Engagement happens when people are committed to their work and the organization and are motivated to achieve high levels of performance. Engaged people at work are positive, interested in, and even excited about their jobs and are prepared to put discretionary effort into their work beyond the minimum to get it done. As Macey et al (2009: 6) put it, in an engaged workforce ‘employees will think and act proactively: engaged employees anticipate opportunities to take action – and actually do take action – in ways that are aligned with organizational goals’.
The concept of engagement was defined by Gallup (2009) as: ‘The individual’s involvement and satisfaction with, as well as enthusiasm for, work’. Balain and Sparrow (2009) noted that a number of other well-known applied research and consultancy organizations have defined engagement on similar lines, often emphasizing the importance of discretionary effort as the key outcome or distinguishing feature of an engaged employee. MacLeod and Clarke (2009: 9) defined engagement generally as ‘a workplace approach designed to ensure that employees are committed to their organization’s
goals and values, motivated to contribute to organizational success, and are able at the same time to enhance their own sense of well-being’. Reilly and Brown (2008) commented that the terms job satisfaction, motivation and commitment are generally being replaced now in business by engagement, because it appears to have more descriptive force and face validity.
A comprehensive analysis of the concept of engagement was made by Balain and Sparrow (2009: 17). They concluded that: ‘To understand what really causes engagement, and what it causes in turn, we need to embed the idea in a well-founded theory. The one that is considered most appropriate is social exchange theory, which sees feelings of loyalty, commitment, and discretionary effort as all being forms of social reciprocation by employees to a good employer. This work separates out job engagement from organizational engagement’. Following Saks (2006) they summarized the main causes, types and consequences of employee engagement at the individual level as shown in Table 14.1.