Hand in Glove: Employee Engagement Meets Resilience

Posted by Joel Bennett on

Perhaps the best way to engage workers is by appealing to their strengths -- to the inner resources and external conditions that foster resilience.

Many think that "engagement" is the new buzzword for employee productivity but it's really just old sheep in new clothing [1]. What is new -- and exciting - is research suggesting an overlap between engagement and employee resilience.

In April of this year, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) published the 2015 Job Satisfaction and Engagement Report: Optimizing Organizational Culture for Success. The most interesting findings were the top employee engagement conditions, opinions, and behaviors. I was struck by how much these directly align with our science-based conception of resilience.

Confidence, Commitment, Community

The SHRM report reports that engaged employees say "I am confident that I can meet my work goals" and "I am determined to accomplishment my work goals" and the top conditions for creating engagement are "relationship with coworkers" and "meaningfulness of the job."

These factors are very close in meaning to the Five Cs of Resilience that Chuck Aden and I developed back in 2007 as part of our Team Resilience training program. These Five Cs are confidence, commitment, community, centering, and compassion. In particular, meaningfulness of the job ties into what we have called "centering" or the ability to center, manage and transform stress (see Raw Coping Power). [2]

Where's Compassion?

The only C that is did not see explicitly referenced in the SHRM study was compassion (for self and others, or empathic concern).[3] Compassion is a key aspect of resilience and should not be overlooked as a way to foster engagement. This does not only apply to healthcare, social service and non-profit organizations. A 2014 article in Forbes reports on how employee and corporate giving is a key lever for increasing engagement.



[1] Don't take the "sheep" metaphor too literally...but there is a vast literature on organizational commitment, psychological withdrawal at work (e.g., turnover intentions),  and organizational citizenship. My colleagues and I also wrote a 2009 chapter on measuring engagement.

[2] The links between job meaning, resilience and engagement reminded me of research by Tom Britt and colleagues that shows close links between meaningful work, resilience, and engagement.

[3] The research suggests that engaged workers think about the greater good (civic virtue), even during stressors of mergers and acquisitions. Also, doing good and altruism can be significant contributors to work performance and job meaning in many occupations.

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