Articulo Engagement

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Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice
Volume 5(2), 2013, pp. 759–765, ISSN 1948-9137

EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT CONCEPT –
A THEORETICAL AND PRACTICAL APPROACH
RALUCA IOANA VOSLOBAN
[email protected]
Academy of Economic Studies, Bucharest
ABSTRACT. Today, the companies keep searching the best methods that could
provide them the competitive advantage on the market. Because of the increased
numbers of competitors and the continuous innovation process, this is appreciated
as a real challenge. As the employee is the most valuable resource of the company,
difficult to be copied, one must give the appropriate attention to that and invest as
much as required. Acquiring a high level of employee engagement within the
organization can increase significantly the chances of a company to succeed. This
being given, the present paper aims to bring into discussion different aspects of the
employee engagement concept, from its antecedents to its consequences, discussing
inclusively elements related to organizational justice. A practical approach is also
shown by the results of a survey taken among 50 employees and the results, which
align with the literature, are valuable and meaningful, showing what employees
appreciate most, what they need and how they perceive the relationship they have
with the organization they are hired in.
Keywords: employee engagement, environment, organizational justice, relationships

1. Introduction
The topic regarding the employee engagement level is a very complex one,
as it relates to a large extent to psychology. The different types of behaviors
and motivations still need to be studied more deep, as the classical approach
that aims to determine people to be more committed to the company not
always provides the expected results. A paradigm shift in employee
engagement is required that moves from the independent/dependent
relationship that exists between employer and employee, to a relationship
that is interconnected and where accountability exists on both sides.1
Nowadays, the companies are more and more focused on the engagement
level, due to the continuous changes within the market, the increased
number of competitors, the need for retaining the employees as long as
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possible, the need for cost reduction and, most important, the need for
creating that environment that provides the employees with what they need
in order to increase their satisfaction and their quality of work, so that to be
able to deliver the best services to the customers. The high level of
employee engagement is not only important from the benefits’ perspective,
but also from the cost perspective – the disengaged employees are not
satisfied with the work they perform, are less productive, their quality of
work is decreased, are more likely to quit, all these leading to loss.
2. Employee Engagement Concept and Elements of Influence
First time the engagement at work was introduced by Kahn (1990)2 and
defined as “harnessing of organizational members’ selves to their work
roles; in engagement, people employ and express themselves physically,
cognitively, and emotionally during role performances,” but the domain is
very complex and many researchers have argued on it. To determine a
common definition, Shuck and Wollard reviewed 140 articles that mentioned
employee engagement and observed four areas of consistency or inconsistency:3 Engagement is a personal decision, not an organizational decision
as implied by some definitions; While early definitions treated engagement
as an atomic concept, later definitions divided it into three basic concepts:
emotional, behavioral and cognitive engagement. Employee engagement is
about the behaviors that meet or exceed organizational goals.
The above being given, the authors finally defined employee engagement
concept as “an individual employee’s cognitive, emotional and behavioral
state directed toward desired organizational outcomes.”4 With all these, the
most common acceptance of this concept states that it represents the
emotional and intellectual commitment to an organization.5 The literature
also provides some insights regarding the elements that lead to employee
engagement, as well as the consequences they result in, as presented in
figure 1.6
Antecedents
-Job characteristics
-Perceived organizational
support
-Perceived supervisor
support
-Rewards and recognition
-Procedural justice
-Distributive justice

Employee
engagement
-Job engagement
-Organization
engagement

Consequences
-Job satisfaction
-Organizational
committment
-Intention to quit
-Organizational
citizenship behavior

Fig. 1 A model of the antecedents and consequences of employee engagement
(Source: Saks, A.M., 2006, “Antecedents and consequences of employee engagement”)

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Moreover, the same elements that lead to engagement, might as well lead to
disengagement, according to some authors,7 who developed an emerging
model for engagement and disengagement, taking into consideration two
main factors: the environment (with all its components, tangible or
intangible) and the person (emotions, personality, family etc), which, after
the interaction, may result in engagement or disengagement, depending on
if they are positive or negative. When interacting with their role, employees
take into account mainly three aspects: meaningfulness, safety and
availability,8 where meaningfulness is influenced by the level of job
enrichment, work role fit and co-worker relations, safety is influenced by
supervisory relations, co-worker relations and behavioral norms, while the
psychological availability (existence of emotional or cognitive resources to
engage the self at work) is influenced by individual’s resources, work role
insecurities and outside activities.
It is very important to underline here the internal relationships with
managers,9 argued as follows. The recursive nature of the relationship
suggests that each person, employee and manager, has a given existing
capacity to care that may expand or contract over time based on the other’s
actions. The environment also affects each person’s caring capacity.
Employees are not passive agents, waiting to be acted on, but have a viable
role in the process. Managerial caring behaviors are antecedents to desired
employee outcomes such as productivity, retention, organizational citizenship
behavior, and job satisfaction. According to Richman (2006),10 there is a
specific profile for the engaged employees, as they are energized, committed
and work hard helping the company to succeed, they use their energy, skills,
experience and creativity to satisfy customers and deliver results, see their
role as following through to make sure that problems they identify get
solved, are action-oriented and know how to take intelligent risks and exert
extraordinary effort to do whatever it takes to make and keep the company
successful, while embracing the company’s culture.
3. Elements of Justice Related to Employee Engagement
The above mentioned antecedents are well known by the management, but I
would like to insist on the procedural justice and distributive justice. These
two are very important when aiming to increase the level of employee
engagement, but with all these, they do not get sufficient attention. These,
together with the interactional justice, form the organizational justice.11 A
brief description of what these three concepts mean has been given by some
authors12 and presented below:
Distributive justice: developed due to the fact that people were concerned
not only about the outcomes, but also about the fairness of the outcomes.
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This fairness is possible to be measured by calculating the ration of one’s
contribution (education, intelligence, experience) to one’s outcomes, although
this process was appreciated as being subjective. For analyzing this type of
justice, some other rules were implemented, next to the equity one, namely
equality and need. These rules can be activated by factors as different
contexts, different organizational goals, different personal motives.
Procedural justice: the participants in the process viewed the procedure
as fair if they perceived that they had process control (and sufficient time to
sustain their case), process that was referred as fair process effect or voice
effect. This procedural justice can be extended into non-legal contexts such
as organizational settings. There is a theory of procedural justice judgments
focused on six criteria that a procedure should meet in order to be perceived
as fair:13 Be applied consistently across people and time; Be sure that a third
party has no interest in any settings; Be sure that accurate information is
collected and used when making decisions; Have mechanisms to correct
inaccurate decisions; Align to personal standards of ethics or morality;
Ensure that the opinions of various groups impacted by the decision have
also been taken into account
Interactional justice: the interpersonal treatment that people receive
when procedures are implemented is very important and must be taken into
consideration. People must be treated politely, with respect and must
receive all the needed information about not only the procedures that have
been implemented, but also about the reasons why they have been
implemented and the results that are expected to come.
4. Study research – objectives, hypotheses, methodology and results
The objectives of this study are as follows:
• Reveal to what extend the employees are aware of the employee engagement concept;
• Which elements influence the employees’ level of engagement;
• How do employees appreciate the activities taken by the organization in
order to increase their level of engagement.
The hypotheses of the study were based on the following two statements:
H1: The employees are aware of the employee engagement concept, being
able to identify those elements that matter for them and the activities that
their organization implement for increasing their level of engagement
H2: The elements mentioned by the employees to be important in
increasing their level of engagement are all well implemented within the
organization.
As to describe briefly the methodology, the study was conducted
among 50 employees within a private company from Bucharest, Romania.
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The study has a quantitative character, used the survey as a research method
and the answers were collected in the second week of January, 2013. Due to
the short time available, the response rate was 60%.
Regarding the results, these are pretty interesting and due to the space
limitations of the paper, possible correlations between the variables are not
presented, but certain facts are, as follows. First of all, was revealed the
employees’ awareness regarding the employee engagement concept.
Basically, they were able to assign definitions as the willingness to remain
within the company no matter what; to be loyal, but in the same time to take
into account what is received in exchange, to have happy employees,
motivated to do their best on the job and to be engaged in improvement and
development. Moreover, an engaged employee is one who is fully involved
in, and enthusiastic about his work, and thus will act for the organization's
interests, providing dedication and being satisfied as part of the organization.
It also means a better team bonding, mainly between supervisors / managers
and the teams’ members, to socialize and to interact with them. When asked
about top things that define their engagement, the employees mentioned
commitment, career, enthusiasm, willingness to perform, trainings, satisfaction,
team spirit, bonuses, opened development paths, rewards and recognition
programs, salary increases based on performance; recognition when doing a
great job plus reward when doing a fabulous one, an enjoyable work
environment with great relationships and interactions with colleagues and
managers based on trust and dedication.
Employees also identified some activities that their organization took in
the last year in order to increase their level of engagement, such as team
activities, budgeted or not by the company, recognition and awards
programs, wellness special initiatives, pay grade increase, involvement in
additional projects and on-site training sessions. The most important
benefits they get were identified in the working from home possibility, the
existence of the medical insurance, lunch tickets, and special prices for the
fitness partner, the rewards based on performance, the environment and the
opened opportunities for development and promotion.
Bonding activities like team buildings, team nights out, workshops and
games, discussions not related to work within opened team meetings, were
suggested to consolidate relationships among the team and to increase level
of engagement with management and colleagues.
Most of the employees admitted that they would not leave the company
if they were offered a similar position within another company or more
team activities and bonuses, although 68% would recommend the company
as an appropriate place to work, while only less than 65% admit that it
meets their career requirements. 86% stated that activities like getting
involved in new projects, coming up with new ideas, stimulate and motivate
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them to perform better. Overall, the working environment got good appreciation, as 86% agreed that it stimulates them to perform well their day-today activities, while 80% consider that have enough resources and support
to develop. Regarding the relationships, 90% admitted that the relationship
that they have with the manager allows them to openly address him topics
that concern their daily work and 85% of the respondents agreed that their
manager correctly values their contribution, while almost 75% of the
employees appreciated that they receive meaningful feedback regarding
their work and efforts, as well as improvement suggestions. With all these,
only almost 55% of the respondents stated that they and their manager put
together a career plan that meets their career goals, while 50% said that
together with the manager they closely follow up the career plan. This is
again a sign of alarm, as both the employee and employer must dedicate
more time and attention and communicate more efficient on the career
development plans, requirements and expectations from both sides.
Finally, less than 70% of the employees admit that they are aware and
clearly understand the company’s mission and strategy for year 2013,
which leads again to the conclusion that there is still room for a better and
efficient communication. All the employees must be aware of the company’s goals, so that to be able to align to these and perform accordingly,
both for their own benefit and the company’s. To note, H1 has been
confirmed, while H2 has been only partially confirmed, due to the fact
that some areas of communication must be enhanced, relationships with
management especially must be consolidated, the career plan and requirements closely followed-up.
5. Conclusion
The results of the study clear reveal that aspects like the benefits the
employees get, the available resources and opportunities for development,
the recognition of their work, the relationships with the colleagues and
managers, as well as the working environment and the team activities can
increase the level of engagement they have with the organization. Important
to be underlined, a better communication with the management is required
in order to develop the career plans, which must be established according to
both the employees’ and organization’s needs and requirements. Also,
management must make sure that the employees clearly understand the
company’s goals and that they have access to the necessary resources for
performing well. The limitation of the study is given by its lack of
representativity, due to the low response rate. Further research might take
into consideration a larger number of respondents; aspects related to the
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organizational justice and its correlations with the elements identified above
are worthily to be researched.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. Millar, Guy (2012), “Employee Engagement – A New Paradigm,” Human
Resource Management International Digest, Vol. 20, No. 2: 3-5.
2. Kahn, W. A. (1990), “Psychological conditions of personal engagement and
disengagement at work,” Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 33: 692–724.
3. Henning, Jeffrey (2009), Employee Engagement Definition, http://blog.vovici.
com/blog/bid/22875/Employee-Engagement-Definition, accessed on 29.01.2013.
4. Shuck, B., Wollard, K.K. (2010), “Employee engagement and HRD: a
seminal review of the foundations,” Human Resource Development Review, Vol. 9,
No. 1: 89-110.
5. Baumruk, R. (2004), “The missing link: the role of employee engagement in
business success,” Workspan, Vol. 47: 48-52, Shaw, K. (2005), “An engagement
strategy process for communicators,” Strategic Communication Management, Vol.
9, No. 3: 26-29.
6. Saks, A.M. (2006), “Antecedents and consequences of employee
engagement,” Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 21, No. 7: 600-619.
7. Shuck, M. B, T. S, Rocco, C. A. Albornoz (2011), “Exploring employee
engagement from the employee perspective: implications for HRD,” Journal of
European Industrial Training, Vol. 35, No. 4: 300-325.
8. May, D. R, R. L. Gilson, L. M. Harter (2004), “The psychological conditions
of meaningfulness, safety and availability and the engagement of the human spirit at
work,” Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, Vol.77: 11–37.
9. Michael Kroth and Carolyn Keeler (2009), Caring as a Managerial Strategy,
Human Resource Development Review, Vol.8, No. 4: 506–531.
10. Richman, A. (2006), “Everyone wants an engaged workforce how can you
create it?” Workspan, Vol. 49: 36-39.
11. Linn Derg Young (2010), “Is Organizational Justice Enough to Promote
Citizenship Behavior at Work? A Retest in Korea,” European Journal of Scientific
Research, Vol.45, No. 4: 630-641.
12. Colquitt, J. A., D. E. Conlon, M. J. Wesson, Co. O. L. H. Porter, Ng K.Y.
(2001), “Justice at the millennium: a meta-analytic review of 25 years of
organizational justice research,” Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 86, No. 3:
425-445.
13. Leventhal, G.S, Karuza, J, Fry, W.R. (1980), “Beyond fairness: a theory of
allocation preferences,” in G. Mikula (ed.), Justice and social interaction. New
York: Springer, 167-218.

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