Employee engagement has been defined as “an individual employee’s cognitive, emotional and behavioral state directed toward desired organizational outcomes” (Shuck and Wollard, 2010). Employees who are engaged exhibit attentiveness and mental absorption in their work and display a deep, emotional connection toward their workplace. The field of employee engagement is bourgeoning as companies pour resources into developing a more engaged workforce.
Many organizations believe that employee engagement is a dominant source of competitive advantage and thus, have been drawn to its reported ability to solve challenging organizational problems such as increasing workplace performance and productivity amid widespread economic decline.
Research has expanded this belief, suggesting that organizations with high levels of employee engagement report positive organizational outcomes; a small bright spot in an otherwise bleak financial forecast. For example, North Shore LIJ Health System Company invested $10 million into training and development and encouraged employees to further their education in hopes of raising engagement levels within their organization. As a result, the company reported a one-year retention rate of 96 per cent, increased patient-satisfaction scores, and record setting profits. At Johnson and Johnson, engagement has become a part of the work culture as teams are provided real time feedback about how their work enables their individual business units to meet their quarterly goals (States, 2008).
Such real-time communication programs help to create a positive, accountability-driven workplace resulting in increased productivity levels, profit margins and levels of engagement. Still further, after substantial efforts to increase levels of engagement on factory floors, Caterpillar, a large multi-national construction equipment supplier and manufacturer, estimates the company saved $8.8 million in turnover costs alone by increasing the proportion of engaged employees at one of their European-based plants.
Although engaged employees have consistently been shown to be more productive on most available organizational measures, it is conservatively estimated that,30 per cent of the global workforce is engaged. Moreover, ,20 per cent of employee’s report any level of confidence in their current manager’s ability to engage them (Czarnowsky, 2008). Not surprising, employee engagement is reported to be on a continued decline worldwide. “The discrepancy between the perceived importance of engagement and the level of engagement that exists in organizations today” is cause for major concern. This discrepancy, however, presents a significant opportunity for human resource development (HRD) scholars and practitioners to develop research agendas and practical strategies toward the forefront of this emerging concept. As organizational leaders embrace employee engagement, they are increasingly turning toward HRD professionals to develop and support strategies that facilitate engagement-encouraging cultures. Unfortunately, HRD professionals are unlikely to find the support they need as little academic research has investigated the experience of being engaged or how engagement affects an employee’s experience of their work, and ultimately their performance.
In conclusion, an engaged employee leads to a committed workforce, that identifies with the business, wants to work with the organization and believes in the business objectives and thus work willingly to attain them.
Czarnowsky, M. (2008), Learning’s Role in Employee Engagement: An ASTD Research Study, American Society for Training and Development, Alexandria, VA.
Shuck, B. and Wollard, K.K. (2010), “Employee engagement and HRD: a seminal review of the foundations”, Human Resource Development Review, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 89-110.
States, A. (2008), “The rage to engage”, available at: www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1731893,00.html (accessed 5 June 2008).