This Interim Report presents the current status of a research programme exploring the links between employee engagement and work-related well-being. The study, which is being conducted in partnership with the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, draws on many years of research into both topics as well as recent advances in the field of neuroscience. It proposes a new “integrated model” which helps to illustrate the concept that the drivers of engagement and work-related well-being are essentially the same, and that improvements in one will naturally lead to improvements in the other.
The study firstly establishes a common definition for “engagement”; that it is “a distinct and unique construct consisting of cognitive, emotional and behavioural components… associated with individual job performance” (Saks, 2006). Whilst engagement is often considered a psychological state in its own right, the authors of this study propose that positive psychological activation is a necessary antecedent to the emotional, cognitive and behavioural states which follow. They argue that the psychological activation which is at the heart of engagement (or dis-engagement) is also the basis for psychological and physical well-being and that the two are therefore mutually dependant.
Having established the need for positive psychological activation, the authors propose an integrated model for engagement and well-being which helps to illustrate the pathway towards positive (or negative) outcomes for both the organisation and the individual. Using a taxonomy of work-related well-being (adapted from Russell, 1980), they show that the behaviours and outcomes associated with full engagement are rooted in intrinsic motivation, and that those associated with burn-out and workaholism have their basis in extrinsic motivation arising from a negative psychological activation.
Studies conducted with both private and public sector organisations as part of the research programme have also helped to develop a broader model for “locus of engagement”; the authors identify six separate loci with which people can either engage or dis-engage. They use real-life examples to show that an imbalance of engagement across these various loci can actually be detrimental to organisational interests. This finding challenges the way in which organisations might measure and improve engagement in the future.
In conclusion, the authors of this study identify four key implications for organisations:
- That the drivers of engagement begin earlier than current models and interventions account for
- That engagement is both personal and individual
- That different people can be engaged with different things at different times
- That not all engagement is necessarily good for the organisation in the long term