A new model for engagement and wellbeing

A new report has been released highlighting the links between employee engagement and work-related wellbeing.

uniIt’s part of an ongoing research programme between DesigneD4Success and the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, and is worth a read.

The interim report draws on many years of research into both topics, as well as recent advances in the field of neuroscience.

It has been shared by Engage for Success this week for practitioners interested in learning more, and I think it will be useful for communication students.

The report proposes a new “integrated model” which helps illustrate the concept that the drivers of engagement and work-related wellbeing are essentially the same:

Integrated model

What do you think of this model? Do you agree with it? (It opens larger).

I’ve written about employee engagement numerous times over the years, and have linked to lots of articles at the end of this one if you’d like to read more.

“Engagement isn’t something extra, it’s what you do and the way you do it” (Tweet this)

driversAs a reminder, the drivers of engagement according to Engage for Success are:

  1. Strategic narrative
    Visible, empowering leadership providing a strong strategic narrative about the organisation, where it’s come from and where it’s going
  2. Engaging managers
    Engaging managers who focus their people and give them scope, treat their people as individuals and coach and stretch them
  3. Employee voice
    Employee voice throughout the organisation, reinforcing and challenging views, between functions and externally. Employees seen as central to the solution
  4. Integrity
    Organisational integrity – values on the wall are reflected in day-to-day behaviours. There is no ‘say – do’ gap. (Tweet this)

The new integrated model highlights how improvements in one area (engagement or wellbeing) will naturally lead to improvements in the other.

Chris Burton and Linda Buchan, who wrote the report state: “An interesting and relatively recent development has been the increase in focus directed at improving employee wellbeing rather than trying to build engagement; there appears to have been a recognition that many of the organisational benefits associated with engagement actually arise from the personal benefits to individual health and well-being (reduced absence, greater resilience, improved health and lower stress).

“There is however increasing evidence which demonstrates there’s no need to consider the two outcomes independently of each other (engagement and well-being), indeed it is probably detrimental to do so.”

CIPD guidance suggests that “engagement is important for performance but that it unlikely to be sustainable unless it goes hand in hand with wellbeing.





What is engagement?
The study establishes a common definition for engagement:

– that it is “a distinct and unique construct consisting of cognitive, emotional and behavioural components… associated with individual job performance” (Saks, 2006).

According to the report’s authors (Chris Burton and Linda Buchan, 2015), this definition helps to establish two important principles:

  1. That engagement is individual and personal – we’re not arguing that a group can’t be engaged, but we are suggesting that each individual within the group might be engaged with different things, or for different reasons. This is important as it establishes that organisations cannot build engagement at a group level, interventions must rather be focused on engaging every individual within the group.
  2. That engaged people make an emotional, cognitive and physical commitment to their work – in other words they commit to their work on more than one level.

Who is involved?
Employee engagement Studies conducted with both private and public sector organisations as part of the research programme have also helped to develop a broader model for “locus of engagement”; the authors identify six separate loci with which people can either engage or dis-engage.

They use real-life examples to show that an imbalance of engagement across these various loci can actually be detrimental to organisational interests. I particularly like the case study of the Fire Service in the UK in the report.

This finding challenges the way in which organisations might measure and improve engagement in the future.

The report states: “Whilst engagement is often considered a psychological state in its own right, the authors of this study propose that positive psychological activation is a necessary antecedent to the emotional, cognitive and behavioural states which follow.

“They argue that the psychological activation which is at the heart of engagement (or dis-engagement) is also the basis for psychological and physical well-being and that the two are therefore mutually dependant.”

The authors have identified four key implications for organisations:

  1. That the drivers of engagement begin earlier than current models and interventions account for
  2. That engagement is both personal and individual
  3. That different people can be engaged with different things at different times
  4. That not all engagement is necessarily good for the organisation in the long-term.

Having established the need for positive psychological activation, the authors propose an integrated model for engagement and well-being which helps to illustrate the pathway towards positive (or negative) outcomes for both the organisation and the individual.

Using a taxonomy of work-related well-being (adapted from Russell, 1980), they show that the behaviours and outcomes associated with full engagement are rooted in intrinsic motivation, and that those associated with burn-out and workaholism have their basis in extrinsic motivation arising from a negative psychological activation.

More information about the study is available at www.designed4success.co.uk and a copy of the Interim Report can be downloaded online.

How to get involved
To discuss what the implications of the research might mean for your organisation or to participate in the ongoing research programme, you can contact the authors: info@designed4success.co.uk.

Enjoyed this article? Why not Tweet and share it on so other comms pros can read it too?

Post author: Rachel Miller

First published on the All Things IC blog 24 September 2015.


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