Research Methodology Chapter: Communication Research

One communication-related aspect of the engagement debate concerns the fundamental nature of engagement and whether it can be considered an attitude, a psychological or motivational state, or a personality trait. The nature of engagement is a significant issue for corporate communicators since they are well-placed to influence workplace attitudes and stimulate employee motivation. Kahn (1990) presents engagement as a three-component construct influenced by three psychological states. Robinson et al. (2004) define the concept as a positive attitude. Conversely, Saks (2006) argues that engagement is not an attitude but a psychological state, while others (Sparrow and Balain, 2010) believe that engagement is an attitude. Macey and Schneider (2008a) regard engagement as a complex network encompassing trait, state, and behavioural constructs. Kahn (2010) contrasts his conception of dynamic engagement with steady-state (trait) views of motivation. Kahn describes engagement as both delicate and fragile, and quite resilient. So, Kahn’s view of engagement exhibits a mixture of attitudinal-type states together with more fixed steady-state predisposition traits. This complex state and trait view of engagement is useful for communicators since it highlights a need for employee communication to understand and serve internal stakeholders’ core (trait) communication needs, as well as surface (state and attitude) communication needs. Moreover, internal communication represents one of the organisational conditions that facilitate engagement.

Pugh and Dietz (2008) consider leadership as a precursor of organisation engagement and organisational effectiveness as a consequence. The communication abilities of leadership teams are recognised as important in driving engagement (Wiley et al., 2010). Communication has been identified also as an underlying factor associated with employee engagement (Kahn, 1992). Likewise, MacLeod and Clarke (2009) highlight communication as a critical factor for enhancing performance through employee engagement. They argue that good quality internal communication enhances engagement as they emphasise that employees need clear communication from senior management to understand how their own roles fit with the organisation vision. Unsurprisingly, they cite poor communication as a barrier to engagement and a cause of disengagement. However, contributions from the professionals on communication disciplines are surprisingly meager given that internal communication is an organisational level intervention which can positively impact employee engagement.

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Internal communication in any organisation has been stated to have a correlation with employee feeling of self-satisfaction and their productivity (Clampitt and Downs, 1992). High communication effectiveness is linked to better financial performance and organizational stability (Internal communication effectiveness enhances bottom-line results, journal of organizational excellence, Summer 2006, pp 71-71)

Van Riel (1998, pp. 8-27) gives an overview of the elements of corporate communication as all the communication within an organisation, such as managerial communication, organisational communication, and marketing communication. This informs the employee’s willingness to meet the strategic mission, vision, and objectives of the organisation which creates a competitive advantage of the organisation.

Research Design

This section will discuss the research framework proposed for use in this study. This methodological framework is influenced by the “research onion” model develop by Saunders (2012) pp 128 which include general information regarding the research design and strategy, method of data collection, measurement of variable and data analysis as well as evaluate the credibility and validity of the study. There would be an examination of merits and demerits of the chosen methods use in this study, a consideration of ethical issues, as a result, the limitations.

Research Design

Available literature considers basically five different approaches ranging from experimental, case study, longitudinal, cross-sectional to comparative design (Bryman and Bell, 2011; Saunders et al, 2009). In view of the aim of this research, there will be a combination of approaches also known as a mixed method in the investigation of the research theme (Saunders et al, 2009). Also, a set of quantifiable data will be collected to help establish the relationship between two or more variables (Bryman and Bell, 2011).

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Research Strategy

The strategy to be adopted for this research will be quantitative in nature, this is because will be formulation and testing of hypotheses which are tentative suppositions or proposed explanations made based on limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation which on the face of empirical evidence could hold true or false and as such be graduated to be theory or otherwise. According to Saunders et al, (2009) quantitative research is a strategy that lay emphasis on quantification in data collection and analysis that provides solid scientific fact of knowledge on the basis of positivism.

Furthermore, Bryman and Bell, (2011) suggested that the application of a quantitative research strategy has the latent for statistical generalization as against qualitative research employed in many social and natural sciences academic disciplines which are more descriptive. This method of approach, therefore, is more useful to achieve the set aims and objectives of this research stated herein.

Data Collection

There will be the use of both primary and secondary data collection sources to collect appropriate and relevant data that will enable credible, complete and valid conclusions in accordance with the aims and objectives of the research. Primary data will include the conduct of interview of some members of the management team of the case study organisation and a questionnaire of other concerned employees. The use of these two methods is hoped to balance some of the limitations inherent in each. In addition, this research will use the content analysis approach which is a strategy for the review and analysis of relevant secondary documents from Abellio.

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Data Analysis

All data collected for the purpose of this research will be careful analysis and tested against the theories with the aid of IBM SPSS statistical program. IBM SPSS Statistics is an integrated software product that addresses the entire analytical process, from planning to data collection to analysis, reporting, and deployment (Gaskin, J, 2012). It provides a range of statistical procedures suitable for many problems, including crosstabs, linear regression, Monte Carlo simulation, geospatial analytics, and the ability to extend built-in capabilities with Python, R, or Java code (IBM.com). I have opted for IBM SPSS statistical program for its effectiveness in data analysis and presentation quality of custom tables to help users and analysts to interpret data which could then be tested against the theoretical statements that could, in turn, lead to further generalisation statements (Bryman and Bell, 2011).

Limitations of Study

The following limitations are anticipated:

1.Data collected is based on interviews and questionnaires administered and as such respondents may not give the actual situation for fear that management of reprisal action against them

2.The data collected by the observation technique may be very limited.

3.The case study organisation has a large number of employees consequently, only one hundred of the affected will be sampled through the rank and file.

4.Equally important is the problem of time as the research will only be conducted within given three-month period.


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