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Timeline of engagement research and future research directions

Purpose – Studies suggest that engagement is related with organizationally desired outcomes, including performance, productivity, profitability, employee retention, organization citizenship behavior and employee well-being. Despite its practical relevance in the workplace, the concept of engagement has been theoretically dispersed. Therefore, this study aims to present a conceptual review of engagement studies leading to the development of a nomological framework and an evolution timeline for the concept. Design/methodology/approach – The present study is divided into three sections. The first section elicits the nomological framework based on the comparison between engagement, its predecessors and its contemporary concepts such as motivation theories, job design theories, burnout theories and positive psychology. A review of related theories and concepts highlights the similarities and differences vis-a-vis engagement. In the second section, the study depicts the evolution of the engagement concept based on the nomological framework. The evolution is discussed through the decades of before 1990, 1990-2000, 2000-2010 and 2010 onwards. To consolidate the theories and concepts, the authors covered studies that defined engagement as role engagement, personal engagement, work engagement and employee engagement. The third section presents the future research directions based on the framework and evolution. Findings – The literature review reveals future research directions. These include the addition of new antecedents and theoretical frameworks to enrich the explanatory power and practical relevance of the antecedents of engagement, exploring the context of work with qualitative and mixed method designs, exploring the unit of “role” in engagement studies and the need for more replication studies in this field. Originality/value – The key contributions of this paper are the nomological framework and the timeline of the evolution of engagement concept.