A Professor’s Take on Employee Engagement

November 17, 2016 Sarah Payne


HR as a profession and a practice is finding itself at a crossroads. Does employee engagement as a measure still matter? Should we conduct annual performance reviews? How can we make a tangible impact on work culture?

These are a few topics we discussed in part 2 of our Q&A with Dr. Bill Castellano (check out part 1 here). He shared advice based on his experience as a consultant in the field and a professor at Rutgers University. In particular, we talked about employee fit, continuous feedback, and psychological safety as key drivers of engagement in today’s workplace.

Read the conclusion of our Q&A below.


How has our understanding of engagement evolved over the years? Do you think it’s still a key metric for HR to measure?

It is a critical metric. However, most measures miss the mark.

In my research, I’ve found engagement to be a multidimensional psychological state, one which includes job involvement, affective commitment, and positivity affectivity – people who come to work with a lot of vigor and enthusiasm.

But I go back to question number two, where I mentioned that the real way to increase engagement is to focus on fit. I think fit plays a huge role. Co-worker relationships and management relationships are big drivers of engagement.

It also goes back to line of sight – helping workers understand how their performance helps organizations achieve their objectives. This also increases meaningfulness of the work at hand.

The right combination should be a win-win. By helping employees be successful and fit into the organization, the organization achieves its strategic objectives.


That’s a great point. We’ve seen a lot about meaning and vigor come up in our research.

I always get a kick from how many measures rely on employee satisfaction. Satisfaction isn’t always positively related to performance. There are a lot of satisfied employees who are not very productive.


What’s your take on the move away from the annual review? Do you have any advice for companies navigating this change?

Given the ebbs and flows of the workplace, I think reviews should be a continuous process – a continuous conversation that managers and employees have throughout the year. Providing and collecting immediate feedback is a very powerful way to change and manage behaviors.


What does a human workplace mean to you?

A human workplace is an environment where people have autonomy, are empowered, and are provided with the training they need to be successful.

As I mentioned, role fit, organizational fit, co-worker relationships, support of managers, transformational leaders, psychological safety – all of these things can create the conditions where employees feel there is meaning in the work they’re doing.

Another element that I see in the context of a human workplace is a focus on corporate social responsibility. More companies are paying attention to the impact they have on the broader community and the world itself.

A Professor’s Take on Employee Engagement
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