Tuesday, 11 August 2009

New Perspectives on Engagement

Another wonderfully illuminating session from the AOM conference, which most consultants and HR managers interested in engagement would have found very beneficial. To my mind this session represented all that is good in academic research and made up for what I've not found in any of the consulting work on the topic. It dispelled commonly held myths about the 'engagement industry', helped define what engagement was, provided robust and logical models of the how and why of engagement, and provided some great evidence from extremely tight studies of 'how to get engagement and keep people engaged'.

Here's a precis of their blurb (I've only changed the tense, changed a few pieces of academic jargon and added in a few parenthetical comments).

'Because of claims from both research and practice that engaged employees result in competitive advantages for today’s organizations, researchers have focused a great deal of their attention on identifying drivers of engagement that could suggest levers for managerial control. The symposium presented four papers that expanded our understanding of key antecedents which help employees become and remain engaged in the workplace. The first paper, by Sabine Sonnentag et al., from Germany was a longitudinal examination of how job demands combine with off-the-job psychological detachment to predict employee engagement. Results suggested that periods of psychological detachment (mentally “switching off”) during non-work hours reduced or eliminated the negative relationship between job demands and engagement.

The second paper, by Eean Crawford et al., from the University of Florida was a meta-analysis (a survey of surveys) that clarified ambiguities concerning the relationship of job demands with engagement in the job demands-resources model (this is definitely one that practitioners should get to grips with). Meta-analytic estimates revealed that job resources (autonomy, control etc) had consistently positive relationships with engagement, while job demands appraised as hindrances have negative relationships with engagement and, job demands appraised as challenges have positive relationships with engagement.

The third paper, was by Jill Waymire Paine from Columbia (was an absolute gem). It examined multi-level data from five organizations predicting employee engagement in organizational change initiatives. Arguments for change and followers’ regulatory focus (whether they were risk taking optimists, or risk averse pessimists) were most predictive of employee engagement in change initiatives. This paper had really important implications of how leaders management change and keep people engaged while doing so, rather than inducing resistance or cynicism.

The fourth paper, by Ronald Bledow et al., from the University of Geissen, examined daily fluctuations!!! in employee engagement and found that positive workplace events interact with social and personal resources to predict daily levels of employee engagement'. Again, this work brings into question the stability over time of a concept such as engagement.

Link these papers to the one by Balain and Sparrow reviewed in an earlier blog and you begin to get a far better understanding of what engagement is than anything that I've come across so far. I'm certainly going to use them in my research and consulting, and others may want to do the same.


Eean said...

Graeme--thanks for your interest in the symposium. It was a pleasure putting it together and presenting on the topic. I'm happy to help with future inquiries any time. Feel free to pass my email address on to any interested parties.


Eean Crawford
PhD Business Mgmt. 2011
University of Florida

Graeme's HR Blog said...

Will do Eean, and what a great PhD project