Employee Engagement: The New Source of Competitive Advantage

Employee engagement has become a hot management topic. Engaged employees, who willingly perform beyond what is set out in their job description, are perceived as the new source of competitive advantage. This is particularly the case in the high-contact service sector where employee behavior can have a critical effect on customer behavior, brand loyalty and overall on brand reputation. But what makes an employee act as an advocate for the organization? Many of the concepts that underpin current models of employee engagement are not new. They are drawn from existing concepts from the fields of psychology and organizational studies, e.g. employee motivation and satisfaction, perceived organizational support, organizational commitment, employee involvement and participation, organizational and job design, as well as social exchange theory. So does having a clear organizational purpose help? Some organizations work harder at achieving high levels of employee engagement, seeing this as a critical factor in building and maintaining a successful organization. Studies have shown, that a clear and compelling organizational purpose can have a positive effect on engagement, particularly engagement on the organizational level. For sure, employee wellbeing is a critical factor? However, even in organizations where there is a clear purpose, employee engagement is not a given. This may be due to a number of factors: increased pace and nature of change, critical and a cynical view of management, lack of trust in senior management in particular, as well as a lack of belief in organizational communication. Restoring this imbalance in organizational and work engagement, requires a focus on employee wellbeing.

2015-11-10-1447175030-4409302-hr2025thefutureofemployeeengagementebookbookboon.jpgHR 2025: The Future of Employee Engagement an eBook by Christina Evans; available at bookboon.com

Fun at work is the antidote to employee engagement? Not necessarily. In workplaces that have high rates of attrition, encouraging fun at work can help reduce attrition rates, as it can help build a sense of attachment (engagement) with co-workers. In addition, supporting a fun workplace culture can compensate to some extent for the low pay and career enhancing opportunities. Although "fun activities" may provide a break from monotonous work routines, they do not necessarily contribute to individuals overall sense of happiness: Something, what may not necessarily be welcomed by all employees could make them feel excluded. Or they may consider fun events that take place outside work time as 'conscripted fun'.

Is Job sculpting and job crafting the answer? The benefits for organizations and individuals of embracing concepts like job sculpting and job crafting in the future are unquestionable. For example, embracing talented individuals with some form of disability, who may have been previously overlooked. Another possibility relates to employment opportunities for older workers. Moreover, it may help with securing talent that falls into the 'hard to fill' category. Constructing a job around an individual's skills, aspirations and preferred work pattern, is more likely to ensure higher employee engagement, than shoehorning an individual into a standard job role. But to create jobs around what people are good at is far from widespread.

Questions to be answered:

  • What are the different ways that employee engagement is conceptualized?
  • What is it that employees want to engage with?
  • Is employee engagement something that organizations can command and control?
  • How can the trap of the 'one size fits all' approach be avoided?
  • What is the latest thinking on job design and employee engagement?
  • What might the engaged workforce of the future look like?

If you would like to know more about how employee engagement is conceptualized and why it matters, then download the eBook 'HR 2025: The Future of Employee Engagement' by Christina Evans; available at bookboon.com