A new Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) report published on the 11th May 2011 delves deep into the issue of employee engagement. It acknowledges that employee engagement is an important driver of sustainable organisation performance, but goes further by exploring 'what' employees engage with and 'where' in the organisation their focus of engagement is located, or what is their 'locus of engagement'.
Locus of engagement: Understanding what employees connect with at work, produced for the CIPD by the Kingston Engagement Consortium, finds that despite the plethora of research around the issue of employee engagement, very little attention has as yet been paid to what exactly it is employees engage with. An analysis of their research data provides evidence not only that employees engage with a variety of different aspects of their work, but that these vary both in depth and intensity over time and can impact on organisational performance.
Engagement was identified as a major driver of performance in the CIPD Shaping the Future research programme, but evidence was also suggesting that over-engagement with particular facets of the job could impact negatively on organisational agility and flexibility. And data collected from the organisations taking part in the Kingston Engagement Consortium reveals interesting variations in the locus of engagement, defined as that particular location in which engagement exists for a person while at work:
• Highest engagement - with the job: variety, autonomy and meaningfulness are important
• Engagement with line manager and colleagues - high: ability to voice concerns and working with good colleagues are critical factors
• Engagement with the organisation - moderate: being well treated and company reputation were positives, but for some the motivation was financial
• Lowest engagement - with individuals outside the organisation: highly dependent on specific jobs
The data reveals that higher engagement with any locus correlates positively with higher task performance and citizenship behaviour, although there is a significant degree of variation.
Angela Baron, engagement and organisational development adviser, CIPD, says: "Organisations currently face a number of challenges stemming from the ongoing economic difficulties following the recent financial crisis and subsequent squeeze on public sector expenditure. Our Shaping the Future report identified that engagement of employees will be crucial to organisations facing the economic challenges ahead while maintaining organisational functioning, but that an important aspect of engagement had been largely overlooked - the locus.
"Managers need to get behind the engagement score to really get to grips with what button to press to trigger employee engagement if they are to truly drive competitive advantage through their people. They need to understand that engagement is not static and occurs in a context that will impact on perceptions of fairness and the ability to harness engagement and translate it into sustainable organisation performance. This research is an important first step in understanding how to engage and energise employees to reap organisational benefits."
This is the third in a series of reports for the CIPD from the Kingston Engagement Consortium research programme. Formed in 2006, the consortium brings together organisations which are actively implementing engagement management programmes to raise engagement and establish a culture where engagement can flourish.
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