Development of a Measure of Employee Engagement

By Pati, Surya Prakash | Indian Journal of Industrial Relations, July 2012 | Go to article overview

Development of a Measure of Employee Engagement


Pati, Surya Prakash, Indian Journal of Industrial Relations


Introduction

The concept of employee engagement, despite receiving increased attention lately (e.g. Pati & Kumar, 2010; 2011a; Joshi & Sodhi, 2011) continues to remain as "one of the greatest challenges facing organizations in this decade and beyond" (Frank et al., 2004), as deepening disengagement amongst employees (Bates, 2004) becomes more explicit. These disengaged employees exhibit a passionless and uninterested attitude towards their work thereby bringing about a damaging impact on self, peer and organizational performance.

Researchers have contended that organizations are unable to develop an engaged workforce and reap its promising benefits owing to the conceptual ambiguity surrounding the same (Macey & Schneider, 2008; Pati & Kumar, 2011b). Typically the construct of engagement has been confused with related organizational constructs (Hallberg & Schaufeli, 2006; Macey & Schneider, 2008; Pati & Kumar, 2011b) thereby leading to erroneous assessments and interventions. Further, till date only three academically grounded theories, viz. the Role Theory Approach (Kahn, 1990), the Burnout Approach (Maslach & Leiter, 1997; Schaufeli et al., 2002) and the Social Exchange Theory Approach (Saks, 2006) have tried to provide a theoretical anchor to the construct as well as develop validated measures for its assessment. However they are limited by their inadequacy in explaining the variation of engagement levels of employees across multiple tasks (Pati & Kumar 2011b). Moreover the extant theories conceptualize engagement as an attitude whose assessment is susceptible to social desirability bias (Green & Rao, 1971). Attitude scales have also been criticized for their inability to predict behaviour (Morrow, Jackson & Disch, 2006). Therefore, instruments that capture engagement as a behavioural construct are necessary for not only they provide a relatively objective measure of the construct, but also contribute towards setting a benchmark for positive workplace behaviour. Finally, the limited availability of validated measures of engagement and the maximal usage of the measure constructed by Schaufeli et al (2002) heralds the warning by Cook and Campbell (1976) on the potential construct under-representation. Thus, there is a need for development of multiple measures of the engagement construct to facilitate triangulation (Cook & Campbell, 1976) as well as high construct validity (Messick, 1995).

A Behavioural Characterization of Engagement

In order to account for the above mentioned limitations in the literature on employee engagement, Pati and Kumar (2011b) re-characterized engagement as "expressed empowerment pertaining to a role". Taking a behavioral perspective of engagement as well as employing a qualitative methodology, they argued that only psychologically enabled employees can be engaged which in turn manifests as Passionate Task Performance (PTP) and Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB). Each of the above concepts is discussed below:

Passionate Task Performance (PTP): Pati and Kumar (2011b) defined passionate task performance (PTP) as investment of discretionary effort in one's assigned task in order to bring out a different as well as self and organizationally beneficial outcome against scripted task performance. They delineated discretionary effort as investment of extra time, brainpower and energy (Towers-Perrin, 2003), in not just generating more of the usual (Macey & Schneider, 2008), but bringing about something different and beneficial. They argued that PTP is a tangible manifestation of "perceived meaningfulness" (Kahn, 1990) as well as "vigour" dimension of Schaufeli et al. (2002).

Organizational Citizenship Behaviour (OCB): Although Saks (2006) had excluded OCB as a possible dimension of engagement on grounds of it being extra-role and voluntary behaviour, Pati and Kumar (2011b) argued for its inclusion as a dimension of engagement in recognition towards its significant contribution in lubricating the social machinery that facilitates the exhibition of discretionary behaviour or PTP. …

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