1 Introduction

1.1 Engagement as a Psychological Construct

The roots of employee [aka work; e.g., W. Schaufeli & Bakker (2010)] engagement research likely started with theoretical expansions of forms of employee participation (see, for example, Ferris & Hellier, 1984) and job involvement (e.g., Elloy et al., 1991). This exploration extended into broader considerations of attitudes and emotions (Staw et al., 1994) and were informed by further exploration of the dimensionality of constructs such as organizational commitment (Meyer & Allen, 1991). The 1990’s saw focused development and refinement (for example, a dissertation; Leone (1995) or actual semantic reference; Kahn (1990)). Staw et al. (1994) investigated the relationships between positive emotions and favorable work outcomes, and although they do not use the word, “engagement”, their distinction between felt and expressed emotion likely held influence upon the burgeoning interest in the engagement construct.

Kahn (1990) described engaged employees as being physically involved, cognitively vigilant, and emotionally connected. Although occasionally referred to as residing on the opposing pole to burnout (Maslach & Leiter, 2008), these two constructs are currently most commonly conceptualized as being distinct (Goering et al., 2017; Kim et al., 2009; Schaufeli et al., 2008; Timms et al., 2012), although certainly not universally (Cole et al., 2012; Taris et al., 2017). Goering et al. (2017) explore nomological networks, concluding that these two constructs have a moderate (negative) association, but also distinct nomological networks. Schaufeli et al. (2008) investigated both internal and external association indicators, concluding that engagement and burnout (as well as workaholism) should be considered three distinct constructs.

Burnout can be defined as a psychological syndrome characterized by exhaustion (low energy), cynicism (low involvement), and inefficacy (low efficacy), which is experienced in response to chronic job stressors (e.g., Leiter & Maslach, 2004; Maslach & Leiter, 1997). Alternatively, engagement refers to an individual worker’s involvement and satisfaction as well as enthusiasm for work (Harter et al., 2002). Schaufeli & Bakker (2003) further specify a “positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption” (p. 74). Via their conceptualization, vigor is described as high levels of energy and mental resilience while working. Dedication refers to being strongly involved in one’s work and experiencing a sense of significance, enthusiasm, inspiration, pride, and challenge. Absorption is characterized by being fully concentrated and happily engrossed in one’s work, whereby time passes quickly and one has difficulties with detaching oneself from work (Schaufeli et al., 2002). This absorption element has been noted as being influenced in conceptual specification by (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990)’s concept of “flow”.

Regarding measurement, Gallup is widely acknowledged as an early pioneer in the measurement of the construct (see, for example, Coffman & Harter, 1999). The Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES) is another self-report questionnaire developed by Schaufeli & Bakker (2003) that directly assesses the vigor, dedication, and absorption elements.

we need to do some market research on the Q12: 1. what’s the feedback report look like? (google images show one overall “satsifaction” score and/or one overall “engagement” score), 2. how much does it cost, 3. what are the 200 pulse items Gallup refers to? (6/7/21)

Our conceptualization of work engagement is a mental state wherein employees…

  • …feel energized (Vigor)
  • …are enthusiastic about the content of their work and the things they do (Dedication)
  • …are so immersed in their work activities that time seems compressed (Absorption)

The process of coming to this definitional model of employee engagement is further elaborated upon in Appendix A.