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    Journal of European Industrial TrainingEmerald Article: Exploring employee engagement from the employeeperspective: implications for HRD

    M. Brad Shuck, Tonette S. Rocco, Carlos A. Albornoz

    Article information:

    To cite this document: M. Brad Shuck, Tonette S. Rocco, Carlos A. Albornoz, (2011),"Exploring employee engagement from the

    mployee perspective: implications for HRD", Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 35 Iss: 4 pp. 300 - 325

    Permanent link to this document:

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/03090591111128306

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    Alan M. Saks, (2006),"Antecedents and consequences of employee engagement", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 21 Iss: 7 pp.

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    Exploring employee engagementfrom the employee perspective:

    implications for HRDM. Brad Shuck

    University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, USA

    Tonette S. RoccoFlorida International University, Miami, Florida, USA, and

    Carlos A. AlbornozSchool of Business, Universidad del Desarrollo, Santiago, Chile

    Abstract

    Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine an employees uniqueexperience of being engagedin their work.

    Design/methodology/approach Following Yins case study design method, researchers collecteddocuments, conducted semi-structured interviews and recorded observations at a large multinationalservice corporationrankedas one ofthe best placesto work.Postdatacollection,contentanalysis is usedto interpret engagement efforts and experiences. Work by Kahn and Maslow are integrated asconceptual frameworks.

    Findings Post analysis, three themes emerged: relationship development and attachment to

    co-workers, workplace climate and opportunities for learning. Findings highlighted the development ofrelationships in the workplace, the importance of an employeesdirect manager and theirrole in shapingorganizational culture and the critical role of learning in an engaged employees interpretation of theirwork. Scaffolding and discussion of an emergent model is provided.

    Research limitations/implications Three propositions for human resource development (HRD)research and practice are presented: first, environment and person interact to create engagement ordisengagement; second, an employees manager plays a critical role in developing engagement; andthird, personality can effect engagement, however, everyone can engage. An integrated model isproposed as a synthesis of findings providing HRD researchers and practitioners opportunity tore-examinecurrent engagement efforts. Specific action stepsare outlined to spur further theory buildingand organizational practice.

    Originality/value Theobjective of theemergentmodelis to provide researchers and practitioners anew framework to consider, grounded in both early and contemporary theories of engagement.The emergent model could serve as the basis for new strategies and structures related to engagementdevelopment and could shed new light on how employees interpret the experience of engagement inwork. This research is the first known qualitative study of employee engagement in the HRD literature,second only to the original qualitative research by Kahn.

    Keywords Employee involvement, Human resource development, Qualitative research,Organizational performance

    Paper type Research paper

    Employee engagement has been defined as an individual employees cognitive,emotional and behavioral state directed toward desired organizational outcomes (Shuckand Wollard, 2010, p. 103). Employees who are engaged exhibit attentiveness and mentalabsorption in their work (Saks, 2006) and display a deep, emotional connection toward

    The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available atwww.emeraldinsight.com/0309-0590.htm

    JEIT35,4

    300

    Received 19 February 2010Revised 19 August 2010Accepted 1 October 2010

    Journal of European IndustrialTrainingVol. 35 No. 4, 2011pp. 300-325q Emerald Group Publishing Limited0309-0590DOI 10.1108/03090591111128306

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    their workplace (Wagner and Harter, 2006; Kahn, 1990). States (2008) suggested that thefield of employee engagement is bourgeoning as companies pour resources intodeveloping a more engaged workforce. Many organizations believe that employeeengagement is a dominant source of competitive advantageand thus, have been drawn toits reported ability to solve challenging organizational problems such as increasingworkplace performance and productivity amid widespread economic decline (Macey andSchneider, 2008; Macey et al., 2009). Research has expanded this belief, suggesting thatorganizations with high levels of employee engagement report positive organizationaloutcomes; a small bright spot in an otherwise bleak financial forecast (Kular et al., 2008;Harter et al., 2002; Shuck and Wollard, 2010).

    For example, North Shore LIJ Health System recently invested $10 million intotraining and development and encouraged employees to furthertheir education in hopesof raising engagement levels within their organization (States, 2008). As a result, thecompany reported a one-year retention rate of 96 per cent, increased patient-satisfactionscores, and record setting profits. At Johnson and Johnson, engagement has become apart of the work culture as teams are provided real time feedback about how their workenables their individual business units to meet their quarterly goals (States, 2008). Suchreal-time communication programs help to create a positive, accountability-drivenworkplace resulting in increased productivity levels, profit margins and levels ofengagement (Towers Perrin, 2007). Still further, after substantial efforts to increaselevels of engagement on factory floors, Caterpillar, a large multi-national constructionequipment supplier and manufacturer, estimates the company saved $8.8 million inturnover costs alone by increasing the proportion of engaged employees at one of their

    European-based plants (Vance, 2006).Although engaged employees have consistently been shown to be more productiveon most available organizational measures (Richman, 2006; Fleming and Asplund, 2007;Wagner and Harter, 2006), it is conservatively estimated that,30 per cent of the globalworkforce is engaged (Harter et al., 2002, 2003; Saks, 2006; Wagner and Harter, 2006).Moreover, ,20 per cent of employees report any level of confidence in their currentmanagers ability to engage them (Czarnowsky, 2008). Not surprising, employeeengagement is reported to be on a continued decline worldwide (Bates, 2004; BlessingWhite, 2006).

    The discrepancy between the perceived importance of engagement and the level ofengagement that exists in organizations today (Czarnowsky, 2008, p. 4) is cause formajor concern. This discrepancy, however, presents a significant opportunity forhumanresource development (HRD) scholars and practitionersto develop research agendas andpractical strategies toward the forefront of this emerging concept. As organizational

    leaders embrace employee engagement, they are increasingly turning toward HRDprofessionals to develop and support strategies that facilitate engagement-encouragingcultures (Vance, 2006). Unfortunately, HRD professionals are unlikely to find thesupport they need as little academic research has investigated the experience of beingengaged (Kahn, 1990) or how engagement affects an employees experience of theirwork, and ultimately their performance.

    For example, well-cited studies from scholars such as Maslach et al. (2001), Saks(2006) and Harter et al. (2002) conceptualized the concept of engagement as a positivepsychological construct but do not explore what engagement is from an employeesperspective. Further, both Macey and Schneider (2008) and Macey et al.s (2009) models

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    Structurally, in Maslows Hierarchy, needs are first arranged in order of potency(Reeve, 2001). Second, the more foundational and critical to survival the need, the sooner itappears in the hierarchy. Third, needs are filled sequentially from lowest to highest, thusestablishing a hierarchy of needs grouped into two categories, surv