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Dr. Matt Grawitch: July 2008 Archives

Employee engagement is one of those recently hot topics in organizations. It is such a hot topic that the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology recently published its journal with a central focus on engagement. Though there was no real consensus on the topic, there were definitely five key points that the reader could come away with.

  1. Engagement is defined by the experience of being energized and focused at work. Employees are stimulated physically, mentally, and emotionally. 
  2. Some people are predisposed to be engaged, some are predisposed to be disengaged, and the majority of them can be influenced at work. Therefore, an organization needs to focus its attention on this third group. According to Gallup, the best way to engage employees is to focus on the relationships that employees have with each other and with management.
  3. Engaged employees tend to be more committed to the organization and demonstrate greater performance-enhancing behaviors than do disengaged workers. This can be observed in several published studies, which results in increased profits for the organization and for shareholders.
  4. Be careful, though, because sometimes employees can be too engaged, leading to workaholism and burnout. In fact, an article by Shaufeli and colleagues found that burnout, engagement, and workaholism, though distinct, were related. So, organizations need to ensure that all employees, even the engaged employees, get a chance to recharge and refresh, or else they may be likely to suffer negative long-term effects of over-engagement.
  5. And last, but not least, what it means to be engaged in a particular organization is something that has to be defined by that organization. Though there are general measures of engagement out there, what it means to be engaged in an IT firm may not be the same as what it means to be engaged in a social services agency. There may be key behaviors and attitudes that identify an engaged worker in one setting, but different behaviors and attitudes that identify an engaged worker in a different setting.

So, rather than focusing strictly on “published research” about engagement, organizational and departmental leaders need to give serious thought to what it means to be an engaged employee in their organization, and develop tailored strategies to improve that level of engagement.