This assignment requires a written assessment with reference to learning outcomes 1, 3, 4 and 6. I will therefore take each question one by one. Learning outcomes 2 and 5 will be covered by formative assessment, which will provide the 50/50 split required.
Learning outcome 1
1.1/1.2/1.3 – Requires me to describe what is employee engagement and how does it differ, if at all, from related concepts like employee involvement, employee participation and employee consultation? Also how far is employee engagement something which is genuinely new and distinctive, or is it merely a repackaging of old and well-established ideas?
Chiumento (2004) defined employee engagement as a positive, two-way, relationship between an employee and their organisation. Both parties are aware of their own and the other’s needs, and the way they support each other to fulfil those needs. Engaged employees and organisations will go the extra mile for each other because they see the mutual benefit of investing in their relationship.
One of the first challenges presented by the literature is the lack of a universal definition of employee engagement. Kahn (1990) defines employee engagement as “the harnessing of organisation members’ selves to their work roles; in engagement, people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally during role performances”. The cognitive aspect of employee engagement concerns employees’ beliefs about the organisation, its leaders and working conditions. The emotional aspect concerns how employees feel about each of those three factors and whether they have positive or negative attitudes toward the organisation and its leaders. The physical aspect of employee engagement concerns the physical energies exerted by individuals to accomplish their roles. Thus, according to Kahn (1990), engagement means to be psychologically as well as physically present when occupying and performing an organisational role. Most often employee engagement has been defined as emotional and intellectual commitment to the organisation (Baumruk 2004, Richman 2006 and Shaw 2005) or the amount of discretionary effort exhibited by employees in their job (Frank et al 2004). Although it is acknowledged and accepted that employee engagement is a multi-faceted construct, as previously suggested by Kahn (1990), Truss et al (2006) define employee engagement simply as ‘passion for work’, a psychological state which is seen to encompass the three dimensions of engagement discussed by Kahn (1990), and captures the common theme running through all these definitions. The existence of different definitions makes the state of knowledge of employee engagement difficult to determine as each study examines employee engagement under a different protocol. In addition, unless employee engagement can be universally defined and measured, it cannot be managed, nor can it be known if efforts to improve it are working (Ferguson 2007). This highlights the problems of comparability caused by differences in definition. Furthermore, whilst it is acknowledged that employee engagement has been defined in many different ways, it is also argued the definitions often sound similar to other better known and established constructs such as ‘organisational commitment’ and ‘organisational citizenship behaviour’ (Robinson et al 2004). Thus Robinson et al (2004) report 408, IES defines engagement as: ‘A positive attitude held by the employee towards the organisation and its values. An engaged employee is aware of business context, and works with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organisation. The organisation must work to develop and nurture engagement, which requires a two-way relationship between employer and employee.’ As a result, employee engagement has the appearance of being yet another trend, or what some might call “old wine in a new bottle”.