Testing the nomological network for the Personal Engagement Model


The study of employee engagement has been a key focus of management for over three decades. The academic literature on engagement has generated multiple definitions but there are two primary models of engagement: the Personal Engagement Model of Kahn (1990), and the Work Engagement Model (WEM) of Schaufeli et al., (2002). While the former is cited by most authors as the seminal work on engagement, research has tended to focus on elements of the model and most theoretical work on engagement has predominantly used the WEM to consider the topic. The purpose of this study was to test all the elements of the nomological network of the PEM to determine whether the complete model of personal engagement is viable. This was done using data from a large, complex public sector workforce. Survey questions were designed to test each element of the PEM and administered to a sample of the workforce (n = 3,103). The scales were tested and refined using confirmatory factor analysis and then the model was tested determine the structure of the nomological network. This was validated and the generalisability of the final model was tested across different work and organisational types. The results showed that the PEM is viable but there were differences from what was originally proposed by Kahn (1990). Specifically, of the three psychological conditions deemed necessary for engagement to occur, meaningfulness, safety, and availability, only meaningfulness was found to contribute to employee engagement. The model demonstrated that employees experience meaningfulness through both the nature of the work that they do and the organisation within which they do their work. Finally, the findings were replicated across employees in different work types and different organisational types. This thesis makes five contributions to the engagement paradigm. It advances engagement theory by testing the PEM and showing that it is an adequate representation of engagement. A model for testing the causal mechanism for engagement has been articulated, demonstrating that meaningfulness in work is a primary mechanism for engagement. The research has shown the key aspects of the workplace in which employees experience meaningfulness, the nature of the work that they do and the organisation within which they do it. It has demonstrated that this is consistent across organisations and the type of work. Finally, it has developed a reliable measure of the different elements of the PEM which will support future research in this area

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