Employee engagement in the public sector: a narrative evidence synthesis

Luke Fletcher, Katie Bailey, Kerstin Alfes, Adrian Madden

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


It has been claimed that employee engagement can harness public service motivation in ways that better staff functioning and positive organizational outcomes, and can help address the increasingly complex challenges associated with public service in an era of austerity. Despite this, there has not yet been a systematic review of the literature that would enable researchers to understand more about the antecedent factors and the outcomes of engagement in the public sector. To address this issue, we undertook a systematic narrative synthesis of the empirical research on engagement that yielded 5771 published studies; of which just 59 were conducted in public sector settings and met our inclusion criteria. The evidence was far from conclusive, suggesting a need for much more rigorous research focused on the specific challenges of public sector settings. Despite this, studies generally found that motivational features of jobs (such as autonomy), groups (such as social support), management (such as leader consideration), and organizations (such as voice mechanisms) as well as psychological resources were key antecedents of engagement within the public sector; and that engagement was associated with positive employee health/morale and enhanced performance behaviors. We make recommendations for further research on this important topic, particularly with regards to understanding the connection between public service motivation and engagement and examining engagement across different public sector/service contexts.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAcademy of Management Proceedings
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes
Event76th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management: Making Organizations Meaningful - Anaheim, United States
Duration: 5 Aug 20169 Aug 2016
Conference number: 76th

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