How Strong Engagement Scores May Spell Trouble For Organizations

London — May 23

High levels of engagement could actually be damaging for organizations and their employees if one-dimensional engagement surveys mask the types of engagement at play within an organization, according to a recent study.

The research, by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and Kingston University Business School’s Centre for Research in Employment, Skills and Society (CRESS), found that employees that are engaged — i.e. engaged only with the task or job role at hand — may respond positively to engagement surveys and display the outward behaviors associated with engagement, but are less likely to perform well and will quickly leave for a better offer.

However, those that are emotionally engaged — i.e. engaged with the organization’s mission and values — are more likely to perform, have higher levels of wellbeing and are more likely to remain engaged through good times and bad, the study said.

The researchers identified transactional engagement as being shaped by employees’ concern to earn a living and to meet minimal expectations of the employer and their co-workers. In the majority of instances, people’s positive feelings about their work stemmed from the job or task itself; from the challenge, variety and autonomy that their role bestowed on them; and the gratifying ability to see the fruits of their labor.

Emotional engagement, meanwhile, is associated with different aspects of work that go beyond the job role itself — including colleagues, line managers, business unit, the organization and clients or customers. It’s driven by a desire on the part of employees to do more for the organization than is normally expected, the study said, and in return they receive more in terms of a greater and more fulfilling psychological contract.

High levels of transactional engagement were found to be potentially damaging for both individuals and the organizations they work for. Employees who are engaged from a transactional point of view report higher levels of stress and difficulties in achieving a work-life balance than those employees who are emotionally engaged, the study said.

What’s more, employees who display transactional engagement are more likely to indulge in behavior that might actually damage the organization than their emotionally engaged counterparts, according to the study.

Source: CIPD