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The concept of "employee engagement" is popular in organisational consulting settings. A quick Google for "engagement survey" will yield many results. However, in some respects the concept often seems defined in terms of some combination of satisfaction, commitment, and motivation.

  • Does the concept of employee engagement add anything new over and above satisfaction, commitment, and motivation?
  • To the extent that it does overlap with previous constructs, does it still have value?
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A few basic observations:

  • Typical self-report measures of engagement and job satisfaction tend to be highly correlated (I'll try to find a reference later, but I think in the r =.7 range).
  • As with many organisational psychology terms that bridge the scientific-practitioner divide, engagement has been operationalised in a wide range of ways.
  • Volume 1, Issue 1 of Industrial and Organizational Psychology has a focal article and a large set of accompanying commentaries on the meaning of engagement and its value as a concept. See this pdf of the focal article.
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  • $\begingroup$ do these observations answer your question, or should they be edited in as further notes that are part of the question? $\endgroup$ – Artem Kaznatcheev Jan 31 '12 at 4:40
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    $\begingroup$ @ArtemKaznatcheev I guess they reflect a partial answer; I'd love to read a better or more comprehensive answer that anyone else might provide. I'll try to expand on them when I get the time. $\endgroup$ – Jeromy Anglim Jan 31 '12 at 5:02
  • $\begingroup$ My quick read of Macy and Schneider is that research has meant 1-3 overlapping but possibly distinct things by engagement. "The meaning of employee engagement is ambiguous among both academic researchers and among practitioners who use it in conversations with clients. We show that the term is used at different times to refer to psychological states, traits, and behaviors as well as their antecedents and outcomes." $\endgroup$ – Fizz Apr 24 at 7:01
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Broadly speaking, employee engagement consultancies would say employee satisfaction does not correlate with employee attachment (staying) or employee effort (striving). They would say employee engagement thus translates into the behaviours that benefit organisations financially, whereas employee satisfaction does not.

Here’s how Gallup sees it:

Gallup research shows that both employee engagement and employee satisfaction relate to meaningful outcomes. However, satisfaction is a broad, attitudinal outcome, like organizational loyalty or pride. It is hard to act on, and some facets of satisfaction are irrelevant to performance. Engagement, on the other hand, predicts satisfaction, as well as many other concrete business outcomes.

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