Some people wake up in the morning, leap out of bed and can’t wait to get to work. They enjoy their day: the work they do is fulfilling and rewarding. They head home with a sense of accomplishment and pride, and they look forward to tomorrow. However, there are others who drag themselves to work, spending the day watching the clock and avoiding their manager. For them tomorrow is full of dread and they dream of a better job. Engagement research aims to understand the difference between these two scenarios.
The past two decades have seen a huge increase in both academic and professional interest in the engagement of employees with their work and their organisations. This growing importance is based on a number of developing organisational themes including:
- The changing relationship between employees and employers, notably the changing nature of ‘career’, and the demands and expectations of people at work. Jobs are expected to fulfil emotional and social, not just functional, needs (Manpower, 2011)
- Organisations need to be increasingly effective and competitive in delivering the highest levels of performance while still controlling staff costs. Organisations need to get more from staff, in a way that does not reduce motivation and wellbeing (CIPD, 2008).
- The global shortage of key skills across industries and regions of the world, raising the risk of losing sought-after talent and having to manage the consequences of a significantly disengaged or disenchanted population. Continued business growth today often depends on maximising the contribution of every employee, with management having a significant impact (Towers and Perrin, 2007).
Research studies have indicated engagement outcomes that are precisely what organisations desire from their employees: greater productivity and wellbeing, less turnover and absence, increased revenue and customer satisfaction. Also, it can be demonstrated that employee engagement is both emotional and cognitive: people have thoughts and emotions about the work they do and the people they work with, and have the choice to be engaged or to disengage.
Organisations which have a positively engaged workforce have employees who feel fulfilled and enjoy their work, looking forward to it and willingly making an effort, leading to a sense of achievement and accomplishment. On the other hand, organisations with a negative disengaged workforce have employees that display negative and uncooperative attitudes and behaviours, defending themselves physically, cognitively and emotionally.
Due to the importance of engagement to successful business performance, managers and leaders have both the opportunity and the duty to create positively engaged environments for employees; moreover, they benefit from the behavioural outcomes this generates, including wellbeing and commitment throughout the organisation.