Disecting Employee Engagement – The Engagement Gap and Positive Organizational Stewardship

There are five key insights to think about when trying to close the engagement gap according to Towers Perrin Global Workforce Study (2007-2008):[i]

  1.   The organization is the most powerful influencer of employee engagement
  2.   There is no single “right model” for a high-performance culture
  3.   Employees are eager to invest more of themselves to help the company succeed but they want to understand what is in it for them
  4.   Senior leaders need to make the leap to a more inspirational, transformational and engaging style of leadership to help drive higher engagement
  5.   Companies need to understand their employees as well as they understand their customers to design an environment that drives higher engagement and performance.

 When applying the above five key principles and looking at the Employee Engagement survey it is clear that Human Resources and IR practices are put to the test. It is no wonder that the keywords “employee engagement” yields over 2 million hits on the World Wide Web, while many of the employee engagement books become best sellers.[ii] Utilizing Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS) organizations can elevate processes and outcomes within the organization. POS is defined as the study of that which is positive, flourishing and life-giving in organizations.[iii] Positive Organizational Behaviour studies have convincingly shown that positive organizational phenomena can make a unique contribution to explaining variance in organizational outcomes over and above negative ones. It also accommodates for why differences in engagement among employees exist.  Positive organizational behaviour will also foster the perceived organizational and supervisor support systems and allow the organization to use their knowledge in furthering encouragement, support and appreciation while staying away from negative disapproval cynicism and sarcasm. Creating a positive culture then becomes a fundamental aspect in engaging employees. Actively increasing processes that increase positivity, starting meetings with praise, and noting last weeks’ accomplishments and achievements will create a climate of hope and good humour.

 In conclusion, it is easy to see a correlation between the many theoretical models, employee engagement and growth and productivity within organizations; however there also exists a distinction between job and organization engagement. Since engagement is described as a fulfilling positive work-related experience is tied to good health and positive work affect (Sonnentag, 2003)[iv] Competence, autonomy and relatedness which are also depicted within the antecedents and social exchange theories lead to enduring sustainable motivation which can be re-created to engage more employees within organizations. As seen in the Employee Engagement Report, 2011[v]g lobal findings help us articulate the most common drivers of engagement tying back to theoretical research. Its core finding shows; “Engagement starts with leaders, their self-efficacy, and individual self-determination which then drives or diminishes an organizations performance. When both parties abide by the exchange rules, the result will be a more trusting, loyal relationship with favourable reciprocal exchanges. As institutions change, organizations adopt new processes and Human resources management practices move towards high-performance work systems displaying more flexibility, greater use of training programs and tailored incentive compensation processes. These factors will once again challenge what we know about employee engagement and how organizations utilize it to strike a balance between employee happiness and organizational profits. Organizations must build a culture that fuels engagement. To earn the commitment of the workforce one must focus on meaningful work and mutual success. It is not enough to have an annual survey and annual planning exercises, engagement needs to be driven on a daily and hourly basis.

[i] Towers Perrin 2007-2008 Global Workforce Study. The Fundamental Element Required to Grow in this Business Environment is People – energy, ingenuity and engagement of your workforce.

[ii] Bakker, A. B & Schaufeli W.B(2008). Positive Organizational Behaviour: Engaged Employees in flourishing organizations. John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

[iii] Cameron, K.S. Dutton J. Quinn R (Eds) (2003). Positive Organizational Scholarship. San Francisco L Berret-Koehler.

[iv] Sonnentag, S.(2003), Recovery, work engagement and proactive behaviour: a new look at the interface between nonwork and work. Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 88, pp. 518-28

[v] Employee Engagement Report 2011, Beyond the numbers: A practical approach for individuals managers and executives. Blessingwhite research.

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