HR Management: Are your employees engaged?

Employee Engagement has become a focus of many researched papers.  In 2012 it was the focus of the government and they initiated a task force to harness the potential of employee engagement in a bid to raise organisational performance as well as enhancing the employee’s health and wellbeing. (Source: Purcell, J.2012: Warwick papers in Industrial Relations)

What is the definition of Employee Engagement?

Employee – Definition

A person who works for another in return for financial or other compensation – Source[1]

Engagement – Definition

A job or period of employment especially as a performer. Emotional involvement or commitment (seesaws between obsessive engagement and ambiguous detachment) – Source[2]

Employee Engagement can be defined as someone who is classed as an employee and works for their employer in a positive way, they embrace the context of the business they act and communicate positively and strive to develop new concepts and/or ideas to achieve the common business goal.  They are motivated in the workplace and encourage development.  An engaged employee will not dwell on negatives although may use them as a way to develop. Employee Engagement also focuses on the management teams within the organisation and how engagement is developed through trust, fairness and good levels of communication including the employee voice.

In 2006 the CIPD provided research on employee engagement and looked at the demographics of people in work.  It demonstrated that there are factors that you should consider when shaping your team.

  • Women are significantly more engaged than men
  • 74% of women are moderately engaged, 9% are strongly engaged
  • 68% of men are moderately engaged, 7% are strongly engaged
  • Employees with dependent children are more engaged than those without:
    • 80% moderately or strongly engaged with dependents vs 77% without
  • Younger people below 25 are significantly less engaged
  • Full-time workers are significantly more engaged than Part-time workers
  • Permanent employees are significantly more engaged than temporary workers – 78% vs 74%
  • Managers are significantly more engaged than non-managers – 88% moderately or strongly engaged vs 71%
  • Employees on flexible contracts report being more engaged than others

(Source: Alfes, K et al, Creating an Engaged Workforce, CIPD Research Report, Jan 2010.)

Having analysed the above and reading more of the CIPD report it would suggest that being secure in your employment is the number one factor and is a significant factor as to why employees are engaged, they are wanting to support the business to prosperity.  This maybe especially relevant to recent times because we have recently emerged from recession where the impact has meant businesses closing and workforce is shrinking.

Types of Employee Engagement

For anyone who is new to management motivational factors play a huge part in understanding how to get the best out of your team but also, teaches you how to practice and implement a motivational working environment, below I have listed some explanations of the types of engagement theories, take a read…

Intellectual/Cognitive – Someone who has high intellect effective memory and has the ability to reason. answers.ask.com

A more detailed piece of research is that which I found online which describes Cognitive Engagement as

There is a clear consensus among researchers that all students, perhaps at-risk students especially, require instruction that is cognitively challenging; that is, that requires thinking and analysis, not only rote, repetitive, detail-level drills.

It details more information but does make the point that it is not solely about memorising

Affective/Emotional – Someone who is attached to the job, is concerned about doing a good job well.

As part of the CIPD’s research papers the emotional engagement is exactly controlled by the employee, if they feel emotionally happy at work, they will be positive about the company.  If they feel unhappy at work, they will feel negative about the company and will spread the word either way.

Social Engagement – Someone who takes the opportunity in discussing work related improvements with others at work, often chat to others and brainstorm casually within the workplace.

There is a further consideration that is not mentioned on the fact sheet and that is a

Physical Engagement an employee who values commitment and loyalty in turning up for work and doing a good job.

Employee engagement can often relate to motivational factors as detailed below: –

Understanding each section mentioned above may help those seeking to implement employee engagement practices such as managers and HR professionals and could assist Students and academics with their studies.  A brief definition on each section is detailed below: –

Intellectual/Cognitive Engagement –. An employee who is aiming to progress their career and status within an organisation may be creative and innovative.  Is always striving to come up with new methodologies to achieve better working and efficiencies making it more cost effective.  Having their ideas implemented will creative a personal sense of achievement, make them engaged and they will strive to improve further.  This could be linked to David McClelland’s motivational theory of achievement as described on the webpage

Affective/Emotional Engagement – An employee who values themselves within the business as an engaged employee.  They are happy in their work and think positively about their contribution and consider themselves as doing a good job. The employee needs to know they are doing a good job, so Managers should understand their motivational needs and manage them ensuring the appropriate feedback is offered. Look at Frederick Herzberg’s motivational theories

Social Engagement – An employee who feels responsible about the company and enjoys discussing these with their colleagues, they are concerned also about the welfare and wellbeing of their colleagues and as they become engaged with the organisation they become positive and look for ways to improve the working environment:-http://www.tutor2u.net/business/people/motivation_theory_maslow.asp

Physical Engagement – An employee who values commitment and loyalty, they make the effort and have a balance of the amount of effort they have inputted reflects the rewards they receive as the output.  Refer to Adams motivational theory: – http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_96.htm

It could be argued that motivated employees may not necessarily be engaged with the business, for example I could be motivated by the job I do and engaged in doing a good job, which would be down to my personal working ethic but not necessarily my engagement with the company.

Employee Engagement may differ from other related concepts such as organisational commitment, employer involvement and job satisfaction.  If an employee has the holistic view of the business context and they understand their job description and how this fits into organisation delivery, they may find they have satisfied themselves and they value their contribution. This may be considered as emotional engagement and they continue to strive and move forwards enabling the company to achieve. This relation is described in a study known as the black box in which Professor John Purcell explains Purcell,J., Kinnie, N.,Hutchinson, S., Rayton, B and Swart, J. London (2003) London, CIPD

Other concepts

Being engaged with your role and understanding the impact of what you do and how it adds value to the business is vital to some who want to go away with total satisfaction.  For example, we have a creative team who design websites, they are totally engaged with what they are doing and ‘get lost’ whilst creating.  They have no track of time and will often put in unpaid hours to get their designs right.  They enjoy their role but have little commercial awareness hence the need for a team leader to ensure productivity is not running out of control.  This Team Leader may themselves be creative but want more stimulation and have a better understanding of business needs.  Their involvement with their job maybe satisfaction of delivering, they get involved in project management and enjoy a plan coming together.  They liaise with their team to ensure products are delivered on time, rather than creating a masterpiece like the designer, the team leader’s satisfaction comes from providing the masterpiece on time to a client. Both are required to ensure customer satisfaction, both are engaged and enjoy what they do and the customer is happy with the product meaning total engagement for the business.

According to positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihály she describes Organisational “flow” as an experience whereby you see, feel nothing outside of the task you are undertaking.  You are “living the moment”. This is described in the online reference, what is flow?


The CIPD have some research that shows the different combinations of Employee Engagement and how their roles, communication, satisfaction etc. play important parts to having an engaged workforce. Not just by their emotions and feeling and intellect but also at the day to day running.  The job descriptions and how they differ and interact.


Findings from Employee Engagement and why is it important?

There are many recent studies relating to Employee Engagement but one of the most popular is it researches the activities of the world’s top performing organisations and demonstrates Employee Engagement as a core strategy. Research carried out shows that the engaged employee is a more productive employee.  Gallup have identified what they refer to in the above document as ‘The 12 Elements of Great Management’, they feel these 12 questions provide information to suggest whether a company as a high/low employee engagement policy and hi-lights where improvements can be made. These questions relate to factors such as basic needs, teamwork, management support and growth.

For further information on employee engagement or a discussion feel free to contact [email protected]


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