Employee Engagement: Fact or Fad?

Employee engagement is a term you hear floating around throughout business websites and journals, but very rarely can you find a consistent definition. It is even more of a rarity to see academic research backing up said definition. In 2006, Alan M. Saks became one of the first researchers to release an academic article regarding employee engagement. After distributing a survey to over 100 employees ages 25-34 years old that worked in a variety of organizations with an average tenure of 12 years, Saks contributed valuable information regarding the antecedents and consequences of employee engagement. He furthered his work in 2019, incorporating several new elements that have sprung up since his initial article.

But first, let’s define engagement…

Engagement is defined as an emotional and intellectual commitment to an organization, which is characterized by “energy, involvement, and efficacy” (which happens to be the antithesis of “burnout” — exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy). It is important to note the difference between commitment, which is an attitudinal approach to an organization, versus engagement, which is not attitudinal at all, but rather the degree to which an individual is absorbed in the performance of their role.

We know the consequences — an engaged worker — but what are the antecedents?

Saks uses social exchange theory to explain the antecedents of engagement. He hypothesized that organizations who value the contributions and wellbeing of their employees, both from the organizational level and the management level, will have more employees that are willing to reciprocate with higher emotional and intellectual commitment.

So what was the biggest takeaway?

According to the research accomplished by Saks, perceived supervisor support was the single most important predictor of employee engagement, which leads to job satisfaction, organizational citizenship behavior, and low intentions to quit.

Thank you for reading,


Featured Reading:

Antecedents and Consequences of Employee Engagement — Alan M. Saks

Antecedents and Consequences of Employee Engagement Revisited — Alan M. Saks