The term “employee engagement” can mean a variety of different things depending on how it is used and in what context it is implied. It can describe someone’s disposition (Trait Engagement), current feelings (State Engagement), or how they perform their job (Behavioral Engagement). Looking at employee engagement in each context helps to have a more meaningful discussion about how individuals and organizations interact.
Trait Engagement: Some people have a more engaged predisposition when it comes to their work. All things being equal, they are naturally more engaged than others. The markings of individuals with high trait employee engagement include:
- Positive views of life and work
- Proactive personality
- Autotelic personality
- Positive Affect
- Locus of control
State Engagement: Employees can feel more (or less) engaged in their work depending on the circumstances from day to day. Here, the work and its conditions contribute to the feelings of engagement. People describe these feelings as “being in the zone” or experiencing moments of “flow” as they work. State engagement includes:
- Feelings of energy, absorption
- Satisfaction (affective)
Behavioral Engagement: Trait and State Engagement lead to observable behaviors that can be described as engaged. It is commonly defined as “putting forth discretionary effort” or “going the extra mile.” Some other examples of behavioral engagement include:
- Extra-role behavior
- Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB)
- Proactive/Personal Initiative
- Role Expansion
- Engagement with others (team, leaders)
Can a leader cause someone to be engaged? The reality is that organizations, and even individual leaders, have little influence on changing one’s trait engagement. Actually, they don’t have full control over State or Behavioral Engagement, either. So, what can leaders or organizations do? Are they powerless in their quest for the engaged organization? Not by a long shot. They can (1) Hire people who can chose to be engaged; (2) Create that environment in which these employees choose to be engaged; and (3) Avoid causing them to be disengaged. In other words, get out of their way!
Learn more about trait, state, and behavioral engagement in our webinar: The Psychology of Employee Engagement.