The importance of work engagement, i.e. the active involvement of human resources in the company’s objectives, and its influence as a success factor for any type of company, are today the subject of careful study. In fact, the difficulties companies face and the exasperated cost cutting often prevent the use of traditional forms of incentives.
A Dutch study in 2002 showed that being motivated and involved in one’s work has a positive effect not only on the company, but also on the life cycle of the respondents.
However, this positive attitude, if not adequately satisfied in one’s work environment, can be the main reason why employees leave the company, looking for new challenges in other companies.
Work engagement and burnout
Some studies in recent years have analyzed the relationship between work engagement and Burnout, the real form of psychophysical exhaustion from work stress.
The relationship between these two elements is generally observed from two points of view. Maslach and Leiter (1997) believe that it can be represented as a continuum between the two poles. A. Bakker and E. Demerouti (2007) see work engagement as the positive antithesis of Burnout.
Bakker states that, given the importance of work engagement for a company, the focus on the optimal path to achieve it should be more developed.
There are scales for measuring work engagement. The main one is the UWES scale, an acronym for Utrecht Work Engagement Scale.
Written by Anna Maria Maggi
Measuring employee work engagement
It is based on a questionnaire for the qualitative analysis of work involvement, understood as a positive and lasting state of mind in relation to one’s work, and is characterised by three aspects: vigour, dedication and absorption.
By vigour we mean the use of high levels of energy and mental resilience during the work activity aimed at investing every effort even in the face of possible difficulties.
Dedication instead indicates the degree of involvement in one’s work, which is expressed in meaningfulness, enthusiasm, inspiration, pride and challenge.
Absorption, finally, represents the condition of full concentration and involvement in one’s work, from which one reluctantly distances oneself.
There are different versions of this questionnaire with a variable number of items, starting from the original one that presented 24. The UWES questionnaire, which started out as an instrument for measuring work engagement in the Netherlands, has met with widespread diffusion worldwide.
Schaufeli, one of the editors of the original version, translated it into other languages and collaborated with C.Balducci and F.Fraccaroli of the University of Trento to validate the model also in Italy (2010), where it is beginning to be applied particularly in the service sector.
An alternative tool for the measurement of work engagement is the OLBI (Oldenburg Burnout Inventory), which was actually created for the measurement of Burnout and consists of two dimensions: exhaustion-vigore and cynicism-dedication.
Consequences of work engagement
Work engagement appears to be closely linked to better work performance: for example, customers of a hotel or restaurant feel they can get a better service from a work engaged worker, work engaged students can get better results, etc..
This result is certainly related to a positive psychological attitude of workers that is often transmitted to their colleagues and manifests itself in creativity and control of their activity.
The negative aspect is determined by the risk of a lack of balance in the work engagement, which presents itself with what is called workaholism, a work addiction syndrome that leads to neglect of other aspects of social and family life.
The importance of the leader
A no less important element that can influence work engagement is the working environment and the interrelation between workers, middle managers, senior management.
A 2013 study by Dale Carnegie Training, a leading company in business performance improvement and training, examined three motivational factors functional to improve employee performance: the relationship with their direct bosses, trust in the management team, pride in working in their company.
It became clear that, when faced with a conviction of the inadequacy of one’s direct boss, there is an 80 to one hundred percent chance that staff will feel demotivated.
On the contrary, the creation of a positive relationship between the direct boss and his staff leads to a climate of success and motivation in the working environment. It is also important that staff believe in the management’s ability to pursue the company’s objectives so that they can feel proud to be part of it.
The study shows that there are four key elements for the employee to feel part of the company’s success: enthusiasm, responsibility, inspiration and trust.
At the same time, employees who are not involved appear reluctant to commit, and are much more likely to change jobs at any level of salary increase.
Therefore, it is clear that the level of staff involvement in the company is directly related to the emotional aspects that are created in the interaction with the bosses.
From problem to opportunity
The difficult times we are living in leave fewer and fewer opportunities for personnel directors to take these matters seriously.
The need to manage poorly motivated workers, for whom it is no longer possible to propose traditional incentive systems, the lack of confidence in other forms of motivation, such as those presented above, lead HR to manage routine tasks on a daily basis, leaving new intervention projects to another hypothetical and indefinite future moment.
The adoption of the new software platforms dedicated to the integrated management of all processes and personnel data, which aim to simplify and rationalize these routine aspects, could allow to broaden horizons and release energies of the HR function for more useful and significant interventions.
Click here to find out how HR-Assistant manages employee performance evaluation.