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Emotional employee engagement beats rational

1 minute read

Conducting employee surveys is a good thing, right? And surveys that reveal employees are highly engaged is even better, right? Not so fast, say researchers from the UK’s Chartered Institute of Personnel Development and Kingston University.

In a recent study, CIPD and KU researchers concluded that there are two types of employee engagement – transactional and emotional – and that the type that’s most prevalent within your organization makes a difference.

Employees who are transactionally engaged are engaged only with the task or job role at hand, the researchers say. These workers are mainly concerned with earning a living and meeting the minimal expectations of the company and their coworkers, WorldatWork reports.

While transactionally engaged employees may appear outwardly engaged – focused, disciplined, organized – and provide responses that show high engagement on employee surveys, they actually are less likely to perform well and are more likely to leave for a better job offer.

What you really want, according to the study, are workers who are emotionally engaged – as in, engaged with the organization's mission and values. This type of engagement goes beyond the job itself and is driven by a desire on the part of employees to do more for the organization than is normally expected.

These employees, the researchers conclude, have higher levels of job performance and well-being, and are more likely to remain engaged through good times and bad, WaW writes. Emotionally engaged employees also are less likely to be stressed and more likely to have a positive work-life balance.

According to the CIPD/KU research, having a high proportion of transactionally engaged employees can be harmful to an organization. So – greatly increasing the difficulty of solving the engagement equation for employers – companies must not only identify which employees are engaged and which are not, but also whether engaged employees are transactionally or emotionally engaged. That sounds like a lot to ask of employee surveys.

As if that weren’t challenging enough, employers then must pinpoint strategies to engage the non-engaged as well as shift the transactionally engaged to become more emotionally engaged.

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