How can I get the best out of my employees and make them go the extra mile to help achieve my organisation’s vision and goals? This is a question every business leader wants an answer to. As study shows, although many leaders understand the importance of employee engagement, they lack ideas on how to actually create a company culture that facilitates engagement.
This subject led to an investigation of factors that influence employee engagement and other plausible factors that could serve as mediators in the relationship between employees and leaders in an organisation. Other areas of interest investigated include the effect of leadership styles on employee engagement, employee voice, employee perception of support received from an organisation, and how these mediate the relationship between leadership style and employee engagement.
Employee or work engagement is a state of mind – a state of positivity, enthusiasm, and fulfillment that spurs employees to connect to their roles without discontent. Employees who have reached this level of engagement are willing to take on additional roles that may not be stipulated in their job responsibilities or description. These additional roles are considered important aspects of the employee’s input which help reinforce organisational productivity and performance.
For employees to be fully engaged in an organisation, there are three (3) psychological conditions that form the foundation for engagement and performance. According to Kahn (1990), these conditions are psychological meaningfulness, psychological safety, and psychological availability. An employee is in a state of psychological meaningfulness when they feel that their efforts are in tandem with the benefits received from the organisation. Employees have been found to be more comfortable expressing themselves (opinion, beliefs, creativity) when they ‘fit’ into their work role. Meaningfulness is achieved when their personal characteristics and abilities match with the requirements of the job.
Psychological availability refers to a state where the employee has the physical, mental and emotional resources necessary to successfully carry out a given task. This is measured by the employee’s willingness and readiness to engage in a role regardless of distractions or other activities they may be involved in.
Lastly, employees feel a sense of psychological safety when they are assured that there will not be any danger to their career, their role or their person when they express themselves at work. Organisational leaders and managers can create a safe environment for staff if proposing an idea, recommending a new framework, proffering a solution, asking a question or reporting an error does not attract negative comments and consequences. A safe work environment gives employees freedom to let down their guard, take risks, expand the limits of their competence and achieve results that are mostly positive. It also engenders confidence among employees.
The aforementioned psychological conditions, the leadership style adopted by organisational leaders, employee perception of the environmental conditions and rules in a workplace all drive employee engagement. When organisational leaders adopt an autocratic style, and employee voice is silenced, engagement to work is drastically diminished. On the other hand, when a servant-leadership style is adopted, and employees feel safe to air their views, their engagement with the organisation increases.
The investigation carried out concludes that the servant-leadership style creates a favourable work environment that employees perceive as welcoming to their views and suggestions; hence, leaders and managers in Nigerian organisations are advised to encourage leadership styles that embrace employees’ voice to keep them engaged at work and ultimately, achieve organisational objectives.
Work engagement is not only beneficial to organisations but also to individual employees as they are able to bring their authentic selves to the job hence, eliciting positive emotions and creating a positive experience.
The study was accepted and published in South Africa Journal of Industrial Psychology.
Employees feel a sense of psychological safety when they are assured that there will not be any danger to their career, their role or their person when they express themselves at work.