Literature Review On Employee Engagement Management Essay

One of the initial issues highlighted within employee engagement literature is the distinct absence of a generally accepted definition. Kahn (1990, p.692) defines employee engagement as “the harnessing of organisation members’ selves to their work roles in engagement, people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally during role performances”. Making the assumption the cognitive facet relates solely around the viewpoint of an employee towards the organisation, its management and working conditions. The emotional facet is associated with the feelings of employees towards each of the three factors concerned, finally the physical facet relating to efforts applied by individuals to achieve organisational responsibilities. Therefore, Kahn (1990) depicts the view an employee is engaged only when psychologically and physically present whilst fulfilling a position.

Perhaps a more modern in depth definition is offered by Gatenby et al (2009) who state “engagement is about creating opportunities for employees to connect with their colleagues, managers and wider organisation. It is also about creating an environment where employees are motivated to want to connect with their work and really care about doing a good job. It is a concept that places flexibility, change and continuous improvement at the heart of what it means to be an employee and an employer in a twenty-first century workplace”. It would seem Gatenby (2009) proposed employee engagement is dependent on the result of a two-way relationship between employer and employee.

However, employee engagement has more commonly been defined as “the individual’s involvement and satisfaction with as well as enthusiasm for work” (Harter, Schmidt, and Hayes, 2002, p268-279) or “”emotional and intellectual commitment to the organisation” (Baumruk 2004, p.48, Richman 2006, p.26 and Shaw 2005, p.36). Despite the simplicity, it is evident that employee engagement is not a straightforward concept, rather a complex multidimensional one; nevertheless Truss et al (2006) characterise employee engagement purely as ‘passion for work’.

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The very presence of alternative definitions impedes our ability to fully understand employee engagement, as each independent investigation sets out with different research objectives. A viewpoint shared by Ferguson (2007) who states “unless employee engagement can be universally defined and measured, it cannot be managed, nor can it be known if efforts to improve it are working”. Furthermore, Macleod’s engaging for success review (2009, p.8) highlights “not everyone who practices engagement uses the term”, Macleod’s review goes further citing Guest (2009, p.8) who suggests “the concept of employee engagement needs to be more clearly defined, or it needs to be abandoned”

Wellins et al (2005a, p. 1) depicted employee engagement as a multidimensional concept associated with, but distinct from other functions. In other words ”an amalgamation of commitment, loyalty, productivity and ownership”. A view echoed by that of Robinson et al (2004) who states that “engagement contains many of the elements of both commitment and organisational citizenship behaviour (OCB) but is by no means a perfect match with either”. Rafferty et al (2005) develop the notion further portraying it is a the two-way mutual process between the employee and the organisation that distinguishes employee engagement from other constructs, further supporting the definition offered by Gatenby et al (2009). Association of employee engagement and organisational commitment is clearly evident; conversely May et al (2004) depicts employee engagement as intimately aligned with the facets of job involvement.

Regardless of how employee engagement is defined,

Baumruk, R. (2004) ‘The missing link: the role of employee engagement in business success’, Workspan, Vol 47, p48

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Ferguson, A. (2007) ‘Employee engagement: Does it exist, and if so, how does it relate to performance, other constructs and individual differences?’ (Online) Available at: (Accessed 20 December 2009)

Harter, J. K., Schmidt, F. L., & Hayes, T. L. (2002). Business-unit-level relationship between employee satisfaction, employee engagement, and business outcomes: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(2), 268-279.

Institute of Personnel and Development , Gatenby, M., Rees, C., Soane, E. and Truss, C (2009) Employee engagement in context. London: Chartered

Kahn, W.A. (1990) ‘Psychological conditions of personal engagement and disengagement at work’, Academy of Management Journal, Vol 33, p692

Macleod, D., Clarke, N (2009) ‘Engaging for success; enhancing performance through employee engagement. (Online) available at: (accessed December 2009)

Richman, A. (2006) ‘Everyone wants an engaged workforce how can you create it?’ Workspan, Vol 49.

Robinson, D., Perryman, S. and Hayday, S. (2004) The Drivers of Employee Engagement, Brighton, Institute for Employment Studies

Shaw, K. (2005) ‘An engagement strategy process for communicators’, Strategic Communication Management, Vol 9, No 3, p26

Truss, C., Soane, E., Edwards, C., Wisdom, K., Croll, A. and Burnett, J. (2006) Working Life: Employee Attitudes and Engagement 2006. London, CIPD.

Wellins, R.,&Concelman, J. (2005a). Creating a culture for engagement, Workforce Performance Solutions ( Retrieved December 21, 2009, from

Rafferty A. M., Maben J., West E., and Robinson D. (2005) what makes a good employer? Issue Paper 3 International Council of Nurses Geneva

May, D.R. Gilson, R.L. and Harter, L.M. (2004) ‘The psychological conditions of meaningfulness, safety and availability and the engagement of the human spirit at work’, Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology, Vol 77, pp11-37.

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