College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Graduation Date

6-2010

Document Type

Dissertation

College/Department Conferring Degree

Psychology

Keywords

engagement, work motivation, job satisfaction, job performance, industrial/organizational psychology

Abstract

Researchers and practitioners appear to have captured something of importance in the concept of engagement. Engagement surveys have been shown to be effective predictors of job performance and other important organizational outcomes, and yet there is clearly no single unifying description or understanding of the engagement concept in the extant literature or applied domain. This research sought to clearly define, operationalize, and model the construct that best represents what researchers and practitioners today intend when they use the term “engagement.” Specifically, the purpose of this research was to make five unique contributions to the current discussion of the engagement concept: 1) identify the primary sources of confusion surrounding the contemporary engagement concept and summarize current areas of agreement; 2) identify the nomological network of engagement; 3) describe the relationship between engagement, motivation, and performance in order to provide a more complete definition of engagement 4) present a new theoretical model of the engagement process; and 5) empirically test components of the new engagement model. A new comprehensive theoretical model of job engagement was presented that outlined the manner in which the constructs within engagement’s nomological network interact and impact an active cognitive motivational mechanism underlying job engagement. The practical effect of this model was to essentially “pull back the curtain” on the engagement concept to reveal the motivation mechanism underlying the process. Engagement was more precisely defined in this research as job engagement, a state of active motivation to perform in one’s job, characterized by an ongoing willingness to expend effort in the service of sustaining job performance. Hypotheses examining specific aspects of the new job engagement model were analyzed using data from a typical applied engagement survey conducted in March of 2008 at a Fortune 500 company with employees located in the United States and Canada. Results demonstrated that job engagement is influenced by the four broad antecedent factors of incentives, directives, enablers, and feedback. These four factors impact job engagement through four input points into the process by impacting a worker’s commitment to job performance, task goal identification, task efficacy, and assessment of goal achievement respectively. The primary implication of this research for theoretical research is to clarify areas of confusion in prior research and provide a theoretically sound model of job engagement to guide future research. Practitioners can draw upon the simple four factor structure of the antecedents of job engagement to conduct analyses of survey data and design targeted interventions at all levels within an organization.

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