In unlocking the definitional puzzle, we found it very helpful to embrace the concept of social exchange, which allows employee engagement and performance to be framed and personified in the form an employment ‘relationship’or ‘deal’. The use of the term contributions allows the inclusion of multiple entities – for example, what Macey and Schneider (2008) describe as a ‘state’ concept (commitment) and a ‘behaviour’ (organisational citizenship).
Social Exchange Theory (SET) places the notion of reciprocity and mutuality at the heart of the employment relationship and is used to create an expression of how employee engagement and associated performance is encouraged and experienced (Cropanzano and Mitchell, 2005; Francis et al, 2012; Guest, 2014; Reddington and Weber, 2016) – see diagram below.
SET is at the heart of TEDD® – The Employment Deal Diagnostic – and allows us to measure the quality of the relationship through multiple lenses that inform powerful interventions. In doing so, it provides a pathway through the definitional and measurement puzzles. Many organisations have successfully used our approaches and a variety of case studies are cited in this document.
Social exchange theory (SET) is among the most influential conceptual paradigms for understanding workplace behaviour.(Cropanzano & Mitchell, 2005)
Perceived Organisational Support
These represent the ‘offerings’ from the employer and take various forms such as pay and benefits, stimulating work, career progression, job security, affording genuine concern for employees and providing support of various kinds in the workplace. Our model organises these contributions into two main categories – Psychological Contract and Perceived Organisational Support.
Perceived Organisational Support×
Our research broadens the notion of psychological contract fulfilment (‘state’), by drawing on the lens of perceived organisational support (POS); which places more emphasis on the delivery of support rather the types of ‘promises’ exchanged and the extent to which they have been met (Purcell and Hutchinson, 2007). A key feature of POS is the extent to which employees believe that the organisation values their contributions and wellbeing, and thus feel obliged to reciprocate (Chen et. al. 2009).
Within the academic literature, the perceived ‘state’ of the employment deal generally refers to the psychological contract, and the individual’s global impression of whether or not employer ‘promises’ are kept, how fair they are perceived to be, and trust in whether they are likely to be delivered in the future (Guest, 2014). Psychological Contract Theory (PCT) treats the failure of an organisation to meet its promises as perceived ‘breach’, and ‘violation’ (when breach develops into feelings of injustice or betrayal).
Drawing on the work of Kahn (1990), we define engagement as being ‘psychologically present’ when performing a job role. This is manifested by physical, emotional and cognitive behaviours such as enthusiasm and preparedness to take on challenging tasks, leading to performance outcomes e.g. quality of work.
Drawing on the work of Kahn (1990), and Saks (2006) we define organisational engagement as the individual’s psychological presence with their organisation. This is manifested by the expression of organisational commitment and citizenship behaviours e.g. advocacy, helping behaviours and constructive challenge.
Drawing on the work of Benight & Bandura (2004), we define capability or ‘the skill’ as the expression of the competence and confidence that employees bring to their job, individually and within their teams.
These represent the offerings from the employee and take various forms such as skills, application, resilience, enthusiasm and employer advocacy. Our model organises these contributions into three main categories – Job Engagement, Capability (also known as Self-Efficacy) and Organisational Engagement.