The Emergence of Employee Engagement

When Did Having Happy Employees Stop Being Enough?

It may seem that employee engagement is a new trend, something that has risen with the wave of research done by behavioral psychologists and management science experts. It has, though, been an issue since the time an employer-employee model existed. And just as people evolve, so do business models, the most significant changes in business taking place in the past century, arguably, the past thirty years.

It’s inevitable. With access to information comes great change. The world wide web of the latter half of the 20th century is equivalent to Gutenberg’s printing press in the 15th century. The printing press changed the way we inform and misinform one another, as has the web. And the way we receive information is instrumental in the way we perceive the world, our work place, our place in both and the potential impact we can have on them.

Employees, in the last century, have gone under subtle shifts as have human resource departments. As little as twenty years ago, the focus of companies was on employee satisfaction. The erroneous idea of happy employees mean effective employees pervaded for a long time until companies realized that satisfaction didn’t necessarily equate to productivity and growth. So satisfaction moved to commitment, and finally the idea of engagement “officially” emerged (though it had been percolating under the surface for quite a while). It was first mentioned and defined in a 1990 article written by William A Kahn in an Academy of Management Journal: Psychological Conditions of Personal Engagement and Disengagement at Work.

Employee engagement is critical to the new era of business and effective, productive companies. It’s rooted in how emotionally connected employees are with their organization and, in turn, how this connection translates into effective practices to work toward the organization’s goals. Gone are the days of receiving a gold watch after thirty years. Employees are motivated by a sense of pertinence, daily goals and the way they can achieve personal and professional growth within a company.

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