Engagement of Employees & Organisational Learning

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Employee engagement has been known to accelerate individual well-being and organisational performances by practitioner and academics which is of imperative interest within the HRM context (Truss et al., 2013). The aim of this essay is to discuss and critically evaluate two vital key models of engagement. The first model is by Khan (1990) personal engagement and disengagement research concerning the attributes of psychological conditions, followed by May et al., (2004) and Rich et al., (2010) similar findings. The second model is the Job-Demand Resource model (JD-R) by Bakker and Demerouti, (2008) followed by relevant research. Finally, work engagement is also reviewed as a vital part of employee engagement which led to the development of the JD-R model.

In the past decade, employee engagement has received a significant importance, where many organisations use engaged employee’s as a means of strategy within the business. The large attention has challenged HR and business leaders to ensure their employees are involved not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally engaged (Bedarkar and Pandita, 2014).

One of the models suggested by Kahn, (1990) defines personal engagement by the expression of a person’s “preferred self” in task behaviours that promote connections to work and to others, personal presence (physical, cognitive and emotional). However, personal presence is what Kahn says, not engagement, this implies that employees can operate and be able to express themselves in personal values and perform work roles simultaneously.

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Additionally, in Kahn’s model personal engagement must include all three; physical, cognitive and emotional, not singular. Personal disengagement is the withdrawal of a preferred self in behaviours that promote a lack of connections in physical, cognitive and emotional absence, in addition to incomplete role performances for instance, the demand of role links to behaviours without internal views and external influences.

The reference of disengagement is when employees can only perform their roles without integration of their personal values. Kahn, (1990) also noted that personally disengaged persons are not the same as underproductive persons, the main difference is that personal disengagement does not involve personal values when performing one’s role. Hence, the idea is that personal engagement and disengagement are on two sides, and people can move around the spectrum in workplace engagement depending on the influential factors.

Kahn’s focused and emphasised on three dimensions of psychological conditions at work that would impact and develop individual’s engagement and disengagement these include meaningfulness, psychological safety and availability (Lee and Ok, 2015). Meaningfulness is the notion of receiving a cognitive, emotional and physical acknowledgment in the work employees do which leads to engagement. This can be described as a return in on investment within role performances. The experiential component for employees is to feel valued in the working environment and influence them while, performing their task and roles for example, creativity, autonomy and self-image. Therefore, the criteria are fulfilled, when employees find meaning in the workplace in three specific dimensions; task, role characteristics and work interactions.

Task characteristics refer to when the tasks provided are clearly defined, varied, challenging in sense of creativity and a degree of autonomy which is seen as motivational, individuals are more likely to experience psychological meaningfulness (Shantz et al., 2013). In addition, routine and new skills are vital in meaningful tasks as they allow individuals to experience growth and learning from the new skills and competencies from routines.

Role characteristics is about the identities and status within a role carries or influence for instance, positions in which employees feel more empower and valued in organisations. Another, influence links to work interactions which is experiencing phycological meaningfulness in relationship with co-workers and clients. Consequently, this refers to self-appreciation and value among employees.

Also, psychological safety is the emotional or psychological support that is provided by the workplace environment such as; mutual trust, respect, positive feedbacks and behavioural consequences. It is also the ability of presenting and expressing oneself within the rules and norms of the organisation, without having fear of negative reactions or feedback. However, one critical aspect pointed by Andrew and Sofian, (2012) is to incorporate enhance communication element for instance, direct interaction, opinions, and overall collaboration as it has significant prominence in employee engagement.

Availability is another essential element for employee engagement as pointed by Kahn’s model. It is vital for employees to engross intellectual and emotional energies towards performing roles. Some of these traits are resources, confidence, status and prevention of social ambivalence. Similarly, psychological availability could be improved by providing supervisory support in workplace as it can also enhance career outcomes (Yang et al., 2018). Similarly, Employee engagement could also be advanced for newcomers’ by providing socialisation programs such as social support and enhanced task characteristics that will empower newcomers to further experience psychological safety, availability and meaningfulness (Albrecht et al., 2015).

Furthermore, in the view of related research May et al., (2004) also operationalized and confirmed Khan’s model, and found that meaningfulness is the greatest determinant of engagement. The findings of the study suggest that physiological meaningfulness is linked to various aspects of engagement such as; work motivation, job satisfaction and performance in as a behavioral outcome.

Additionally, Rich et al., (2010) also interpreted and Khan’s model using existing scales with more focus on the job engagement rather than personal which defines job engagement as a motivational idea that reflects upon the investment of an individual’s physical, cognitive, and emotional energy in a complete work performance. Job engagement signifies the investment of affective, cognitive and psychological energies in role performance, and how it illustrates task performance and organizational citizenship behavior which are the two different dimensions of job-performance. Similarly, drawing upon Kahn’s theory value congruence, perceived organizational support and core self-evaluations were further discussed as the three antecedents of engagement and their linked relationship with job performance. Nevertheless, the literature points that Kahn did not clearly elaborate on the association of engagement and job performance.

However, May et al., (2004) and Rich et al., (2010) overall interpretations of engagement are mainly derived from the psychological perspective of Kahn’s engagement model, when there are several factors that can determine and predict employee engagement within the workplace. For instance, Mani, (2011) suggests four critical predictors of employee engagement; employee welfare, empowerment, employee growth and interpersonal relationships. Hence, managers can enhance employee engagement by involving their subordinates in decision making and team counselling to ensure build and develop trust amongst the employees. Thus, it is argued that enhancing employee engagement is not only limited to psychological factors, management and workplace initiatives can also play a role in the overall engagement.

Moreover, the job-demand resource model (JD-R) gives further insight on the different elements that contribute towards work engagement differently that would result in either engagement, burnout or exhaustion. According to Bakker and Demerouti, (2008) the JD-R model consists of key areas for instance, job resources, personal resources, job demands and work engagement which are attained by the resources.

Job resources refers to the organisational, social or physical elements of the job such as; autonomy, social support and performance feedback which facilitates the work task and improves employee’s growth and development. Job resources are presumed to play a vital role in employees’ intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. For instance, employee feedback promotes better learning and enhance job competency in addition to development, growth and learning. Extrinsically as it considered as a tool in achieving work-goals, due to the nature of the workplace environment being resourceful, which enables dedication and efforts to achieve work-tasks.

Likewise, Mone et al., (2011) also points that managerial activities are positively related to employee engagement, such as providing continues employee feedback, managing performance and setting developmental objectives. Thus, job resources are considered as coping mechanisms in dealing with job demands and maintain their emotional, mental and physical wellbeing.

Another, vital element in JD-R Model is personal resources, defined as an individual’s resilience, positiveness and self-evaluation with the capability of self-control and assertiveness within workplace environment. Bakker and Demerouti, (2008) further elaborate that the higher the personal resources results in greater performance, self-regard and motivation. Consequently, these can outcomes in increased productivity and satisfaction, which enables a greater proficiency in dealing with difficult circumstances and prevention of unfavourable outcomes. This is due to the positive initiatives that lead to engaged employees and generates organisational effectiveness and job performance commitment (Kataria, Rastogi and Garg, 2013).

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Likewise, Xanthopoulou et al., (2007) further examined the role with clarifying additional three personal resources. These focus on self-efficacy as one’s perception of being capable to satisfy requirements. Organizational-based self-esteem refers to belief of participating in organisational roles and can satisfy needs, and optimism is the inclination to believe that one’s experiences usually result in benevolent consequences. Hence, engaged employees whom retain personal resources such as self-esteem, optimism and resilience are more likely to adapt and maintain progression in work levels, which empowers employees to enhanced performance and career development.

Job demand includes; work pressure, mental, physical and emotional demands that are contributing factors to exhaustion and burnout when employees try hard to deal with the demands. High job demands could be facilitated through the management by creating a supportive workplace culture that incorporates managerial support and ongoing feedback to enhance work learning and opportunities (Mackay, Allen and Landis, 2017). When personal and job resources are balanced out, they facilitate and cause work-engagement. Nevertheless, when the intervention of job demands is high such as workload and stress, it provokes burnout and can eventually lead to work disengagement.

Podsakoff et al., (2007) indicates two types of pressures, challenge and hindrance related stressors. The challenge related stressor leads to job demands as a challenge and provides opportunities for their future career growth. Whereas, hindrance related stressors are more likely refers to job security and role ambiguities. Hence, challenges related stressors are more positively relevant to employees’ job satisfaction. In contrast, Crawford et al., (2010) states that high demands do not necessarily lead to exhaustion as findings were different in regards to the overall job demands. Employees who tend to perceive demands as hindrance are found to be negatively related to engagement as it causes negative emotions and reduced engagement, whereas challenging demands are presumed to be intriguing and meaningfully important for individuals to invest themselves in performing tasks.

However, Sonnentag, (2011) argues that employees work performance and the level of work engagement could fluctuate over time as it can also affect the output. For instance, highly engaged employees might be too engaged in doing their work, that the management would want to add more work due to their enthusiasm. Thus, the job demand increases and can potentially affect their well-being negatively. Hence, the JD-R model could be used as an appraisal tool in work engagement and its antecedents within organisations, whether to asses work engagement, personal resources or job resources by the level of score achieved. In addition, the model itself gave rise to personal resources for instance, self-efficacy, organisational self-esteem and optimism that are similar to Kahn’s individual differences of psychological safety and availability.

Furthermore, the JD-R model was a major development following Maslach et al., (2001) and Schaufeli et al., (2002) preliminary proposals. Work engagement and burnout are another fundamental model in employee engagement suggested by these authors. Schaufeli et al., (2002) describes engagement as a positive and gratifying mindset within the workplace with a prevalent and continual intellectual state that is characterised by; vigour, dedication and absorption. Vigour high levels of energy and mental resilience whom can view themselves as capable to fully handle job demands and have a dynamic connection in work-related activities. Dedication is the intense involvement with one’s work with a sense of pride, inspiration and enthusiastic challenge. Absorption is characterised by full concentration and favourable engrossment in one’s work through, which results in rapid time movements with a difficulty of separating one’s self from work.

Similarly, burnout is a mixture of emotional exhaustion and the inability to cope with cynicism alongside of reduction in personal accomplishments. Some of the factors that contributes on burnout are; organisational justice, fairness, firm system, policies and procedures that are perceived as unfair towards oneself (Maslach and Leiter, 1997; Maslach et al., 2001). However, Maslach and Leiter (1997) states that burnout and engagement are two oppositions, and burnout could be used to measure engagement, though exhaustion can also cause a mental and emotional distance from one’s relation to work. Whereas, Schaufeli & Bakker (2003) argues that work engagement is distinct from burnout and absorption is also what makes it distinct from burnout.

In conclusion Kahn’s model emphasises on the personal aspects of engagement; meaningfulness, psychological safety and availability that promotes work connections. May et al., (2004) operationalized Kahn’s model and Rich et al., (2010) illustrated the different dimensions of job engagement. Additionally, the JD-R model presented different aspects of resources and demands which can facilitate or impact employee engagement, with additional developments and contrary findings. Finally, Schaufeli et al., (2002) and Maslach et al., (2001) reviewed work engagement characteristics and burnout factors, with contrast outcomes on the relationship of work engagement and burnout which led to the JD-R model. Employee engagement is a fundamental part of workplace performances and individual well-being, management should reflect upon the determining factors of engagement and disengagement to the workplace environment.


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