Employee Engagement within an Organization – Assignment

Employee Engagement among Different Levels of Employees – A Case Study on an Oman Company

1.0 Proposed Title

Employee Engagement among Different Levels of Employees – A Case Study on an Oman Company.

2.0 Literature Review

2.1 Employee Engagement – Overview

‘Employee engagement’ is a common buzz phrase in the HR field. Employee engagement is the level of commitment and involvement an employee has towards their organization and its values. An engaged employee is aware of business context, works with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organization and has a positive attitude held by towards the organization and its values (Robinson et al, 2004). The term ‘employee engagement’ is interpreted differently in psychology and management literature. In psychology employee engagement is closely associated with the existing construction of job involvement (Brown, 1996) and flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). According to Lawler and Hall (1970), job involvement is defined as “the degree to which the job situation is central to the person and his or her identity”. Kanungo (1982) maintained that job involvement is a ‘cognitive or belief state of psychological identification’. From a management theorist perspective, Buchanan (2004) proposes that employee engagement consists of two types of commitment: emotional and rational. .The emotional commitment is very important in determining the performance of the employee.

Kahn (1990), in his research, analyzed employee involvement based on motivation models of Alderfer (1972) and Maslow (1954), found three psychological conditions as components of employee engagement: meaningfulness, safety and availability (p.703). The journal of Management Today (2004) argues that employee engagement is the current term being used for the same phenomenon that has historically been ‘the key to building a sustainable high-performance organization. It argues that previously managers engaged employees utilize their natural talents’ (Coffman and Gonzalez-Molina, 2002, p.2). Many authors (Schein, 1970, 1987 and Marquardt, 2000) argue that employee engagement is influenced by various socio-cultural factors. The culture and climate of organizations (i.e. systems and satisfaction with the organization) are expected to influence employee engagement.

Employee engagement research is popularized by Gallup Organisation (The Gallup Organisation, 2004) and major employee research organisations and corporate are conducting this kind of survey now. Employee engagement surveys are good tool for finding about the employee involvement and satisfaction. According to the Gallup organization research (2004), there is a significant relationship between employee engagement and customer loyalty, business growth and profitability of the company. HR practitioners believe that the engagement challenge has a lot to do with how employee feels about the work experience and how he or she is treated in the organization. The Gallup research in employee engagement studies since 1985 has thus made a contribution in adding an additional ‘P’ to the 4 P’s of marketing i.e. product, price, and promotion place and now people to the marketing mix.

An example of a company that has utilised the instrument developed by Gallup is B & Q, a UK-based, home improvement company. Since the year 2000, the company has been measuring employee engagement using the Q12 survey. In 1998, about 3500 employee from 43 B &Q stores participated in the nine-month pilot program. The instrument consists of 12 questions and the respondents were asked to indicate to what extent they agree or disagree to each question on a scale of one to five. High scores on the survey indicate a high level of engagement. The scores were then used by Gallup to correlate with business outcomes such as customer feedback, sales, turnover etc, via a procedure referred to as Business Impact Analysis. Engagement is associated with increasing productivity and customer engagement, resulting in higher profits (Tritch, 2003). The findings enable the company to identify what factors contribute to engagement, the causes of disengagement and devise ways in which to increase engagement levels. After six months, the Q12 was administered again and the scores of the engaged workers are shown to be higher than before. The results of B&Q studies based on the administration of the instrument on seven occasions have also consistently shown that there is a link between employee engagement and work performance.

Clearly the design of a measurement instrument is important. An instrument is considered reliable if it consistently measures what it intends to measure. It is recognised that reliability is a precondition to validity although a reliable instrument may not necessarily guarantee validity. In developing the Q12, Gallup has conducted focus groups and interviews on different organisations in different countries. Such rigorous procedures have yielded a reliable and valid instrument in which to measure engagement.

The proposed study will involve administering a similar instrument to a group of workers in an Oman company. However, given that this will be a small-scale study, the number of participants will be considerably less. Furthermore, unlike in the B&Q study, time constraint will not allow the study to measure whether there are any changes in terms of productivity and sales with the increase of employee engagement. The findings of the survey may indicate the present levels of employee engagement in the company where strategies can then be formulated to address issues of engagement. However, it will not be possible to assess the outcomes of the implemented strategies.

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The use of outsourcing and virtual workstations and teams has increased dramatically in recent years and has become a more strategic process in corporate world. The empirical research on organizational commitment has not sufficiently focused on the outsourcing work environment and multiple cultures (Marquardt, 2000).

2.2 The concept of Employee Engagement

According to the Global Studies (Harter, Schmidt & Hayes, 2002), there are three basic aspects of employee engagement are:

  • The employees and their own unique psychological make up and experience
  • The employers and their ability to create the conditions that promote employee engagement
  • Interaction between employees at all levels.

Thus, it is largely the organization’s responsibility to create an environment and culture conducive to this partnership, and a win-win equation.

2.3 Categories of Employee Engagement

According to the Gallup Consulting organization (The Gallup Organisation, 2004, Cufade, cited in Lamphear, 2004, p.2), there are different types of people.

Engaged

Engaged” employees are builders. They are more committed to the organization. They are naturally curious about their company and their place in it. They perform at consistently high levels. They want to use their talents and strengths at work every day. They work with passion and they drive innovation and move their organization forward. They are less likely to leave the organization.

Not Engaged

Not-engaged employees tend to concentrate on tasks rather than the goals and outcomes they are expected to accomplish. They want to be told what to do just they can do it and say they have finished. They focus on accomplishing tasks vs. achieving an outcome. Employees who are not-engaged tend to feel their contributions are being overlooked, and their potential is not being tapped. They often feel this way because they don’t have productive relationships with their managers or with their co-workers.

Actively Disengaged

The “actively disengaged” employees are the “cave-dwellers.” They are “consistently against virtually everything.” They are not just unhappy at work; they are busy acting out their unhappiness .They sow seeds of negativity at every opportunity. Every day, actively disengaged workers undermine what their engaged co-workers accomplish. As workers increasingly rely on each other to generate products and services, the problems and tensions that are fostered by actively disengaged workers can cause great damage to an organization’s functioning. They increase the cost of the organization by low quality, customer satisfaction, and missed opportunity.

2.4 Why Measure Employee Engagement?

The different categories of engagement above highlights the importance of measuring employee engagement. Clearly, employee engagement is critical to any organization that seeks to retain valued employees given that a highly engaged employee will consistently deliver beyond expectations. The research conducted by Harter, Schmidt and Hayes (2002) on employee engagement reveals that employees with high engagement show substantially higher performance. Another study by Watson Wyatt consulting company (2003) has shown that there is an intrinsic link between employee engagement, customer loyalty, and profitability. An implication of this is that there should a two-way relationship. To drive engagement, employers will need to provide the right environment. However, it is not only important for the organization to create conditions for the purpose of organizational performance in terms of productivity and profitability. The conditions must also contribute to employees’ overall sense of well-being (Schmidt 2004). As organizations become more global and more dependent on technology in a virtual working environment, there is a greater need to connect and engage with employees to provide them with an organizational ‘identity.’

2.5 Factors Determining the Employee Engagement

The research studies (Buckingham and Coffman, 2000; Macgowan, 2003) revealed some of the critical factors which determine the employee engagement are: the employee empowerment, image, equal opportunities and fair treatment, performance appraisal, pay and benefits, health and safety, job satisfaction, communication, family friendliness, co-operation, career development, leadership, clarity of company values, respectful treatment of employees and company’s standards of ethical behaviour (Kahn 1999, p.703)

3.0 Rationale

The proposed research will examine the levels of employee engagement in an Oman company and the factors related to their engagement. The findings will enable the company to not only identify the existing strategies that have succeeded in promoting engagement but also to formulate new strategies to improve engagement.

The findings, however, will not only be of value to the organization. It is hoped that they will also contribute to the existing literature on employee engagement. The literature has pointed to a large number of studies on employee engagement conducted in the UK and the US. However, there has been little research conducted in Oman. Therefore, it is timely to conduct this study to see whether the factors that have been identified in previous research can be generalised to the context of the proposed study. Apart from attempting to test and validate existing theories on factors related to employee engagement, the study will also attempt to uncover factors that may be unique to the context of study. This will perhaps contribute to a better understanding of how different situational factors relate to different levels of engagement.

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4.0 Aims and Objectives

Aim

To investigate the different factors that effect employees engagement in an International Organisation in Oman.

Objectives

  • To measure the employee against each factors.
  • To identify the level of commitment and involvement of employees against different levels
  • To measure the overall level of employee engagement.
  • To investigate the influences of commitment

5.0 Research Methodology

In conducting the proposed study, I will adopt a constructivist stance with an understanding that a social phenomenon is jointly constructed by individuals within a specific context. My research does not aim to generate propositional claims as is common with post-positivist traditions. But rather I am interested in understanding the relationship between the factors of employee engagement and levels of engagement. A constructivist approach is often associated with qualitative inquiry. As pointed out by Bryman and Bell (2003) qualitative research ‘usually emphasizes words rather than quantification in the collection and analysis of data. It is also inductivist, constructionist and Interpretivist in nature’ ( p. 279).

Nevertheless, according to Jansen and Anderson (2004, p.76), if the researcher has to deal with a large number of respondents, survey research is an obvious method to choose. Survey research is often used in organisational science research. Survey research concerns the opinions, attitudes, motives, values and norms of the respondents or their actions. This generally means that the researcher will have to question people, by using an oral interview, or much more commonly the written questionnaire. In survey research specific behaviours can be investigated, such as behaviour that took place at an earlier time, behaviour that is quite seldom, or behaviour that occurs in private. (Velde and et.al, 2004, p 77).

In view of the aims and objectives of the study, I have chosen to adopt a mixed-methods approach. A mixed methods inquiry is guided by the underlying assumption that the complexity of social phenomena can be better understood through a variety of data sources.

5.2 Methods

Case study

To investigate employee satisfaction, the researcher needs to make a detailed study on the opinion of the employees in an organisation. For this the researcher will have to record the opinions, attitudes, motives, their actions, values and beliefs of the employees in the organisation. Also, the researcher will have to get opinion from a large number of the employees to get a true and clear picture of their satisfaction. The researcher also needs to describe the opinion of the employees.

The employee survey is a diagnostic tool of choice in the battle for the hearts of employees. Studies of Gallup, Mercer, Hewitt and Watson Wyatt (consulting companies) involve asking workers a number of questions relating to their job satisfaction (Gallup organisation, 2004). Gallup being pioneer in the field of employee engagement, conducted focus group and hundreds of focus group and thousand of interviews has came up with the Survey model (Halbesleben, 2003) which consist of twelve questions and it measures whether the workers are aware of what is expected from them, necessary materials and equipment are available, job satisfaction, opportunities, environment, health and safety, communication and management practices.

Secondary date

This will concentrate mostly on key facts, results from survey, which has been quoted by well known reputable research firms, illustrating key points that are contributing to the development of rewarding brands. In research, secondary data that was collected and was processed by people other than the researcher in question. The common sources of secondary data include censuses, large surveys, and organisational records. A secondary source is a summary of a book or set of records. Secondary data analysis is usually known as second-hand data analysis. It is the analysis of the relevant pre-existing data in a different way or to answer a different question other than the one the study was originally intended to answer. Secondary data analysis utilises the data that was collected by some other researcher in the past in order to further a study that the present researcher is interested in completing. Common sources of secondary data are social science surveys, previous researchers and data from government agencies. (McCaston, 1998).

5.3 Ethical considerations

To be able to conduct this research, I will first need to obtain permission from the company to gain access to participants and also other relevant data. Investigating levels of employee engagement require sensitivity on my part as a researcher. Ethical concerns include guaranteeing the anonymity of the participants and confidentiality of any information disclosed by participants so that it will not be attributable to any specific individual.

However in order to conduct the survey itself a certain amount of privacy for each respondent is necessary. The reasons are: Firstly, the questions involve personal opinions which the respondent may not wish to share and secondly, for the respondents may respond to peer/supervisor pressure in a group situation. Oliver (2003).

The survey will be conducted in an environment where interviewer well-being is not an issue.

The integrity of the research comes from adopting a sound methodological approach. Firstly, in the design of the questionnaire to obtain accurate raw data. Bryman (2004). Secondly, in the physical process of collecting the data. Thirdly, in the analysis of the raw data using appropriate theory. Lawler and Hall (1970).

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Compliance with university is not an issue. As the research will be conducted within university guidelines.

Reputational issues. These are not significant issues but need to be acknowledged. Firstly, for the company- not an issue because it is not identified in the research. Secondly, for the respondents – they are not identified and so their reputation is not an issue. Thirdly, the researcher – accepts the obligations of conducting primary research and adheres to the guidelines set by the university.

6.0 Structure of Dissertation

7.0 Research Questions

  • What are the factors which influence employee engagement?
  • What is the level of commitment and involvement of employees against different levels and the overall level of employee engagement?
  • What types of strategies improve employee engagement?

8.0 Project Schedule

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