When I have time, which isn’t as often as I would like(!), I try to keep up to date with the latest research related to employee engagement. Arnold Bakker is widely regarded as one of the key academics at the forefront of engagement research. He recently (2011) published a paper entitled ‘An evidence based model of work engagement’ in the journal, Current Directions in Psychological Science. It is an excellent paper, initially providing a review of work engagement definitions and then an overview of the antecedents and consequences of engagement.
Bakker’s model suggests that job and personal resources are the main predictors of work engagement. Bakker writes that ‘job resources such as social support from colleagues, performance feedback, skill variety, autonomy and learning opportunities are positively associated with work engagement’ (p266). He goes on to state that ‘personal resources are positive self-evaluations that are linked to resiliency and refer to individuals’ sense of their ability to successfully control and have an impact on their environment’ (p266). He goes on to assert that positive self-evaluations predict a number of desirable organisational outcomes, such as increased motivation and performance.
The model shown suggests that job and personal resources, either in isolation or together, predict work engagement, especially when job demands are high (such as workload, emotional and mental demands). Assuming that job and personal resources are positive then work engagement can occur in individuals, thus increasing job performance. In addition, there is a feedback loop in the model where those who are engaged often enter into ‘job crafting’ suggesting that they are able to create their own resources in the workplace.
This model makes intuitive sense and is backed up by evidence from various sources of research (see paper Bakker (2011) for more detailed coverage). It seems to me that in order for employee engagement to really flourish, we need to move away from the idea that the level of engagement seen in an organisation is as a direct result of organisational initiatives as individuals need to bring something to the table too, namely personal resources. It is interesting to note that many of the personal resources listed in Bakker’s paper can be directly mapped onto personality profiles, such as SHL’s OPQ32, where, for example, optimism can be directly linked to a factor of the same name and resilience can be picked up by tough mindedness and perhaps emotional control for self-esteem. It is important therefore, that neither the organisation nor the employee be responsible for employee engagement levels alone, it is the synthesis of the two that will make the best predictor of positive work engagement levels, where job resources, provided by the organisation, and personal resources, provided by the employee, meet.
Bakker, A. (2011). An evidence based model of work engagement. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20(4) 265-269.