Subject: Public human resource management concept: A narrative synthesis on Employee Engagement including its Meaning, Antecedents and Outcomes
This review was published to provide information on the claim that high levels of engagement can enhance organizational performance and individual well-being. The following are the sub topics that I’m going to discuss for this assignment;
- Definitions and theories of engagement
- Analysis of evidence
- Theoretical framework: the evidence
- Outcomes of engagement
- Conclusion and;
- Implications for practice
Employee engagement in an organization is said to improve organizational performance but this concept has not been previously tested to confirm its validity. Employees are said to choose whether to invest themselves fully in their role based on their experiences in their work places (Shuck, 2010). The authors of this journal review conducted a research or rather a systematic synthesis of narrative evidence involving 214 studies focused on the meaning, antecedents and the outcomes of engagement. For this research, five groups of factors served as antecedents of engagement: psychological states, job design, leadership, organizational & team factors and organizational interventions. This research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research. The authors also acknowledged the guidance of Professor Graeme Currie in the conduct of the synthesis.
The aim of this review was to present the findings of a narrative evidence synthesis focusing on the following three topics: definition of engagement and theorization, association of specific antecedents with engagement and evidence of the association between engagement and employee morale and performance. The authors of this research review first explained the methodological approach for the evidence synthesis, outline the findings relating to the engagement meanings and definitions and analyzed their implications. They then summarized the theoretical framework used to explain engagement then they reported their findings and reflect on the state engagement research and indicate relevant directions for the study (Albrech, 2011).
Definitions and theories of engagement
The ‘Utrecht Group’ defined engagement as a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind and proposed that an employee who is engaged has a strong sense of vigor towards dedication to, and absorption in work activities.
Engagement was defined as a distinct and unique construct consisting of emotional, cognitive and behavioral components that are associated with individual role performance’, differentiating between job and organizational engagement (Kompaso, 2010).
Engagement as composite attitudinal and behavioral construct
The Utrecht definition of engagement was adopted but operationalized through measures cognitive and emotional engagement and behavioral engagement, thereby extending the notion of engagement beyond the strict boundaries of the construct.
Engagement as a management practice
Recently, scholars within human resource management (HRM) have begun to consider engagement as management practice, which is doing engagement and not being engaged. This is an emergent research field that consists of qualitative case studies (Albrech, 2011).
Self-engagement with performance
One measure was based on the notion of self-engagement, which is the individual’s sense of responsibility for and commitment towards performance.
Definitions: analysis of evidence
This review came up with six definitions of engagement and nine validated scales. There is a notable shift away from the original social-psychological construct of personal role management. However, the predominant definition is that of the Utrecht Group, whose multidimensional view of state engagement as work engagement was adopted in 86% of studies. Based on role theory and job design theory, engagement was originally conceived as the harnessing of organization members’ selves to their work roles and articulated it to as a fluctuating experience ranging from full engagement to disengagement of self (Shuck, 2010). This researcher used qualitative research design to examine the behavioral, manifestations of engagement within two different contexts of organizations.
Another alternate perspective by Kahn (1990) emerged from the work of the Utrecht Group whereby he defined as engagement a more persistent and pervasive affective-cognitive state not focused on any specific object, event, behavior or individual. In contrast to this Kahn’s perspective who viewed engagement as a qualitative, behavioral and transitory experience that followed the ebbs and flows of daily activities, the Utrecht Group viewed engagement as a more stable and enduring attitudinal frame of mind that could be assessed by quantitative methods. Others have proposed that engagement maybe directed not only towards individual work tasks but can also be conceived as a collective and team level experience. Engagement has also been suggested to be directed towards one’s employing organization.
Most of the scales within the perspective of engagement ‘as composite’ that were developed by survey houses and consultancies are proprietary and are not available external review. This encompasses a range of positive attitudes towards the specific organization including resources and communication and satisfaction with managers. Engagement as a management practice is a new and emerging considerable interest. This concept of engagement lies more on the established field of interest around involvement and participation (Kompaso, 2010).
Theoretical framework: The evidence
There is a wide range of theoretical frameworks that have been used to explain engagement. 38% of the studies explained engagement in the context of the job demands-resources (JD-R) framework. This framework distinguishes between resources in the form of either personal or job related resources, and demands (Shuck, 2010). Resources strengthen employees and enhance engagement yielding positive outcomes such as high level performance. Most job demands need employees to expend additional effort which, with time, can cause exhaustion and consequently leading to negative outcomes. The JD-R explains that employees are more likely to be involved with their work where they have high levels of personal or job-related resources.
The second most common framework was the social exchange theory (SET) whereby relationship between employer and employees are based on reciprocity norms. Employees are more likely to respond positively by putting more effort on behalf of the employer where they feel valued and treated well by the employer. Conservation of resources theory explains that individuals seek to acquire and preserve valued resources. Since resources buffer their potentially negative effects, the provision of resources may be salient in raising engagement levels among those experiencing high levels of demand (Albrech, 2011). Broaden-and built theory on the other hand explains that engagement is more likely to happen when employees experience positive emotions instead of negative ones.
Kahn’s engagement theory explains that engagement is influenced by three antecedent psychological conditions: experienced meaningfulness of work, psychological safety and experience availability.
Outcomes of engagement
The forty two studies that examined performance outcomes of engagement subdivided it into higher level performance outcomes such as organizational and team performance and individual level outcomes which is composed of task performance, extra-role performance and counterproductive performance. The majority of reviewed studies on higher-level performance indicated a positive association between engagement and a variety of performance outcomes such as quality of care and customer loyalty. Based on individual performance outcomes, there was also evidence of a positive association between engagement and various forms of task performance (Kompaso, 2010). Morale outcomes of engagement were examined under the well-being & health perceptions and work related attitudes whereby there were evidence of association between engagement and the specific attributes involved such as general health, stress/burnout and life satisfaction.
This synthesis has reported on the evidence accumulated in relation to the meaning, antecedents and consequences of engagement. Despite the number of studies carries out, we do not really know what engagement is; we do not know how exactly to measure it, what it outcomes are or what drives up its level. The emergent critical perspective shows the need to consider engagement within a wider organizational and political context. We can say that there is a body lends some support to view that when viewed as a multi-faceted psychological state, high levels of engagement, are of benefit to both individuals and employers. Also aspects of good management and leadership practice may raise engagement levels (Shuck, 2010).
There is need to further research on the topic of employee management in order to ensure that the advice given to practitioners is based on best evidence. The general conclusion of this study is that there is some evidence that engagement is related most strongly with the outcomes of job satisfaction and organizational commitment with a fair correlation between engagement and turnover intentions, in-role, extra-role and counterproductive performance and stress/burnout (negative association), and weak associations with life satisfaction and general health (Albrech, 2011). However, there is a proposal that engagement may have a limitation as over-engaged workers risk becoming burned out.
In reference to antecedents, the analysis of this study of average effect sizes in both cross sectional and complex studies indicated that individual psychological states, leadership and management, perceptions of team factors and job resources had widely same associations with management. However, the relationship between engagement and organizational interventions demonstrated a weaker association and job demands had the weakest average level of correlation. Cross sectional data collected at one place is a limitation to such a study as it makes it difficult to be sure of the direction of the casualty (Kompaso, 2010). This can lead to biased estimates.
Implications for practice
This review has several implications for practice. Research has shown that higher levels of engagement cause positive outcomes for employers and also individuals. However, there are some added merits in putting into consideration the strategies and approaches that would help raise engagement levels. Antecedents of engagement studies suggest a wide range of relevant factors at the job, individual, team and organizational levels that may influence engagement. Currently, employees are thee backbone of every organization and every employer need to work on engaging employees so as to increase their productivity in their respective work places (Shuck, 2010).
One of the strategies of engaging employees in an organization is allowing them to always speak their minds. An employer or any leader should ensure that employees have the right and are aware that they are acceptable to give their opinions and suggestions. This is the simplest employee engagement idea that is most effective. Also, rewarding employees for job well done is a good way of engaging them and making them motivated (Albrech, 2011). Planning employee engagement activities even if it is just for fun is helpful in encouraging team spirit. Employees need be allowed some flexibility at some point as long as they achieve whatever objectives they are supposed to.
Job designs that allow for feedback on the performance of individuals and that ensure workers have enough and appropriate resources with positive and authentic leadership styles are paramount in the concept of employee engagement. Employers should also consider strategies such as reducing harmful behaviors instances like bullying and harassment. However, there is more need to generate into contextual aspects of engagement studies that apply and contextualize more generic frameworks to particular organizational settings around employee engagement. Such organizational settings include multi-method, qualitative and ethnographic research (Shuck, 2010).
Albrech, S. L. (2011). Handbook of employee engagement: Perspectives, issues, research and practice. Human Resource Management International Digest, 19(7).
Kompaso, S. M., & Sridevi, M. S. (2010). Employee engagement: The key to improving performance. International journal of business and management, 5(12), 89.
Shuck, B., & Wollard, K. (2010). Employee engagement and HRD: A seminal review of the foundations. Human resource development review, 9(1), 89-110.
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