Why Engaged Workers Make Better Employees

If you're like most people, what you really need out of a job is a salary high enough to cover your expenses. But what you really want out of a job goes far beyond that, and involves things like social support, feedback and opportunities for autonomy, variety and growth. It's all about "engagement" which is the new buzzword among HR types, and savvy employers know that once their workers are engaged, there's no stopping them.

"Engaged workers -- those who approach their work with energy, dedication, and focus -- are more open to new information, more productive, and more willing to go the extra mile," according to a new article by Arnold B. Bakker, a Dutch psychologist at Erasmus University, Rotterdam. The article will run in the August issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science.

There was a substantial surprise on the list of things it takes to keep an employee happily engaged in the job: challenge, or, you could even call it 'difficulty.' "Interestingly, engagement -- and high-quality performance -- is greatest when the demands of the job are highest. This principle applies even to what we think of as low-level jobs, such as those at a fast-food restaurant," writes Bakker.

And you thought you'd be happier once you mastered your job and the pressure is off. Guess again.

Of course, your engagement in a job isn't entirely dependent on what your employer puts on the table. A lot of it has to do with your attitude, according to the research. "Employees' own personal resources -- such as self-esteem and optimism -- also contribute to work engagement," says Bakker. "Not only do workers with abundant personal resources approach their jobs with more enthusiasm and joy; they also tend to be in better health, allowing them to focus and work hard."

The attitudes of happy, optimistic, energetic employees can actually have an effect the company's bottom line. Not only are health care costs lower, but productivity is higher among the positive employees themselves, as well as those they work with.

You would think it would be a no-brainer for a job seeker to go into an interview with a happy, confident, energetic attitude. But these days, it's hard to keep the spirits and confidence up when opportunities are so rare. Still, it wouldn't hurt to try the old, "fake it 'til you make it" routine. After all, won't you be happy and energetic once you land that job?

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I happened to be an RN and a nurse manager. I have to tell you that as a manager if your staff is not engaged it is absolutely the pits. Monies is definitely important, however working with staff who are not engaged is a nightmare. I absolutely agree with the writer. I truly believe that a happy staff is very engaged, will be more productive, will come to work with a smile on their face ready to take on the day or the night no matter what it brings. Nursing is hard work, yes the pay is good but it is getting tougher and tougher and the acuity of the patients is so high. Nursing is emotionally and physically taxing and it is important to love the place you work and to like your co-workers and your boss. I am very lucky. I was able to put together an incredible group of motivated, enthusiastic, high integrity nursing staff. They definitely make my work easier. I have to put out many fires in a day. We are not only caring for patients but families who believe that we are miracle workers. Unfortunately we all do the very best we can and hope to meet everyone’s needs 24/7. So first love what you do. Do not go into a profession that you do not like. You life will be miserable. Enjoy what you do, the day goes faster. I always had a passion for nursing and my staff has it too. Found your niche and be the best at it. You will always get something even during these hard times.

August 09 2011 at 8:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Great article. I hope that Dr. Bakker has objective proof of the effect on the bottom line for organizations. This would go a long way to proving what we'd like to believe about "employee engagement". I recall that the Gallup organization did a lot of work measuring employee engagement back in the last decade, or earlier.

July 23 2011 at 8:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dmtompos's comment

Whoa, lot of negativity on this article. Get some joy in your lives, people... life is too short.

July 23 2011 at 8:51 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Engaged worker, $8 an hour, that engages people? The pay is so low today, most people are expected to take these available jobs and peform like it's $15 an hour, dress appropriately, customer first, ect.
Employee last policies.

HR people are getting even more out of touch with nonsense terminology. Time to get back to basics. Also create some jobs instead of screening people so closely and pretending that is the reason people aren't qualified when it's really lack of jobs. There are plents of capable people out there. Flip a coin instead, it is probably more accurate in many cases than these bogus assessments.

July 23 2011 at 8:14 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Jobs are a dime-a-dozen ... which is about what they're worth.

July 23 2011 at 8:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Its just another word to make those whom have a job feel good about doing the work of two people as the company makes a big profit and expand or buy out smaller competive's all without giving a decent raise to those of us working our buns off. I was working 45hrs week as a manager before the recession and we went 1yr without any raise to help the company stay pofitable and then the 2nd year we got a 2% raise but had to now work 6 days 56hrs....say pay cut

July 23 2011 at 6:47 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

What a bunch of hooey. This is the jargon employers are using these days to explain why they're dumping more and more duties onto our plates with less pay, worse hours and less help. "Engagement" is the new buzz word for "'look happy while I screw you some more".

July 23 2011 at 5:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


July 23 2011 at 2:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What a lame article. Those who are lucky enough to even have a job in this economy usually end up engaged in office politics/warfare. The employee who shows the greatest interest or mastery of the work is not necessarily the safest from layoffs or the one who's going to get promoted. We all know that ass-kissers who curry favor with management are the ones flourish these days.
"better health, allowing them to focus and work hard" <--- Does this author live in the real world? Working in I.T., I'm always watching my back for co-worker sabotage, a layoff notice or being outsourced. Maybe AOL should consider hiring journalists who can identify with the average American worker.

July 22 2011 at 10:12 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

Don't smile too much or be TOO energetic or all the emo's running the place will get jealous and you will be out the door.

July 22 2011 at 10:09 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I do not know about other areas. But where I live many of the new help wanted ads for jobs actually come out and state only apply if presently employed or recently laid off. Basically if you have been out of work for more then 6 months they will not even talk to you.

July 22 2011 at 9:21 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to knkdnsr's comment

I was out of work for 10 months and got a job. It's not in the most prestigious place, I'm not using my degree, I down-played my experience---but I have a job, thank God.

July 22 2011 at 10:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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