Over the last decade, there is no denying that ‘employee engagement’ has become a buzzword in both the academic and business world. Not a week goes by where engagement is not mentioned in articles concerning employee wellbeing, productivity and what employers can do to improve methods through which they value their staff. Although there is still no accepted definition of employee engagement, there is evidence to suggest that engagement can be correlated to both performance and wellbeing.
The Gallup studies, Engagement predicts earnings per share and Gallup Q12 Meta-Analysis, both published in 2006, have highlighted that organisations with high engagement scores are not only more productive, profitable and have improved customer service scores, but employees were also more innovative and creative, thus creating a source for competitive advantage. Importantly, the results also indicated that employee engagement was not just about organisational outcomes, but individual wellbeing was also associated with engagement. This was shown by the findings that engaged employees were more likely to facilitate and adhere to health and safety guidelines, consequently having fewer accidents necessitating time off work.
Additionally, 86% of engaged employees felt happier at work then those who were disengaged, while those who were disengaged reported being more stressed at work, and in their relationships with family and friends. In addition, those who reported being actively disengaged reported that their work lives had a negative effect on their physical health. This is important because recent statistics, Sickness absence in the labour market: 2016, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in March 2017, indicated that 137.3 million working days are lost due to illness and injury, thus focusing on engagement is important.
If organisations strive for ‘good work’, there is evidence that this can lead to both an engaged, high-performing workforce with positive health and wellbeing. Factors that can help develop good work include: job security, fairness, a positive relationship with a line manager, employee voice, autonomy and a focus on health and wellbeing. Integrating health and wellbeing within ‘good work’ can lead to a workplace where employees feel engaged and committed to developing positive outcomes for all.
Dr Zofia Bajorek is lead researcher in HR and management at The Work Foundation