Thursday, 21 August 2014

Previous literature on engagement

I review engagement literature here because Andrew comments:
"who can tell you how to engage in general, becuase as far as I know there has been little work on systematically analysing engagement either qualitatively and quantitaivley"
I'm considering literature that addresses different articulations of engagement:
  • involvement,
  • participation,
  • commitment,
  • collaboration and
  • motivation.
Previous research on engagement focused on outcomes and products and seems one-sided, focusing on for example,
  • employee engagement with work (Saks, 2006, Schaufeli et al., 2006),
  • student engagement with learning (Handley et al., 2007, Robinson and Hullinger, 2008, Arbaugh, 2000),
  • client engagement with child welfare services (Yatchmenoff, 2005)
  • customer engagement with a brand (Mollen, 2010).
These approaches apparently use engagement as a one-way relationship, rather than share knowledge.

However, consultancy practitioner literature advises consultants how to engage to with clients to get and share information. Axelrod (2002) suggested four underlying principles that would produce an engaged organisation:
  • widening the circle of involvement through people and ideas,
  • connecting people to each other,
  • creating communities for action and
  • embracing democratic principles.
Block advised setting out the room in a manner than encouraged people to engage with each other.  i.e. adapt the conditions of the setting or environment and you'll get different behaviour.

How does engagement differ from involvement?
Barki et al suggested involvement is a separate construct from participation and refers to a psychological state, although they do not elaborate on what that state might be.  For Saks, job involvement relates to self-image, and to how employees perform their jobs (Saks, 2006 p. 602).    Axelrod, (2004) states that involvement is “working with others to get things done” thus implying that involvement and engagement may be similar phenomena (Axelrod et al., 2004 p. iv). In conclusion, in the sense that involvement is working with other people, it is highly relevant to engagement.

The term engagement has the sense of 'engagement with' someone, so implies some form of relationship that might require commitment. Commitment may affect sense making and the social structure (Weick, 1995). An organisational context with visibility (behaviour is public), volition (with an element of choice) and irrevocability (behaviour cannot be undone) “should generate stronger commitment” (Weick, 1995 p. 159). Nevertheless, commitment is “also a liability because it reduces flexibility, learning and adaption”. However McCormick, who developed a survey tool to measure the impact that participation in large-group intervention had on attitudes and beliefs of participants, found engagement increased commitment (McCormick, 1999) suggesting engagement leads to commitment. Perhaps we can collect data on commitment as a measure of engagement.

Collaboration may also be related to engagement. Collaboration is what organisations do together and is closely related to cooperation (Huxham, 1993).  Cooperation and collaboration both mean “something to do with working together,” (Huxham, 1993 p. 5) which is similar to Axelrod’s involvement being the art of bringing people together (Axelrod, 2001). Huxham uses the concept of “collaborative advantage” (Kanter, 1994) to solve problems together (Huxham and Vangen, 2005). Collaborative advantage, meaning being a good partner, arises from organisations pooling resources and expertise for a common aim, creating synergy. A reason to discard Huxham’s collaborative model is that it focuses on cooperative relationships that have complementary rather than shared goals.

And it depends whether we're researching engagement between individuals or between organisations.  If the stakeholders for this research project are individuals, then data from a collaborative model of organisations is not relevant.

Marcum, comparing motivation with engagement, points out that people choose to be engaged. He reviews literature on engagement from learning theory, information management and philosophy, concluding that “An engagement mindset offers a more useful model for cultivating mutually beneficial working relationships with staff and colleagues ... engagement is based on learning and involvement” (Marcum, 1999  p. 46). Marcum’s perspective concurs with Hartwick and Barki’s findings that participation and involvement depend on whether IT system use is mandatory or voluntary (Hartwick and Barki, 1994). Previous discussion explored different constructions of engagement, but did not identify an existing conceptual framework for the phenomenon. We still do not understand the quality of the engagement, what produces it, how and whose engagement leads to effectiveness.

Participation I look at participation in a separate posting because it merits special attention.

We need research that looks at the process of engagement and how interaction between people builds commitment

ARBAUGH, J. B. (2000) 'How Classroom Environment and Student Engagement Affect Learning in Internet-based MBA Courses'. Business Communication Quarterly, 63, 9-26.
AXELROD, R. H. (2001) 'Terms of engagement: changing the way we change organizations'. Journal for Quality & Participation, 24, 22.
AXELROD, R. H. (2002) Terms of engagement: changing the way we change organizations, ed, San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler.
AXELROD, R. H., AXELROD, E., BEEDON, J. & JACOBS, C. D. (2004) You don't have to do it alone: how to involve others to get things done, ed, San Francisco, CA, Berrett-Koehler.
AXELROD, R. H. & MACLEOD, H. B. (2002) 'Engaging the Staff'. Health Forum Journal, 45, 22.
BARKI, H. & HARTWICK, J. (1989) 'Rethinking the Concept of User Involvement'. MIS Quarterly, 13, 53-63.
BLOCK, P. (2000) Flawless consulting: a guide to getting your expertise used, 2 ed, Jossey-Bass/Fpeiffer.
HANDLEY, K., CLARK, T., FINCHAM, R. & STURDY, A. (2007) 'Researching Situated Learning'. Management Learning, 38, 173-191.
HARTWICK, J. & BARKI, H. (1994) 'Explaining the Role of User Participation in Information System Use'. Management Science, 40, 440-465.
HUXHAM, C. (1993) 'Pursuing Collaborative Advantage'. Journal of the Operational Research Society, 44, 599-611.
HUXHAM, C. & VANGEN, S. (2005) Managing to collaborate: the theory and practice of collaborative advantage, ed, London; New York, Routledge.
KANTER, R. M. (1994) 'Collaborative Advantage: The Art of Alliances'. Harvard Business Review, 72, 96.
MARCUM, J. W. (1999) 'Out with motivation, in with engagement'. National Productivity Review, 18, 43-46.
MCCORMICK, M. T. (1999) The impact of large-scale participative interventions on participants, Philadelphia, Temple University
MOLLEN, A. (2010) 'Engagement, telepresence and interactivity in online consumer experience: Reconciling scholastic and managerial perspectives'. Journal of business research, 63, 919-925.
ROBINSON, C. C. & HULLINGER, H. (2008) 'New Benchmarks in Higher Education: Student Engagement in Online Learning'. Journal of Education for Business, 84, 101-109.
SAKS, A. M. (2006) 'Antecedents and consequences of employee engagement'. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 21, 600-619.
SAKS, A. M. (2008) 'The Meaning and Bleeding of Employee Engagement: How Muddy Is the Water?'. Industrial & Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice, 1, 40-43.
SCHAUFELI, W. B., BAKKER, A. B. & SALANOVA, M. (2006) 'The Measurement of Work Engagement With a Short Questionnaire: A Cross-National Study'. Educational & Psychological Measurement, 66, 701-716.
WEICK, K. E. (1995) Sensemaking in organizations, ed, Thousand Oaks, Sage Publications.
YATCHMENOFF, D. K. (2005) 'Measuring Client Engagement From the Client’s Perspective in Nonvoluntary Child Protective Services'. Research on Social Work Practice, 15, 84-96.


  1. You're correct, there has been a lot written about engagemt in one form or another! You've found some interesting publications, please would you add the full references to your post?

    I realise now that the sentence I wrote in my comment is confusing becasue although I have tried to refer to engagement with research, I do to refer to engagement (in general) not engagement with research (i.e. the subject of our project) in particular in that sentance. When I wrote 'in general' I was trying to cover all the 'actions' you mentioned in one simple phrase. It backfired!

    That dosn't diminih the value of the literature you've referred to, but we must remain aware that it is about engagement in a variety of practices, but not in research, so we need to work out if and how it can be applied to research in general and our particular intervention (Juxtlearn/trick topics/storyboards) in particular.

    Here's a rewrite of the sntence aimed at clarifying it:

    I'm not sure there is anyone as yet who can tell you how to engage with all these aspects of research, becuase as far as I know there has been little work on systematically analysing engagement with research either qualitatively and quantitativley: that's the gap the seed funding is aiming to fill.

    I admit that this view is not based on a thorough literature review, but merely on an impression gained during the seed funding workhop, and the fact that we've been funded to carry out the project by people who are knowledgable on the topic of engagemet with research. Perhaps I have too much faith.....