The Meaning, Antecedents and Outcomes of Employee Engagement: A Narrative Synthesis

Catherine Bailey, A. Madden, Kerstin Alfes, Luke Fletcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The claim that high levels of engagement can enhance organizational performance and individual wellbeing has not previously been tested through a systematic review of the evidence. To bring coherence to the diffuse body of literature on engagement, we conducted a systematic narrative evidence synthesis involving 214 studies that focused on the meaning, antecedents and outcomes of engagement. We identified six distinct conceptualizations of engagement, with the field dominated by the Utrecht Group’s ‘work engagement’ construct and measure, and by the theorization of engagement within the ‘job demands-resources’ framework. Five groups of factors served as antecedents to engagement: psychological states, job design, leadership, organizational and team factors, and organizational interventions. Engagement was found to be positively associated with individual morale, task performance, extra-role performance and organizational performance, and the evidence was most robust in relation to task performance. However, there was an over-reliance on quantitative, cross-sectional, and self-report studies within the field which limited claims of causality. To address controversies over the commonly used measures and concepts in the field and gaps in the evidence base, we set out an agenda for future research that integrates emerging critical sociological perspectives on engagement with the psychological perspectives that currently dominate the field.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-53
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Management Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2015

Bibliographical note

This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Bailey, C., Madden, A., Alfes, K. and Fletcher, L. (2015), The Meaning, Antecedents and Outcomes of Employee Engagement: A Narrative Synthesis. International Journal of Management Reviews, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.


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