Sunday, April 13, 2014

Do You Genuninely Engage with Your Staff?

Finding out how engaged an employee is to their job role and the organisation is a key ‘conversation’ that many leaders fail to have with their staff – missing an opportunity to both understand and positively influence both the company culture and individual outputs.
Kahn (1990) defined personal engagement as “the simultaneous employment and expression of a person’s preferred self in task behaviors that promote connections to work and to others, personal presence (physical, cognitive, and emotional), and active, full role performances” (p. 700). Harter and colleagues (2002) suggested that employee engagement refers to “one’s involvement, satisfaction with, and enthusiasm for work” (p. 295).
According to their conceptualization, engagement consists of three dimensions: vigor (exhibited by high levels of energy, mental resilience, and persistence), dedication (depicted by enthusiasm, inspiration, pride, and challenge at work), and absorption (evidenced by concentration, focus, intensity, and being deeply engrossed in work; Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004). These characteristics are consistent with Kahn’s (1990) perspective that engagement involves an individual’s physical, cognitive, and emotional effort.
It’s worth remembering that as Shamir and colleagues’ (1993) put it; self-concept based theory asserts that followers’ commitment to the work unit’s mission, vision, and goals is a core element of transformational leadership’s motivational process. They referred to commitment as the “motivational disposition to continue a relationship, a role or course of action and to invest efforts regardless of the balance of external costs and benefits and their immediate gratifying properties” (Shamir et al., 1993, p. 583). Transformational leaders develop followers’ commitment by linking their behavior and goals to the work unit’s values and mission (Shamir et al., 1993). Consequently, followers express greater enthusiasm, intensity, and resilience toward achieving the unit’s objectives.
Researchers believe that there is a strong association between engagement and innovation, where in a great 2012 article by Samuel Aryee, Fred Walumbwa, Qin Zhou and Chad Hartnell they highlight how; “innovative behavior refers to ‘the production or adoption of useful ideas and idea implementation, and begins with problem recognition and the generation of ideas or solutions’ (Scott & Bruce, 1994, p. 581). Because engaged individuals are characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption (Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004), they are likely to be innovative. More specifically, engaged individuals exhibit high levels of energy, enthusiasm, focus, inspiration, intensity, mental resilience, and persistence. These characteristics enable them to be innovative in their work. Indeed, Luthans, Avolio, Avey, and Norman (2007), among others, have argued that behaviors such as resiliency are likely to allow individuals to persist even in the face of adversity to attain success, thereby enhancing innovative behavior.
This argument is predicated on the notion that employees who exhibit positive psychological resources view work obstacles as challenges to overcome, and thus make their jobs more enriched. As such, they approach work with creativity and ingenuity to learn and achieve. Parker and Axtell (2001) found that individuals with enriched jobs are more likely to develop a ‘big picture’ understanding of how the whole department works, thereby enhancing innovative behavior,” (p.8).
There sometimes seems to be a disconnect between leaders and engagement, where here in the 21st Century, too many business leaders still seem to think that it’s ‘not cool’ to simply chat with their staff; and to develop relationships built on genuine trust and respect – focusing on engaging with their employees to create a sustainable win-win for them and the organisation going forward into the future.
Yet the good news is that this is easy to change and it just needs today’s leaders to either have or to gain the ‘genuine’ confidence to lead their people effectively; and when they do take this step – and note, it may take a bit of time to change the past culture – but when eventually it does change the rewards for the organisation go far beyond sustained increased performance and profitability.
Aryee, S., Walumbwa, F.O., Zhou, Z. and Hartnell, C.A. (2012). Transformational Leadership, Innovative Behavior, and Task Performance: Test of Mediation and Moderation Processes. Human Performance, Vol. 25, p.1-25.
Harter, J. K., Schmidt, F. L., & Hayes, T. L. (2002). Business-unit-level relationship between employee satisfaction, employee engagement, and business outcomes: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 87, p.268-279.
Kahn, W. A. (1990). Psychological conditions of personal engagement and disengagement at work. Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 33, p.692-724.
Shamir, B., House, R. J., & Arthur, M. B. (1993). The motivational effects of charismatic leadership: A self-concept based theory. Organization Science, Vol. 4, p.577-594.

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