Drivers of Employee Engagement: A Case Study of Private Banks in Ethiopia.

AuthorTadesse, Worku Mekonnen


Engagement is about being excited over the task at hand and exerting best on doing it. Employee engagement is more than job satisfaction and retention. As defined by Armstrong (2009), employee engagement takes place when people at work are interested in and positive, even excited, about their jobs and are prepared to go the extra mile to get them done to the best of their ability. Loehr and Schwartz (2003) confirmed that fully engaged workers are those who are physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and feel aligned with the purpose of the organization.

The challenge for organizations is not only retaining their employees, but fully engaging them, capturing their minds and hearts at each stage of their work lives. Employee engagement was first introduced by Kahn (1990). He stated that in engagement, people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively and emotionally during role performance. Engaged employees can stay with their company longer, thus reducing turnover and saving companies costs in recruitment and retaining employees. Engaged employees positively affect the experiences of customers and coworkers. Further, employees who are engaged tend to trust management and are more focused on mission statement, strategic direction and organizational outcomes. On the other hand those who are not engaged express their unhappiness and distrust toward management often sharing their poor experiences with their colleagues.

The main reason for assessing employee engagement factors is to know how much employees are committed to their organizations that actually drive employees to perform their best. Organizations conduct employee engagement surveys from time to time so that they can design or redesign the policies and implement key changes in order to increase the productivity and efficiency of employees. In Ethiopia, banking industry is among the rapidly growing and more competitive industry which attracts investors. In order to remain competitive in the industry private banks should pay prime attention to their human by looking into the extent of employee engagement. The main purpose of this study is to identify the extent of employee engagement in private banks in Ethiopia and show the factors that con tribute for task engagement.

Statement of the Problem

Employee engagement is about what people do and ho they behave in their roles and what makes them act in ways that further the achievement of the objectives of both the organization and themselves (Armstrong, 2009). Kahn (1990) identified three psychological conditions as a framework for the study of employee engagement, viz. meaningfulness, safety and availability. Harter et al (2002) stated that engagement has a positive influence on customer satisfaction, productivity and profit. Disengaged employees can be a serious liability for the organizations. Disengagement can be related to underpayment, non-conducive work environment, misplacement, poor management style; poor communication etc. Disengagement might result in turnover, absenteeism, fraud, embezzlement etc. As shown by Kahn (1990) when employees become disengaged, they with draw and defend themselves, promoting a lack of connectedness, emotional absence and passive behavior. Having engaged employees in the human resource management field is important because researchers in this field identified that engaged employees come to work every day feeling a connection to their organization, have a high level of enthusiasm for their work, and consistently produce at high levels (Buhler, 2006). Though engagement has a significant impact on the performance of organizations, there is little research conducted on its drivers particularly in the context of African organizations. Saks (2006) and Maslach et al (2001) identified a number of potential drivers of employee engagement though the model is unclear as to which variables are the strongest predictors. The preliminary document reviews as well as discussions with human resource managers of the private banks suggest that there is high employee turnover, disengagement and burnout. Therefore it a of paramount importance for the academicians and practitioners in the field of human resource management to identify drivers of employee engagement to facilitate evidence based decisions as well as expanding the frontiers of the field of employee engagement.

Meaning of Employee Engagement

Kahn (1990) first provided formal definition of the term personnel engagement as "the harnessing of organization members to their work roles; in engagement people e ploy and express the selves physically, cognitively and emotionally during role performances". Rothbard (2001) defines engagement as psychological presence but goes further to state that it involves two critical components: attention refers to cognitive availability and the amount of time one spends thinking about a role while absorption means being engrossed in a role and refers to the intensity of one's focus on a role. Schaufeli et al (2002) defined engagement as a positive, fulfilling, work related state of mind that is characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption. Employee engagement therefore refers to the extent that employees are satisfied, committed to and prepared to support what is important to the organization.

Human resource management practices such as performance management, training, career development, work design and employee relations are important for creating employee engagement. Jobs must be designed to give employee the necessary latitude for making a variety of decisions. Employees must be properly trained to exert their wider authority and use in formation resources such as internet as well as tools for communicating information. Employees also need feed back to help them evaluate their success. Pay and other rewards should reflect employees' authority and be related to successful handling of their responsibility. In addition, for engagement to occur, managers must be trained to link employees to resource within and outside the organization such as customers, coworkers in other departments.

As stated by Catlette and Hadden (2001) engaged employees are energized and passionate about the work they do. With passion come excitement, enthusiasm and productivity. Engaged employees are committed, motivated and enthusiastic about problem solving. They are absorbed in their work, put their heart into their jobs, are excited about doing a good job, exert energy in their work and are a source of competitive advantage for their employees.

Drivers of Employee Engagement

Over the years, employee engagement has been the subject of numerous research studies. However, very few academic studies have explored the drivers of employee engagement. Among them include Kahn (1990), Lockwood (2007), Watson (2009), Saks (2006), Langelaan et al. (2006), Mauno et al (2007), Mani (2011), IES (2005), Seijit (2006), Britt et al (2001), and Hewitt (2004). Captioned below are the main drivers of employee engagement as being identified by these authors.

Perceptions of Job Importance

Lockwood (2007) suggested organizations that build a culture of work meaningfulness are more likely to have engaged employees. Meaningfulness means exerting efforts and energies in to a job and developing a feeling of making differences. When the task is important and challenging, it has some influence and ownership over the work. Employees need to feel that the work they are doing is important for themselves and...

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