Wellbeing and engagement – can you have one without the other?
Authors: Wendy Cartwright
Head of Corporate Services at the University of East London and led the Engage for Success Group
29 May 2014
There are some sceptics out there, and some people still argue over the semantics of what employee engagement actually means, but most HR professionals – and increasingly CEOs and Boards – seem to be convinced that employee engagement is an important contributor to organisational success . The Work Foundation has championed the principles of good employee engagement over many years. But how does this concept of employee engagement fit with the notion of employee wellbeing? And can you have employee engagement without employee wellbeing or vice versa?
At Engage for Success, we have been researching this topic, with a particular focus on the concept of sustainable employee engagement linked to individual and organisational wellbeing. Our report, published today (29 May), is a stake in the ground at this particular point in time: a document that we hope will provoke debate and will be useful for CEOs, HR professionals and managers who are interested in wellbeing and engagement.
Our research took place over six months and was drawn from three distinct perspectives: academic publications, research by consultancies and organisational case studies. We concluded that there is a strong correlation between high wellbeing and engagement levels and these two states are also ‘mutually reinforcing’ and essential for optimal individual and organisational performance. One of our key pieces of evidence for this was drawn from The Work Foundation 2010 report prepared for IiP UK entitled ‘The business case for employees’ health and wellbeing’.
We depicted this mutually reinforcing relationship as a ‘Virtuous Circle’:
Our report (available on the Engage for Success Website) explains our definitions of wellbeing and engagement and the underpinning evidence behind this model, including the drivers of engagement and wellbeing.
We found strong links between both psychological and physical health and engagement. In respect of psychological health, we found that engagement at work significantly affects people’s perceptions of whether they consider their overall lives as thriving. And organisations that have introduced initiatives aimed at improving physical health also see benefits from improved teamwork. Moreover, evidence we gathered demonstrates that committed and healthy employees have a significant influence on customer service, lower staff turnover and absence levels.
A recent CIPD report found that 'engagement is important for performance but that it is unlikely to be sustainable unless it goes hand in hand with wellbeing'. The relationship between high wellbeing and high engagement is depicted as follows:
Work is the primary activity for many people during their waking hours. So, at Engage for Success we believe that it is important to pay attention to this synergistic relationship between wellbeing and engagement to create positive outcomes for workers and for the organisations that employ them.
If this blog has whetted your appetite, please read the full report and then let us know what you think. We’d especially be interested in any action you might take as a result – for example, trying new initiatives, measuring return on investment, working with our models to create a debate within your organisations - and what the outcome is.
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