Complex in nature, the phenomenon of employee engagement has been subject to scrutiny in recent educational research. Understanding its components, dimensions, drivers, benefits, and steps is critical for HR practices, aimed at increasing worker’s productivity, retention, and commitment. Close examination of the aforementioned aspects provides a foundation for the formation of employee value proposition and specific HR recommendations to overcome barriers, limiting the degree of employee engagement.
Defining Employee Engagement
Employee engagement is a fundamental term which allows investigating the relationship between a business and its employees, taking both quantitative and qualitative approaches. Contemporary theoretical paradigm has various explanations of employee engagement and its components. According to Osborne and Hammoud (2017), employee engagement is a workplace approach which provides proper conditions for all members of the organization, encouraging them to maximize their effort, commitment, motivation, and contribution to the company. The four basic components are as follows:
Trustworthy relationships both with the supervisor and colleagues are characterized with a generally higher degree of dedication and commitment to a certain company. The more the worker is committed to the organizational values, the more motivated he is to contribute to its success.
The concept also involves three principal dimensions:
As explained by Jeve, Oppenheimer, and Konje (2015), intellectual engagement refers to one’s willingness to work hard, improve skills, expand the knowledge base, and ensure the completion of the job, while affective engagement is associated with the person’s commitment to the work performed. In return, social engagement includes the presence of meaningful social connections at the workplace, ability to share ideas, and experience positive emotions (Jeve, Oppenheimer and Konje 2015). When the three dimensions of the employee engagement is present, the worker shows the highest degree of engagement.
With many scholars using the terms employee engagement and organizational commitment interchangeably, it is essential to draw a distinction between the two concepts. Machado et al. (2018) wrote that organizational commitment is defined as an employee’s positive valence (relationship) to their workplace. For instance, those workers who are committed to their organization usually understand its goals better and show higher productivity. In return, employee engagement encompasses the combination of company’s contribution and employee satisfaction, maintaining high performance to fulfill the expectations of both parties (Machado et al., 2018).
For example, those workers who are not only committed to the organization but are also actively engaged in its mission and vision, have higher potential to show independence, proactivity, being involved in the formation of corporate culture.
Though quite close in meaning, the concepts of employee engagement and employee involvement have different connotations, referring to opposing approaches in communication. On the one hand, engaged employee is in full capacity to understand and adhere to the goals and missional requirements of the organization (Odero, 2018). Such worker demonstrate motivation and energy to complete the tasks assigned, taking personal responsibility for their actions. On the other hand, involved employee is able to take initiative, actively pursuing the business objectives (Odero, 2018). Unlike the engaged employee, worker with a high level of involvement drives the organization forward, adding personal value to the business.
Employee engagement is categorically different from job satisfaction because an employee may be satisfied with their work without being engaged in it. While job satisfaction generally refers to contentedness with pay, working conditions, requirements, and social benefits, it is not enough to guarantee productivity at the workplace (Machado et al., 2018).
When analyzing the relationship between employee engagement and job satisfaction, it is worth noting that employee satisfaction lays at the core of employee engagement, allowing an individual to grow while being invested in their work. For example, employee satisfaction is limited to physical attributes of the job, such as monetary compensation, schedule, tasks. Yet, employee engagement extends beyond the aforementioned factors, involving the worker’s productivity, innovation, autonomy, and willingness to make an impact.
Culture of Employee Engagement
Facilitating an engaged workforce is not easy with a number of factors influencing the employee’s degree of engagement in the workplace. The scope of this briefing paper does not allow to elaborate on all of the principal drivers, limiting the attention to the four central aspects: 1) opinions on management; 2) employee voice; 3) meaningfulness of work; 4) employee wellness. As noted by Joseph, Guhanandan, and Panchanatham (2018), employee’s attitude toward the top leadership plays an integral role in the formation of the engaged workforce. The positive relationship formed between a supervisor and a subordinate contributes to a higher level of commitment and involvement from the worker’s side.
To enhance the degree of engagement, employers should also incorporate the employee voice in the decision-making process, carefully listening to the ideas, complaints, and suggestions of the staff. Joseph, Guhanandan, and Panchanatham (2018) also found that highly skilled workers who complete intellectually and psychologically demanding tasks are more likely to be engaged in the work, feeling the significance of personal value added. The last critical aspect vital for the facilitation of the engaged workforce is employee wellness. Physical, social, emotional, and financial well-being of the worker – all together contribute to the higher degree of involvement with the work assigned.
Business benefits of employee engagement differ depending on the group of stakeholders. To start with customers, high employee engagement has a visible positive influence on the customer service. Also, engaged employees provide an improved brand experience for consumers, feeling committed to the specific organization (Sarangi and Nayak, 2016). Finally, high degree of employee engagement oftentimes leads to a more customer-focused environment (Sarangi and Nayak, 2016). In other words, workers put the best of their effort not only to meet the missional requirements of the organization but also to satisfy the needs of the customers.
Taking into account employees, high employee engagement has a definite link to the level of productivity workers exhibit. The more actively involved the worker is, the more productivity he demonstrates. In addition, improved employee engagement leads to the increased employee loyalty, characterized with an increased profitability and higher employee retention rates (Sarangi and Nayak, 2016). Most importantly, the worker’s level of engagement is one of the factors contributing to the employee satisfaction, defining his overall happiness with the working environment.
For managers, high employee engagement is beneficial in terms of less strict supervision, lower absenteeism, and lower turnover. Those workers who are actively involved in their work require little if any micromanagement, allowing managers to distribute time more effectively (Sarangi and Nayak, 2016). Engaged employees also have a better attendance rate, skipping comparatively less working days than disengaged workers (Sarangi and Nayak, 2016). Finally, high employee engagement is a reliable predictor of the lower turnover. Managers who lead the same team of workers for years are more likely to achieve missional requirements of the organization.
To enhance employee engagement, companies can take a number of steps, such as job design, discretionary behavior, role autonomy, and organizational citizenship. As mentioned by Fajar and Soeling (2017), the role of job design in promoting employee engagement lays in the creation of a working environment where employee skills and motivation are both applied to the adequate level. Discretionary behavior, defined as the employee behavior which is not formally recognized by the reward system, also has a significant part in the facilitation of the employee engagement (Fajar and Soeling, 2017). Committed to the organization and involved with the job, workers feel intrinsic motivation to undertake discretionary behavior without additional compensation.
Role autonomy is an equally important step toward higher employee engagement. As noted by Fajar and Soeling (2017), when employees identify their own professional roles and take independent decisions, they are more likely to improve their performance at work, gaining an in-depth understanding of personal contribution. Related to discretionary behavior, organizational citizenship behavior is a demonstrated voluntary commitment of the worker to perform tasks outside of the agreed upon list of duties (Fajar and Soeling, 2017). Only those employees who are highly engaged with the organization’s mission and vision are ready to expand their array of responsibilities.
Aligning Engagement Practices with Other Corporate Components
Alignment without employee engagement is efficient only for the accomplishment of short-term goals. To increase employee productivity and commitment in the long run, it is essential to align the engagement practices with other corporate components, such as organization’s purpose, values, mission, and business strategy. Associating engagement practices with the organization’s purpose allows employees to increase their involvement due to the formed long-term vision of the company’s success.
Synergy, created with the help of high employee engagement and clear understanding of the business’ objectives, is a critical factor driving the worker’s potential. Long-term employee engagement should be value-based or, in other words, built upon the mission, vision, and business strategy of the organization. Commitment, dedication, and trust of the workers encouraged through the engagement practices should be directed toward the achievement of corporate objectives. Otherwise, high employee engagement is put at the risk of being turned to a meaningless passion.
Evaluation of Suitable Diagnostic Tools
One of the most common ways to measure employee level of engagement, climate surveys aim at shaping future decisions tailored to enhance productivity based on the employee attitudes. According to Horvathova, Mikusova, and Kashi (2019), the survey is usually presented in a form of an anonymous questionnaire with key indicators of employee engagement which takes up to 20 minutes to complete. Some of the advantages of climate surveys include but are not limited to the ability to predict turnover, high customization, and anonymity (Horvathova, Mikusova, and Kashi, 2019).
They also allow HR specialists to compare changes in employee attitudes over the course of several years, providing foundation for future company’s actions to improve the overall organization’s morale. Yet, the method contains a number of disadvantages, such as required follow-up and confirmation bias. To be effective, climate surveys need to be conducted consistently over time (Horvathova, Mikusova, and Kashi, 2019). Furthermore, this diagnostic tool requires a careful well-informed interpretation; otherwise, the HR specialist may receive a faulty negative picture of the working environment.
Investigating trends in turnover and absence rates of the employees can also reveal valuable information about the employee engagement. As explained by Horvathova, Mikusova, and Kashi (2019), it is best to aim at an annual employee turnover rate of 10% or less. However, to understand this claim fully, a further discussion needs to take place. On the one hand, high employee turnover rate in specific departments shows that the company moves forward and experiences the needed change (Horvathova, Mikusova, and Kashi, 2019). On the other hand, it can be a sign of poor management and low employee engagement which eventually results in the decrease of ROI (return on investment).
The same controversy arises when evaluating the absenteeism rate metrics. From one perspective, high absence rate in the team signifies the need to realign management style, vision, and feedback delivery to increase the degree of employee engagement (Horvathova, Mikusova, and Kashi, 2019). From another perspective, it is essential to understand that presenteeism does not guarantee employee engagement, as some workers tend to arrive at work, exhibiting low productivity (Horvathova, Mikusova, and Kashi, 2019). While both metrics are beneficial for the evaluation of employee engagement, they need to be utilized cautiously.
Employee Value Proposition (EVP)
Here at X company, we value creative minds who strive to deliver best customer service in a growth-oriented environment. We preach holistic wellness and encourage our employees to maintain healthy work-life balance, providing a convenient system of social benefits and monetary compensation. With trust and authenticity, we dismay micromanagement, believing in the power of flexible schedules. By analyzing individual strengths, we put together teams where every member brings his area of expertise.
Diverse in culture, ethnicity, and educational background but driven by the common goal, we come together to tackle the toughest challenges. Building strong connections, we collaborate in the office and hang out on holidays. We invest in the happiness of our employees, offering free gym subscriptions, Friday lunches, and monthly gatherings.
Relevant HR Strategies
In an attempt to raise levels of employee engagement, HR professionals may face a wide array of barriers. According to Osborne and Hammoud (2017), some of the relevant HR strategies include giving employees opportunities for advancement, ensuring proper compensation and benefits, and educating employees and management on effective communication. It is also important to eliminate job stress through the maintenance of an improved working environment.
When faced with the barriers of inconsistent engagement strategy and lack of responsiveness from the senior management, HR experts are encouraged to use evidence-based practices, accommodating informed decision making to address the strategic organizational goals. People working in HR are also recommended to apply certain persuasion techniques such as commitment and consistency, liking, and social proof.
Cialdini suggested that individuals are more likely to accept the message which is aligned with the declared values, promises, and actions (as cited in Osborne and Hammoud, 2017). The researcher also pointed out that message is predicted to be received better if senior leadership and employees find similar attributes increasing the level of attraction toward each other (as cited in Osborne and Hammoud, 2017). Finally, the rule of social proof extends to the engagement practices, as well. If the majority of the team shows high degree of engagement, newcomers will adapt the same approach to work.
Intellectual, affective, social employee engagement constitute one of the reliable predictors of worker’s productivity, commitment, and retention. Measured by climate surveys and HR metrics, it effectively aligns with the corporate components of the organization, benefiting customers, employees, and stakeholders. Understanding the specific steps and principal drivers of employee engagement lays a foundation for the implementation of relevant HR strategies to nurture trust, loyalty, commitment, and motivation at the workplace.
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International Journal of Management and Commerce Innovations. Vol. 5, Issue 2, pp: (1169-1178). Web.