Engagement at work: a review of the literature


OBJECTIVES: Engagement at work has emerged as a potentially important employee performance and organizational management topic, however, the definition and measurement of engagement at work, and more specifically, nurse engagement, is poorly understood. The objective of this paper is to examine the current state of knowledge about engagement at work through a review of the literature. This review highlights the four lines of engagement research and focuses on the determinants and consequences of engagement at work. Methodological issues, as identified in the current research, and recommendations for future nurse-based engagement research are provided.

DESIGN: A systematic review of the business, organizational psychology, and health sciences and health administration literature about engagement at work (1990-2007) was performed.

DATA SOURCES: The electronic databases for Health Sciences and Health Administration (CINAHL, MEDLINE), Business (ABI INFORM), and Psychology (PsycINFO) were systematically searched.

REVIEW METHODS: Due to the limited amount of research that has examined engagement among the nursing workforce, published research that included varying employee types were included in this review. The selection criteria for this review include those studies that were: (1) written in English and (2) examined engagement at work in employee populations of any type within any work setting.

RESULTS: The literature review identified four distinct lines of research that has focused on engagement within the employee work role. Of the 32 engagement-based articles referenced in this paper, a sample of 20 studies report on the examination of antecedents and/or consequences of engagement at work among varying employee types and work settings. Key findings suggest organizational factors versus individual contributors significantly impact engagement at work. A common implication in this body of research was that of the performance-based impact.

CONCLUSIONS: The study of nurses' work engagement and its relationship to nurses' organizational behavior, including work performance and healthcare organizational outcomes can be achieved by first building upon a conceptually consistent definition and measurement of work engagement. Future research is needed to provide nurse leaders with a better understanding of how nurse work engagement impacts organizational outcomes, including quality of care indicators.

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