management needs to discuss the expectation which it wants from the employees and provide feedback on the performance of the employees. Effective management works continuously to improve the performance of the employees.
Congratulate -The employees are to get the feedback in the area where they are lacking behind and at the same they are also being rewarded and recognized on their excellent performance.
Contribute -The employees feel happy and motivated if their work contributes in achieving the organizational goals in a meaningful way. Hence, the management is to discuss the role of the employees in achieving the goals and objectives of the organization. Effective management helps employees to see and feel that how they are contributing to the organization’s success and future.
Control -Control is very important function of the management. It is the process to check whether organization is running in desired direction for meeting its goals and objective. The management needs to have the quality to control the organization.
Collaborate – When employees work in group and have trust and cooperation of their group members, they perform best. Good management is team builders. It creates an environment which fosters trust and collaboration.
Credibility – Management is required to maintain organizational image and to show high ethical standards. Employees want to be proud of their jobs, performance and the organization.
Confidence – Effective management helps to create confidence in the organization by developing high ethical standards for performance.
Employee engagement is based on trust, integrity, two way commitment and communication between an organisation and its members. It is an approach which increases the chances of success, contributing to organizational and individual performance, productivity and well-being. It can be measured. It varies from poor to great. It can be nurtured and dramatically increased; it can be lost and thrown away. Employee engagement level enhances employees’ creativity, impacts organizational profit and productivity, while increasing the customers’ satisfaction. It makes the employees happier, more satisfied, and more fulfilled.
Employees who are positively engaged at work perform better and are more productive. Organization, which actively focuses on engaging its employees as a key driver of success, has high employee engagement and outperforms that organization which has low employee engagement.
Engaged employees are those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and who contribute to their organization in a positive manner. Engaged employees are the ones who are likely to drive to innovation, growth and revenue which their organization urgently needs. These engaged employees build new products, generate new ideas, and create new customers and ultimately help the organization to grow.
Employee engagement is not the same thing as job satisfaction, nor does it simply mean job happiness. Employees can actually be satisfied with their jobs and still be disengaged.
Engaged employees are, to a certain extent, content, but not all content employees are engaged. The reason for this is the employee’s performance.
Employee engagement is the emotional commitment employees feel towards their organization and the actions they take to ensure the organization’s success; engaged employees demonstrate care, dedication, enthusiasm accountability and results focus.
When an employee is engaged he has positive emotions toward his work, finds his work to be personally meaningful, considered his workload to be manageable, and has hope about the future of his work. The engaged employee feels himself involved, committed, passionate, and empowered. He demonstrates these feelings in his work behaviour.
The engaged employee uses discretionary effort. He stays behind to get a job done since he is committed and feel accountable. He cares about his workplace. He stands up for his organization because he is proud to be a part of it. He finds solutions to problems and creates ideas to improve. He is emotionally engaged with his work and with his organization.
The engaged employee (i) feels proud to work for the organization, (ii) puts his heart into the job, (iii) talks positive about the organization with his friends, (iv) finds the organization energizing and exciting, (v) enjoys the challenges in his work, and (vi) stays with the work until it is completed.
The characteristics by which the engaged employee is identified are (i) has emotional attachment with his job as well as with the organization, (ii) has trust in the management of the organization, (iii) is more committed towards his work as well as the organization, (iv) creates healthy working environment and respect other employees of the organization, (v) co-operates with his colleagues to perform effectively, (vi) performs beyond the expectation of the management, (vii) performs his work in view of goals and objectives of the organization, and (viii) makes necessary change as per requirement and keeps update with the knowledge in his field.
When employees experience engagement, a number of positive outcomes take place. Some of the outcomes of engagement have link to other employee affective responses to work. More engaged employees have higher employee participation in organizational programmes, retention, receptiveness to change, and loyalty. In addition, employee engagement also results into lesser (i) role conflict and stress, and (ii) pessimism about the organization and its goals. Employee engagement also results into higher (i) sense of control over one’s work environment, (ii) confidence in the future of the organization, (iii) sense of self-confidence in the ability to make change happen in the organization, (iv) willingness to learn and experiment, (v) willing to stay with the organization (lower turnover or higher retention), (vi) motivation, (vii) creative ideas and solutions, (viii) continuous improvement, (ix ) team working, and (x) organization identity.
When the employees have the feelings of engagement then they are associated with a greater willingness to work hard, feeling connected to both the work and the colleagues doing the work. There is a sharper focus on achieving the goals of the organization, and a feeling of being part of the ‘flow’ of the organization.
In addition to the personal outcomes, when an organization has more engaged employees, the organization performs better. The relationship between employee engagement and performance has been investigated by many scholars. It has been found by them that organizations in which 60 % or more of the employees are engaged have higher average five year total returns when compared to the organizations where only 40 % to 60 % of the employees are engaged. Highly engaged employees achieve more of their goals than employees with low engagement.
The investigations have also revealed the strong effects which the employee engagement can have on levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty. A weaker, but practically significant, effect has also been found between measures of engagement and satisfaction and business-level outcomes. In another investigation, it has been found that there is a correlation between measures of attitudinal organizational commitment (defined as ‘the relative strength of an individual’s identification with and involvement in a particular organization’) and job performance. These investigations suggest that employee engagement is related to outcomes which are considered important by the management of the organization at both the individual and organization levels.
The following are seven drivers which promotes positive culture of employee engagement in the organization (Fig 1).
Fig 1 Seven drivers promoting positive culture of employee engagement
Vision – The work unit has a clear sense of the future which engages hearts and minds and creates pride among employees. When the employees understand, accept, and align their actions to the direction of the organization, they are more likely to be engaged. There are a number of specific dimensions of the vision which lead to employees being more engaged. These are clarity, line of sight, future focused, and emotive and cognitive. When management takes action to build a purpose-driven organization, the employees are more engaged. Employees in such organization act like volunteers since they believe in the cause or purpose of the organization.
Opportunity – The work on offer provides a chance to the employees to grow both personally and professionally, through participation in the work unit’s activities. Opportunity means that employees are given the chance to learn and grow through their participation in the work’s activities. Opportunities to participate may come from direct participation involving individual employees, indirect or representative participation through the intermediary of employee representative bodies, and financial participation. Through all of these forums, employees participate in decision making and work impact. Opportunity also means that employees have prospects of learning and growing at work. This growth can come from formal training and development experiences, but it can also come from work assignments. Learning also comes from a culture which exists in the organization and encourages risk taking and reflection. Employees are more engaged when they have opportunities to learn.
Incentives and rewards – The incentives and rewards improve the employees’ engagement. They shape the employees’ behaviour. Employee engagement increases when employees receive financial benefits from their engagement. Remuneration sends communication signals about what matters, serves as a scorecard for performance, and also meets the needs of some employees. The incentives and rewards are beneficial to both the employees and the organization. They result into improved performance and productivity. Employees have increased morale, job satisfaction and involvement in organizational functions. As a result, the organization experiences greater efficiency, improvement in productivity, increase in sales, and higher profitability. Incentives and rewards can be monetary as well as non-monetary. Monetary rewards and incentives encourage friendly competition and motivate employees and improve their engagement towards work. This improves their productivity optimally. Non-monetary rewards and incentives are given in the form of perks and opportunities.
Impact – The work itself makes a difference or creates meaning, particularly as it connects the employee with a customer who uses the employee’s work. Employees’ get motivated when they see the outcome of their work, then they are more likely to be committed to it. Impact means that employees feel that their hard work will lead to desired results. Every employee has a customer, either inside or outside the organization. When the employee can see the ways in which his work delivers value to customers, the employee is more likely to be emotionally engaged in delivering the work. When the employee sees the impact of his work affects the customer response to the organization, and then he realizes that his attitude and behaviour show up in customer attitude and behaviour. This makes the employee more engaged as he knows that what he does makes a difference.
Community – Community is the social environment in which the employees work. Employees are part of a team when appropriate, and working with co-employees who care. Community affects employee engagement in two ways. First, a community represents cohorts of teams with whom the employee works. Peer pressure and social networks encourage employees to commit to their job. It has been found that having a friend at work as a source of engagement implies a reciprocal relationship between the employee and his peers. Because of personal relationships, employees have goodwill towards their peers and try to not let them down, and to make sure that they are not the weak link on the team. A study on the high-performing teams shows that when employees feel like they are part of a social network, or community, they allocate more effort to supporting the goals of the team. Community is often rooted in leadership. Clearly, leadership matters. When an employee works for a respected and admired manager, the manager is able to engage the employee to work hard by personal relationship or influence. Management, which engages employees, listen, reinforce positive behaviour, help employees meet their personal goals, care for employees, and deliver results, are generally surrounded by employees who reciprocate by being more engaged.
Communication – Employees are more engaged when they know what is going on and why. Communication system which informs employees help employees feel more a part of the organization. The flow of information in communication is to be two-way. Thus there can be channels of communicating with employees and channels for ‘listening’ to employees Sometimes the terms ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ are used. The importance of communications hardly needs emphasizing. Lack of understanding is a major source of inefficiency and lack of motivation. More worrying from a management perspective is that, in the absence of clear information, the infamous ‘grapevine’ takes over. Management which build top-down, bottom-up, side-to-side, and inside-out communication plans ensure that employees understand what is expected and why it is expected. Employees are more engaged when they are more informed. Some employees like to be at the centre of the information network and become transmitters of information to others. Engaging these employees happens when they become spokespeople for the organization.
Entrepreneurship or flexibility – The employees enjoy flexibility, especially the new generation employees who have been raised on choices through computer technology. In the work setting, flexibility about terms and conditions of work can help engage employees. Flexibility might include work hours, benefits, work location, work dress, office space, and other policies which give employees more choice over their work setting. Flexibility provides employees choice. When the employees make a choice about his work setting, they are more engaged because they have a feeling of ownership. Flexibility in the organization is to meet the needs of both the organization and the employees. Management which encourages flexibility has focus on the outcomes of an activity more than the activity. It is open to innovative and creative ways to accomplish the outcomes. It invites employees to find new ways to deliver on important goals. It is willing to experiment and learn by trying new things, and then learning from those experiments. It treats each employee as an individual, with clear performance expectations, but with flexibility on how to reach the organizational goals.
Benefits of employee engagement
The major benefits of employee engagement are (i) it is an innovative thought which increases positive attitudes among the employees towards their job, (ii) the engaged employees work with passion and enthusiasm to get the job done, (iii) it builds passion, commitment and alignment with the organizational strategies, goals and objectives, (iv ) it puts the employees’ efforts and enthusiasm towards their work and also care about the future of the organization, (v) the engaged employees understand the value of ensuring a positive customer experience and are more likely to demonstrate their commitment by delivering high quality products and services, (vi) the engaged employees act in a way which reflect the greater level of commitment to the organization and contribute his skills and abilities for the betterment of the organization since the employee engagement increases the level of trust and reduces the problem of turnover of the employees, (vii) the engaged employees are not only happy with their job, but also translate that satisfaction into higher productivity and profitability of the organization, (viii) the engaged employees are less likely to feel exhausted and make the organization a success, (ix) employees with higher work engagement have higher level of confidence and a high quality relationship with their employers, (x) the engaged employee is optimistic, highly focused towards the work, energetic and willing to work for the sustainable development of the organization, (xi) the engaged employee is more productive, has greater level of customer satisfaction and loyalty towards the organization which leads to the success of the organization, (xii) the engaged employee usually performs better and are more motivated than other employees working in the organization, (xiii) it creates a sense of loyalty in a competitive environment and provides a highly energetic working environment, and (xiv) it boosts organizational growth and makes the employees effective brand ambassadors for the organization.