Monday, 31 May 2010

Employee engagement

Engaged employees are members of a workforce who
"behave as if they owned the business. They know what they have to do to make it a success. They know what other employees need to do to make it a success, and offer help and support when it’s needed. They never say ‘that’s not my responsibility’. And they always go the extra mile."
See Peter Burton.

Employee engagement literature is about workforces, and Human Resources literature and psychology influences it.

But, I'm not looking at workforces, although I do look at team achievement in a project context, so there's some overlap. The performance I'm interested in, is what comes through relationships between people on projects, rather than engagement with their work.
John Naughton refers to Dan Pink's lecture, which suggests that to motivate people you need:
  • autonomy
  • mastery
  • purpose
I can see these being more relevant to employee engagement than Saks (2006) vigor, dedication and absorption. Saks' variables are what he's chosen to measure to measure engagement, but they could also be the causes of engagement or the results of engagement.

Autonomy - For engagement you want self direction, like Google's 20% time, where the employees get to work on what they want to work on. One day of autonomy produces more than bags of money. Julian Birkinshaw{Birkinshaw, 2009 #1562} reported something similar in Combine Harvesting

Mastery - that's what open source software comes from (like Skype and Firefox) - free work where people are producing software for nothing because they can, because they've mastered the skills.

Purpose is what I think I hear my participants tell me makes them engage with each other, because they have a common purpose.

So autonomy, mastery and purpose might be useful to a wider concept of engagement, engagement between customers and clients, employees and management, students and teachers.

Saks, A. M. 2006. Antecedents and Consequences of Employee Engagement. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 21(7): 600-619.
Birkinshaw, J. & Crainer, S. 2009. Combine harvesting. Business Strategy Review, 20(4): 20-23 #1562

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