Job Engagement: Why It’s Important and How to Improve It
Darryl R. Roberts and Thomas O. Davenport
eople who are engaged in their jobs— those who are enthusiastic and involved in their day-to-day work—tend to do better work. This statement makes intuitive sense to most people and is our basic premise in this article. We cover three main questions related to this premise. First, what specifically does job engagement mean? Second, what is the economic case for the importance of job engagement—in other words, what is the hard evidence that job engagement really matters? Third, what can be done to improve job engagement? Throughout this article, we focus on employee surveys as an important means of measuring and improving job engagement.
• Their work provides them with a sense of personal accomplishment. Job engagement is related to organizational commitment, but the two have important differences. Organizational commitment is most commonly defined in terms of an individual’s identification with the organization’s goals and values, willingness to exert effort for the organization, and desire to continue as part of the organization.1 For example, those who are high in organizational commitment say that: • They would recommend the company to a close friend as a good place to work; • They are proud to work for the company; and • They think the company is doing what it takes to be a leader in its industry. All else being equal, people who are engaged in their jobs tend to be committed to their organizations, and vice versa. In fact, in many organizations, job engagement and organizational commitment are closely related often enough that it makes sense to talk about a more general outcome—organizational engagement—that combines key elements of job engagement and organizational commitment. Job engagement and organizational commitment do not always track closely together, however—people can be engaged in their jobs but not committed to their organizations. A
WHAT JOB ENGAGEMENT MEANS We define job engagement as a person’s enthusiasm and involvement in his or her job. People who are highly engaged in their jobs identify personally with the job and are motivated by the work itself. They tend to work harder and more productively than others and are more likely to produce the results their customers and organizations want. For instance, engaged employees report that: • Their jobs make good use of their skills and abilities; • Their work is challenging and stimulating; and
© 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com). DOI 10.1002/ert.10048
Employment Relations Today
good example of this is Silicon Valley engineers, especially during the late 1990s Internet boom—in many cases, these people were enthusiastic about their work but liable to switch companies without a second thought. People can also be committed to their organizations but not engaged in their jobs. We imagine many readers have encountered a classic example of this at least once: a timeserving employee, just going through the motions of the job day-to-day with a low level of job engagement, but highly committed to the organization until full retirement benefits or other “golden handcuffs” kick in. There is strong evidence suggesting that higher levels of job engagement lead to outcomes that organizations value. The research literature provides more systematic evidence that job engagement and organizational commitment are related but not identical. For example, Steven Brown2 conducted a statistical review (metaanalysis) of 212 studies concerned with job involvement, defined as “engagement of core aspects of the self in the job.” The correlation of job involvement and organizational commitment, statistically aggregated across 71 studies covering over 26,000 people, was 0.496. To put this in perspective, correlations range from 0 (meaning two things are unrelated) to 1 (meaning two things are...
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