Beyond Employee Engagement – Evolution of Engagement

We hear the word engagement a lot, and we have for quite some time.  From a contextual perspective, the evolution of that process and word actually goes back to the 1920s when studies of morale or a group’s willingness to accomplish organizational objectives  were  done. The value of morale to organizations was matured by US Army researchers during WWII battle-readiness before combat. In the postwar mass production society morale scores were used as predictors of speed, quality and militancy.

After the second world war engagement was somewhat still born in the workplace until it emerged in the 1990s in academic literature.  The quality and engineering process movements were there in the 1980s, and yet were limited in their effectiveness in engaging the workforce.  People were looking for new things to engage their workers. Engagement is a modernized version of job satisfaction linked with commitment – people want to drill deeper based on those academic studies and the legacy of the history of the work.

With the advent of the knowledge worker and emphasis on individual talent management (stars), a term was needed to describe an individual’s emotional attachment to the organization, fellow associates and the job.

The important thing to remember is that engagement’s key attributes are aligned to desired business outcomes through retention of talent, customer service, individual performance, team performance, business unit productivity, and even enterprise-level financial performance (e.g., Rucci at al, 1998 using data from Sears). Engagement is externally driven such as meaningfulness, variety, autonomy and co-worker support

In 2011 Blessing-White completed a study on employee engagement and found that 31% of employees are actively engaged and 17% are actively disengaged. As the global economy rebounds, more employees are looking for new opportunities outside their organization than in 2008.  Engaged employees plan to stay for what they give; the disengaged stay for what they get.  Employees worldwide view opportunities to apply their talents, career development and training as top drivers of job satisfaction.  What was very interesting is that trust in executives appears to have more than twice the impact on engagement levels than trust in immediate managers does.  Additionally, engagement surveys without visible follow-up action may actually decrease engagement levels.

What follow-up to engagement surveys have been done in your organization?


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