Professor dr. Arnold B. Bakker; professor of Work and Organizational Psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam and EAWOP president.

Work engagement

Employees' psychological connection with their work has gained critical importance in the information/service economy of the 21st century. In the contemporary world of work, to compete effectively, companies not only must recruit the top talent, but must also inspire and enable employees to apply their full capabilities to their work. Contemporary organizations need employees who are psychologically connected to their work; who are willing and able to invest themselves fully in their roles; who are proactive and committed to high quality performance standards. They need employees who are engaged with their work (Bakker & Leiter, 2010).

Work engagement is most often defined as "...a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption" (Schaufeli & Bakker, 2010; Schaufeli, Salanova, González-Romá, & Bakker, 2002, p. 74). In essence, work engagement captures how workers experience their work: as stimulating and energetic and something to which they really want to devote time and effort (the vigor component); as a significant and meaningful pursuit (dedication); and as engrossing and something on which they are fully concentrated (absorption).

Research has revealed that engaged employees are highly energetic, self-efficacious individuals who exercise influence over events that affect their lives (Bakker, 2009). Because of their positive attitude and activity level, engaged employees create their own positive feedback, in terms of appreciation, recognition, and success. Although engaged employees do feel tired after a long day of hard work, they describe their tiredness as a rather pleasant state because it is associated with positive accomplishments. Finally, engaged employees enjoy other things outside work. Unlike workaholics, engaged employees do not work hard because of a strong and irresistible inner drive, but because for them working is fun (Gorgievski, Bakker & Schaufeli, 2010).

The past decade has witnessed a sharp increase in scientific studies on engagement (Albrecht, in press; Bakker, Schaufeli, Leiter & Taris, 2008). This research has shown that engagement is related to bottom line outcomes such as job performance (Bakker & Bal, 2010; Halbesleben & Wheeler, 2008), client satisfaction (Salanova, Agut & Peiro, 2005), and financial returns (Xanthopoulou, Bakker, Demerouti & Schaufeli, 2009a; for an overview, see Demerouti & Cropanzano, 2010).

See Bakker, Albrecht & Leiter's (in press) position paper for a research agenda on engagement:

Bakker, A.B., Albrecht, S., & Leiter, M.P. (2011- in press). Key questions regarding work engagement. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology.

And see the following paper for a rejoinder:

Bakker, A.B., Albrecht, S., & Leiter, M.P. (2011 - in press). Work engagement: Further reflections on the state of play. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology.