Whilst the focus has always been on the all-important high level of engagement in employees, (and the subsequent positives outcomes for your business); a new report suggests that the correlation is not as simple as previously thought. The research identifies that there are actually two different types of engagement, which can produce two very different types of results in employee engagement scores.
The research was performed by the UK Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, (CIPD) and the Kingston Business School. The CIPD is the world’s largest chartered HR and development body and the business school is one of only three schools with a triple Association accreditation for its MBAs. Their report highlights two types of engagement in employees, transactional engagement and emotional engagement, with distinct differences apparent between the two.
Transactional engagement is an investment with only the task or job at hand. Whereas emotional engagement is an investment with the company’s missions and values. Whilst both types of engagement would produce high scores on engagement surveys and assessments, transactional engagement alone has been found (in this report) to be detrimental to employee performance and retainment.
Transactionally engaged subjects will outwardly display the desirable behaviours but are more likely to perform under par and are more likely to leave their position when presented with a better offer from elsewhere. The research describes transactional engagement as being dictated by the concern to ‘earn a living’ and to meet the minimum expectations of the employer and peers. The positive feeling that the individual will have about their work would stem directly from the tasks they perform, the challenges it presents and the variety found within it day to day, and being able to see the results of their work in action.
These findings suggest that transactional engagement can be found to be potentially damaging for both the individuals and the businesses. Transactionally engaged subjects report higher levels of stress and an uneven work-life balance, on top of this, they were found to be more likely to behave in a way that may actually damage the business.
On the other hand, emotionally engaged workers are engaged with the company’s values and missions, they have a higher level of well-being, and are more likely to remain engaged during both positive and negative times of work. Their engagement goes beyond the practical abilities of the daily work tasks, stretching out to include colleagues and managers as well as clients and customers, in addition to the values of the organisation. There is a psychological investment here, which develops into a desire to give more than what is expected from them.
The key differences between the two types of engagement can lead to misinterpretation of engagement scores, Angela Baron (a research advisor at CIPD) says: “What people are engaged with, and the nature and driving force behind their engagement, also need taking into consideration – otherwise organisations may risk misunderstanding the actual extent and nature of engagement. For example, transactionally engaged employees are likely to answer survey questions positively or be willing to take on extra work because they believe that is how they will achieve their desired ends. Whilst not being disengaged, in deciding how they will deploy their efforts they are more likely to act in self-interest than in the best interests of the organization.”
Useful interpretation of engagement scores should also aim to identify the presence of both types of engagement in one employee, which in practicality is actually quite difficult to distinguish. To promote emotional investment from employees, effective reward and recognition programs should be established to create value beyond the daily work tasks. Rewarding for behavior and values will encourage emotional investment in the workplace and an equal balance of the desired types of engagement.
The full research report, called “Emotional or transactional engagement – does it matter?” can be viewed here. (Requires CIPD membership).