TABLE OF CONTENTS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF FIGURES
1.2 Background of the problem
1.3 Research problem
1.4 Aim of the research
1.5 Research objectives
1.6 Research questions
1.7 Significance of the research
1.8 Format of the study
2.2 Definition of employee engagement
2.3 Types of employee engagement
2.4 Components of employee engagement
2.5 Theoretical frameworks
2.5.1 Khan’s model on employee engagement
2.5.2 The Saks model on employee engagement
2.5.3 The Aon Hewitt model on employee engagement
2.5.4 The Robinson model on employee engagement
2.6 Factors influencing employee engagement
2.6.1 Emotional energy factors
2.6.2. Cognitive/ Mental energy factors
2.6.3 Physical energy factors
2.7 Impact of employee engagement on organisational performance
2.8 Job performance (outputs) of employee engagement
2.8.1 Task performance
2.8.2 Intention to quit
2.8.3 Organisational citizen behaviour (OCB)
2.9 Ways of improving employee engagement in the workplace
2.10 Research model
3.2 Research philosophy
3.2. 1 Positivist research paradigm
3.2.2 Phenomenological research paradigm
3.3 The research design
3.3.1 Descriptive Research
3.4 Research Strategies
3.4.1 Positivist Research Strategy Surveys
3.4.2 Phenomenological Research Strategies
3.4.3 Combined Research Strategies
3.5 Target population
3.6.1 Probability sampling
3.7 The research instrument
3.7.1 Questionnaire construction
3.8 Pilot study
3.9 Administration of questionnaires
3.10 Collection of questionnaires
3.11 Data analysis
3.12 Validity and reliability
3.13 Limitations of the research
3.14 Elimination of bias
3.15 Ethical considerations
RESULTS, DISCUSSION AND INTERPRETATION OF FINDINGS
4.2 Response rate
4.3 Biographic information
4.4 An exploration of the factors affecting engagement levels of the employees at Northlands Medical Group in Namibia
4.4.1 Job intensitvy
4.4.2 Job Effort
4.4.3 Job Energy Devotion
4.4.4 Performing Job Well
4.4.5 Job Completion
4.4.6 Job Energy Exertion
4.4.7 Job Enthusiasm
4.4.8 Energy on the Job
4.4.9 Job Interest
4.4.10 Job Pride
4.4.11 Job Positivity
4.4.12 Job Excitement
4.4.13 Job Focus
4.4.14 Paying Attention at the Job
4.4.15 Job Concentration
4.4.16 Job Focus and Attention
4.4.17 Job Absorption
4.4.18 Devotion to Job Attention
4.5 An exploration of the impact relationship between employee engagement and organisational performance
4.5.1 Engagement with the Organisation through Commitment
4.5.2 Engagement with Management through Open Communication Policies
4.5.3 Engaged Mostly with the Organisation
4.5.4 Intention to Quit
4.5.5 Staying on the Job and High Performance
4.5.6 Company Advocacy to Potential Employees
4.5.7 Company Advocacy to Potential Clients
4.5.8 Job Performance and Positive Impact on Organisational Performance
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
5.2 Findings from the study
5.2.1 Findings from the literature review
5.2.2 Findings from the primary research
5.3.1 Conclusion on objective One: To ascertain the factors affecting the engagement levels of the employees at Northlands Medical Group
5.3.2 Conclusion on objective Two: The relationship between employee engagement and organisational performance
5.5 Area/s for further study
Appendix A Draft covering letter to respondents
Appendix B Letter of permission to conduct study
Appendix C Questionnaire
Appendix D Ethical Clearance form
This dissertation is dedicated to the directors and all the employees of Northlands Medical Group who work tirelessly every day to offer quality health care services to Namibians from all walks of life in the utmost degree of kindness, compassion and professionalism.
I would like to acknowledge the following people who have been very instrumental in my studies:
First and foremost I would like to acknowledge my personal Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ for my salvation and grace over my life.
Secondly, I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart, my ‘heartbeats’, thus my husband Joseph and my children. Words alone can never express how much my husband means to me and how his encouragement, provisions, guidance and most of all his unconditional love has made the completion of this dissertation possible. My children: Summer, Savannah and Serene- they are mummy’s everything. I thank them for their patience and encouragement, they are all loved dearly.
Thirdly, I would like to thank the entire Northlands Medical Group team for their cooperation and fully availing themselves during the interviews for this study.
Moreover, I would like to sincerely thank my supervisor, Dr George Hove, for availing himself to supervise me during this study. I truly appreciated his expert guidance and encouragement.
Also, I would like to thank my siblings: Alpha, Concilia, Marcia, Kays and Athurnatious for their constant prayers and cheerleading. They are all truly a blessing to my life.
Last and not least I would like to sincerely thank my dear departed parents, Alvord and Salome Gwanzura, for instilling a culture and value of hard work and perseverance. I am forever grateful.
Employee performance and the nature of interaction with customers are critical in the service industry such as the health care industry. Employee engagement, a contemporary concept linked to employee job satisfaction and motivation, has been well recognised in the literature as being sturdily correlated with their performance, presentism, and advocacy and retention intentions. Therefore, organisations need to empirically and robustly measure employee engagement amongst their staff complement, and determine factors that may influence it, so as to take evidence-based remedial action.
The aim of this research was to evaluate employee engagement within Northlands Medical Group, Namibia and its potential impact on organisational performance. The company management made a realisation that there was a dearth of robust information regarding employees’ engagement levels, as well as their intentions to quit or stay, and factors influencing these. This was a quantitative survey study and a structured questionnaire was used to ascertain the factors affecting employee engagement. The survey was conducted telephonically to a study population of 80 respondents. The study population was randomly selected from the company database of all the employees.
Findings from primary research pertaining to the factors affecting engagement levels of the employees at Northlands Medical Group revealed that there were 3 main factors that affect employee engagement namely emotional, cognitive/mental and physical energy factors. The majority of the Northlands Medical Group employees have been found to be actively engaged in all the three major factors that affect engagement. In relation to describing the relationship between employee engagement and organisational performance, findings revealed that there is a very strong connection between employee engagement and organisational performance. The primary research findings revealed that the majority of the Northlands Medical group employees were fully committed to their job, the organisation and they have great advocacy for the company to potential employees and clients. This could be a sign of active engagement and in turn, organisational performance thrives from that. Based on the study findings the main recommendations suggested to the management of Northlands Medical Group in-order for them to maintain or even improve their employees’ engagement levels in the future were that management should hold branch meetings quarterly every year and also organise some team building activities at least once a year. Areas for further study were also recommended. One recommendation was that a similar study could be carried out yearly to keep upbeat with the engagement levels in the organisation. This study would add to the body of knowledge of what is currently known about employee engagement in Namibia.
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 2.1: Kahn’s Model on employee engagement
Figure 2.2: The Saks model on employee engagement
Figure 2.3: The AON Hewitt model on employee engagement
Figure 2.4: The Robinson model of employment engagement
Figure 2.5: The research model
Figure 4.1: Gender distribution of respondents
Figure 4.2: Educational qualifications
Figure 4.3: Age distribution
Figure 4.4: Job intensity
Figure 4.5: Job effort
Figure 4.6: Job energy devotion
Figure 4.7: Performing job well
Figure 4.8: Job completion
Figure 4.9: Job energy exertion
Figure 4.10: Job enthusiasm
Figure 4.11: Energy on the job
Figure 4.12: Job interest
Figure 4.13: Job pride
Figure 4.14: Job positivity
Figure 4.15: Job excitement
Figure 4.16: Job focus
Figure 4.17: Paying attention at the job
Figure 4.18: Job concentration
Figure 4.19: Job focus and attention
Figure 4.20: Job absorption
Figure 4.21: Devotion to job attention
Figure 4.22: Engagement with the organisation through commitment
Figure 4.23: Engagement with management through open communication policies
Figure 4.24: Engagement mostly with the organisation
Figure 4.25: Intention to quit
Figure 4.26: Staying on the job and high performance
Figure 4.27: Company advocacy to potential employees
Figure 4.28: Company advocacy to potential clients
Figure 4.29: Job performance and positive impact on organisational performance
The competitiveness in the Namibian medical industry has intensified in the past decade, threatening the survival of many organisations operating in this sector. Consequently, the quest for survival has spurred all organisations to review competitive strategies and the bolstering of their internal strengths and appeal to the market. Employee performance and the nature of interaction with customers are critical in the service industry such as the health care industry. Employee engagement, a contemporary concept linked to employee job satisfaction and motivation, has been well recognised in the literature as being sturdily correlated with their performance, presentism and advocacy and retention intentions. Therefore, organisations need to empirically and robustly measure employee engagement amongst their staff complement, and determine factors that may influence it, in order to take evidence-based remedial action.
This chapter covers the background to the problem, problem statement, the aim of the study, research objectives, research questions, significance of the study, the format of the study and conclusion.
1.2 Background of the problem
Northlands Medical Group is a privately owned company which owns and manages seven general medical polyclinics in different towns of Namibia. The company has grown rapidly in the past eight years to establish the seven such clinics. At present, the staff complement is made up of medical doctors, both fulltime and part-timers/locum, nurses, administrative and general staff. According to the Northlands Medical Group inaugural human resources planning and performance audit review (2017), the company has had a good track record so far in terms of employee performance and retention. However, recently, a seemingly highly engaged senior employee suddenly resigned with neither notice nor reason. Immediately, the company management made a realisation that there is a dearth of robust information regarding employees’ engagement levels, as well as their intentions to quit or stay, and factors influencing these. One way to try and understand how employees perform is by measuring their engagement with management, their peers and the company as a whole. This quest to understanding employee engagement and retention is what motivated the evaluation of the employee engagement and its impact on organisational performance at Northlands Medical Group, Namibia. The study hopes to measure the level of current employee engagement and how it is affecting organisational performance. A fundamental question was also asked, whether employees stayed on the job as a result that they were well engaged or that there was no other option?
According to the auditing firm, Deloitte (2018), the plethora of published peer-reviewed literature on employee engagement has emboldened the body of knowledge and the mainstreaming of this concept in contemporary employee motivation efforts globally. Enterprises are actively tracking and empirically measuring their employee engagement levels given its well-established influence on employee performance and intention of talented employees to stay or leave the company, which consequently impacts on organisational performance. Namibia is one country where employee engagement and consequent talent migration is taken seriously. An illustration of this fact is the “Best Company to Work For” survey which has been conducted by the renowned auditing firm, Deloitte, since 2011. Employees of different companies, regardless of size, are eligible to apply to participate in the survey and rate, among other parameters, the extent to which they are engaged to their companies and their advocacy intentions. As from a couple of years ago, the survey tool is completed online. Companies are then rewarded in their different size categories. All this information has quickened Northlands Medical Group to do some introspection into their employee engagement levels and performance of the organisation as a whole.
1.3 Research problem
The decade old annual Deloitte’s: Best Company to Work for Survey in Namibia has become a significant annual barometer for the relationship between Namibian corporates and their human capital and talent resources. In essence this voluntary exercise by both large and small corporates enables employees to rate, among other parameters, the extent to which they are engaged to their companies and their advocacy intentions. The highest rated company in terms of employee engagement is then awarded a prize (Deloitte 2018). However, it is imperative to note that the Deloitte survey is an ecological study and not scientific. Despite its short-comings, the survey has provided participating corporates with insight into their employees’ engagement levels. Northlands Medical Group and its employees have never participated in these surveys and the management has made a realisation that there is a dearth of robust information regarding employees’ performance levels as well as their intentions to quit or stay, and factors influencing these. This lack of robust information results in the company continuing operations without the knowledge of how engaged the employees are and it would eventually reflect on how the employees perform their duties, how the organisation fares on the competitive landscape, either positively or negatively.
1.4 Aim of the research
The aim of the study was to explore employee engagement within Northlands Medical Group and its potential impact on organisational performance
1.5 Research objectives
The study was set to fulfil the following research objectives:
- To ascertain the factors affecting engagement levels of the employees at Northlands Medical Group in Namibia;
- Describe the relationship between employee engagement and organisational performance; and
- To offer recommendations to improve employee engagement if threats to organisational performance are elucidated.
1.6 Research questions
The study was guided by the following research questions:
- What are the factors affecting the engagement levels of the employees within Northlands Medical Group?
- What is the relationship between employee engagement and organisational performance?
- What recommendations can be offered to improve employee engagement at Northlands Medical Group?
1.7 Significance of the r esearch
The benefits to Northlands Medical Group as a result of the study include having a clear picture of the engagement levels of its workforce and act accordingly to either remedy or reinforce the levels. Moreover, having knowledge of the employee engagement levels and their impact on organisational performance would assist Northlands Medical Group to come up with programs for improved employee participation and contributions to help them feel like part of the Northlands Medical Group family. Additionally, these programs were formulated from the suggestions given by the employees during the study. Highly engaged employees will most likely retain their employment at the organisation; perform more effectively which will translate to better organisational productivity and competitiveness. The findings from the study assisted the organisation in improving employee engagement or reinforcing the engagement processes that seem to be working.
1.8 Format of the study
For the study’s logical and coherent way, it was organised into five chapters as follows:
Chapter 1: Introduction
This chapter focused on the introduction of the key term, employee engagement, and also provided some background information on the organisation involved in the study which was Northlands Medical Group. Background of the study was given in terms of the nature of the organisation under study, which was a group of medical practices around Namibia, its employee composition and issues on employee engagement levels. The chapter described the research problem which was the lack of robust data on employee performance levels and their impact on the performance of the organisation. Research objectives, research questions, the significance of the study focused on the benefits of the study to the employees and Northlands Medical Group. Limitations of the study and chapter summary were also included in the first chapter.
Chapter 2: Literature review
This chapter explored the existing literature and provided a theoretical framework for the study. It included: a review of literature done in-depth from various studies and authors on the definition of the term employee engagement, components, dimensions, impact and factors affecting employee engagement and organisational performance. The theoretical framework of the study came about from an in-depth analysis of the four major models of employee engagement namely; The Khan, Saks, Aon Hewitt and Robinson’s models on employee engagement. The research model was designed on the basis of the four models on employee engagement.
Chapter 3: Methodology
Research methodology, research method, data collection techniques, sampling techniques and ethical considerations were discussed in this chapter. This chapter focused on the research philosophy namely the phenomenological and positivist research paradigms, the research design which is descriptive, research strategies like the case study, grounded theory, surveys and interview guides, the target population was randomly selected from the company database of all the employees of the Northlands Medical Group. Chapter three focused on sampling, the research instrument which is the structured questionnaire, the pilot study, and the administration of questionnaires, the collection of questionnaires, data analysis, validity and reliability, limitation of the research, elimination of bias, ethical considerations and the conclusion.
Chapter 4: Results, discussion and interpretation of findings
This chapter presented data gathered from the study: ‘An Investigation into employee Engagement and its impact on organisational performance: A case study of Northlands Medical Group, Namibia’ and analysing the data by the use of graphs, pie-charts, bar charts, tables and histograms. A discussion and an interpretation of the findings were done in this chapter.
Chapter 5: Conclusions and recommendations
This chapter presented conclusions on the findings of the study, suggested strategies to the Northlands Medical Group management on employee engagement for improved organisational performance and recommendations of the study.
The background has been set in this chapter for the justification of this research. The justification has been made possible by clearly stating the background to the problem, problem statement, the aim of the study, research objectives, research questions, as well as the significance of the study and the format of the study. To gain more insight into the scholarly literature available on employee engagement and organisational performance, the next chapter, Chapter 2, dwelled more into the subject through a literature review.
The previous chapter introduced the concept of employee engagement and located it in the case study. This study draws on the published diverse approaches and studies on the empirical investigations on employee engagement and its impact on organisational performance. Employee engagement is a strong predictor of positive organisational performance. In this chapter the focus was on the definition of employee engagement, its dimensions, exploration of the theoretical frameworks underpinning the concept of employee engagement. Further, it expounded on the factors that could affect and ways of improving employee engagement. In addition, it explored the impact of employee engagement on organisational performance and methods of measuring employee engagement, and lastly but not least, in various ways by which employee engagement can be improved. The chapter concluded with the research model and the conclusion.
2.2 Definition of Employee Engagement
There are many definitions of employee engagement available in literature therefore only those that fall in line with the research objectives were used. For instance, employee engagement is defined by Allen (2014) as the emotional commitment employees feel towards their organisation and the actions they take to ensure the organisation’s success; and engaged employees demonstrate care, dedication, enthusiasm accountability and results in focus. Allen (2014) further states that when employees care - when they are ‘engaged’ – they make use of discretionary effort. They stay behind to get a job done since they are committed and feel accountable and want to finish it, they pick up the cups left behind on the table in the meeting room and they pick up the rubbish that has missed the bin as they care about their workplace. In addition, they stand up for their company as they are proud to be a part of it, they find solutions to problems and create ideas to improve the organisation; they are emotionally engaged with their organisation and they care about their organisation. Another definition of employee engagement which resonates with Allen’s definition is from Zinger (2015:1), who defines employee engagement as the art and science of engaging people in authentic and recognised connections to strategy, roles, performance, organisation, community, relationship, customers, development, energy, and happiness to leverage, sustain, and transform work into results.
Kassim and Turner (2013) consider employee engagement as proactive behaviour in the workplace and towards the organisation and brought about by a combination of motivated, emotionally attached employees. It is also about the integrated, enlightened people management activities and empathetic managers towards the achievement of clearly communicated business objectives. Schaufeli (2013) adds to the discussion by stating that employee engagement – also called ‘commitment’ or ‘motivation’ – refers to a psychological state where employees feel a vested interest in the company’s success and perform to a high standard that may exceed the stated requirements of the job. Schaufeli (2013) further states that engaged employees consistently demonstrate three general behaviours, which are: (1) Say – consistently speak positively about the organisation to coworkers, potential employees, and customers; (2) Stay – have an intense desire to be a member of the organisation despite opportunities to work elsewhere; (3) Strive – exert extra time, effort, and initiative to contribute to business success.
Concluding from the definitions above, there are common themes that stand out. Employee engagement is about an employee’s feelings or state of mind or attitude towards their work and organisation. Engaged employees are committed, positive, dedicated and happy and this translates to successful organisational performance.
2.3 Types of employee in engagement
Robertson-Smith and Markwick (2013:1) described engagement levels as varying according to different biographical and personality characteristics. Younger employees may be positive when they first join an organisation, but can quickly become disengaged. Highly extravert and adaptable individuals find it easier to engage. Engagement is a choice; dependent upon what the employee considers is worth investing themselves in. Robertson-Smith and Markwick (2013:1) further observed that despite the potential gains of improved engagement levels, more than 80% of British workers are not truly committed to their work, and a quarter of these are dissatisfied and ’actively disengaged’, putting no passion into their work. Robertson-Smith and Markwick (2013:8) state that Gallup proposed that employees could be divided into three types with regard to their level of engagement, the engaged, not‐engaged and the actively disengaged, with the latter being of most concern to the employer brand as a result of sharing their discontent with their co‐ workers and the wider world. The three types of employees in engagement are described in brief by Robertson-Smith and Markwick (2013:9) as:
Engaged- employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organisation forward. Engaged employees are more likely to stay with the organisation, perform 20% better than their colleagues and act as advocates of the business. Engagement can enhance bottom‐line profit and enable organisational agility and improved efficiency in driving change initiatives. Engaged individuals invest themselves fully in their work, with increased self‐efficacy and a positive impact upon health and well‐being, which in turn evokes increased employee support for the organisation.
Not-Engaged- employees are essentially ‘checked out’. They’re sleepwalking through their workday, putting time – but not energy or passion into their work.
Actively Disengaged- employees are not just unhappy at work; they are busy acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers undermine what their engaged co-workers accomplish.
In addition, Hopman and Smith (2013) state some benefits of employee engagement in an organisation are that; frontline staff taking real ownership of their roles and duties; more cross-functional teamwork, with fewer examples of a silo mentality to deliver a more joined up, coordinated care for service users; innovation right across the workplace; higher staff retention and lower absenteeism as people feel valued and rewarded when their ideas are taken on board; productivity improvements which improve customer satisfaction and also deliver cost savings; an improved working environment, based on calm efficiency and a respect for the contribution of others.
Three types of employee engagement were discussed namely engaged, not engaged and actively disengaged employees. It is important for any organisation to investigate what type of employees there are and come up with strategies to appraise or remedy if need be.
2.4 Components of employee engagement
Employee engagement is viewed in terms of two components, that is, engagement with the organisation and engagement with the manager/leader (van Westhuyzen, 2017). According to van Westhuyzen (2017), engagement with the organisation measures how engaged employees are with the organisation as a whole, and by extension, how they feel about senior management. This factor has to do with confidence in organisational leadership as well as trust, fairness, values, and respect – that is, how people like to be treated by others, both at work and outside of work. In the context of engagement with their managers, this is a specific measure of how employees feel about their direct supervisors. Its elements include feeling valued, being treated fairly, receiving feedback and direction, and generally, having a strong working relationship between employee and manager, based on mutual respect.
Young (2018) quoted Saks who developed the Saks employee engagement model as saying that employees choose to engage themselves based on the resources their organisation gives them. The organisation provides support, certain conditions, and reward: the employee weighs these up, and if they find that the balance suits them, they would commit in return. These two-way relationships will continue to thrive and grow, provided the rules of social exchange are not broken. Saks suggests that if the organisation stops fulfilling their side of the bargain (by withdrawing an expected level of management support, for example), the employee will draw back on their obligations too. In other words, they will become disengaged.
According to Young (2018), Saks theory of employee engagement further states that management support is essential for engagement. With it, employees feel secure and trusted. Without the offer of support on the table, the employee may never fully engage. If support is suddenly withdrawn (for example, a mentorship programme ceases), that breaks the relationship of obligations, which is why any organisational change must be managed carefully. Saks saw that the individual’s manager represented the whole organisation in these exchanges. HR can in turn coach and support these managers to ensure they can provide the exchanges that their team members need. Peer Relationships also provide important exchanges in the workplace, as reciprocal relationships foster commitment and create a positive environment. A further description on how leadership plays an important role on employee engagement was given by Bedarkar & Pandita (2014) that leadership is a key antecedent of engagement. Leadership research shows that certain leadership behaviours have a clear association with engagement constructs such as motivation, job satisfaction, organisational commitment, proactive behaviours and organisational citizenship behaviour. Trust in a leader, support from the leader, and creating a blame-free environment are considered as components of psychological safety, a condition proposed by Kahn, which leads to employee engagement.
From the discussion provided above on the components of employee engagement, it could be safe to say that employees choose to engage with either the organisation or the leader/manager depending on which side brings the best out of them. For an organisation to truly flourish, it needs to provide a balanced approach towards its employees to be fully engaged to both the leadership and the organisation concurrently.
2.5 Theoretical frameworks
Padhi and Panda (2015) assert that several models on the subject of employee engagement have been postulated ever since the pioneering work by Khan in 1990. Other models that have been developed in contemporary times are by Robinson et al. (2004), Saks (2006) and Aon Hewitt (2011). The models essentially highlighted the engaged employees, the environment and facilities that keep them motivated and dedicated to work for a mutual benefit while establishing a work-life balance in the day-to-day schedule. These models are discussed below.
2.5.1 Khan’s model on employee engagement
Rheem (2018) states that Kahn—a professor of organisational behaviour at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business—published groundbreaking research in the prestigious Academy of Management Journal in which he coined the term “engagement” in reference to employees and their workplace. Kahn believed that was the wrong approach. His research in a 1990 paper entitled “Psychological Conditions of Personal Engagement and Disengagement at Work,” demonstrated that the problem was less about employees being the right “fit,” or lacking financial rewards, but fundamentally it was about the way they felt.
Rheem (2018) quotes Khan as saying that “The engagement concept was developed based on the premise that individuals can make real choices about how much of their real, personal selves they would reveal and express in their work,” Kahn later told an interviewer. “That premise was radically different than the operating assumptions of the time”.
William Khan developed the Khan model of employee engagement in 1990. For the purpose of his study, Kahn interviewed summer camp counsellors and organisational members of an architectural firm about their moments of engagement and disengagement at work. He found that workers were more engaged in work situations that offered them more psychological meaningfulness and psychological safety, and when they were psychologically available. According to Padhi and Panda (2015), Khan’s (1990) model of employee engagement is considered to be the oldest model of employee engagement. The model emphasizes that there are three psychological conditions that are associated with personal engagement and disengagement of work: meaningfulness, availability and safety. Workers were more engaged in work situations that offered them more psychological meaningfulness and psychological safety, and when they were psychologically available. Young (2018) highlights some shortfalls in Khan’s (1990) model as described by Saks. Young (2018) states that Saks acknowledged that psychologist William Kahn’s 1990 model identified the psychological conditions necessary for ‘engagement’. Khan had demonstrated that engagement occurs when employees are able to apply their ‘full selves’ to their work role, raising them to their productive and creative pinnacles. Although Saks identified with Khan’s (1990) model, he felt he could expand on “why individuals will respond to these conditions with varying degrees of engagement”, believing that this missing explanation would be found by examining engagement through the SET model. Why would employees be engaged one day and not so the next? Kahn’s model is presented below:
Figure 2.1 Kahn’s model on employee engagement
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2.5.2 The Saks Model on Employee Engagement
The Social Exchange Theory (SET), developed by Alan Saks (cited by Young, 2018), postulates that we are all constantly evaluating and re-evaluating our relationships based on the benefits they might bring us. The SET proposes a link between SET and employee engagement. Originally developed by sociologists in the 1960s, this behavioural model offers an explanation of how we humans make, maintain or abandon relationships, whether social, personal or professional. Applying this theory of mutual benefit to the workplace gives an insightful perspective on relationships and their effect on engagement. Saks set out to apply the academic theory to a relatively new management approach, conducting a study into employees in a variety of roles and organisations.
According to Young (2018), Saks saw that the individual’s manager represented the whole organisation in these exchanges. HR can in turn coach and support these managers to ensure they can provide the exchanges that their team members need. Peer relationships also provide important exchanges in the workplace, as reciprocal relationships foster commitment and create a positive environment. By taking Kahn’s work and applying Social Exchange Theory, Saks was able to give a more in-depth explanation of workplace engagement. His work demonstrates how an organisation can ensure that motivation does not dip, keep to your obligations, and reap the rewards of engagement.
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Figure 2.2 The Saks model on employee engagement
Padhi and Panda, (2015) explained that a conceptual model (refer to the model above), was developed by Saks in the year 2006 in the context of his research work on “Antecedents and Consequences of Employee Engagement” that focused on three basic aspects of employee engagement:
- The employees and their psychological makeup and experience the ability of the employer to create an enabling environment that promotes employee engagement and the interaction between employees at all levels.
The researcher developed an evaluation process and showed the inter-connection between three parameters: antecedents, employee engagement and consequences. Factors like job satisfaction, training and development, reward and recognition, and assertive relationship with peers and supervisors have been taken as antecedents that impact directly the states of engagement of employees that can be attributed to the factors like commitment, ownership, satisfaction, participation.
2.5.3 The Aon Hewitt Model on Employee Engagement
Kavya and Padmavathy (2017), describe Aon Hewitt is a global consultancy or an advisory firm who helps clients in human resources related issues. They help organisations to solve the complicated problems relating to talent, benefits and helps in improving their performance. They provide wide range of services like designing strategies related to human capital issues like talent management, compensation and retirement plans, investment management and health care. After conducting many studies globally they have come up with the following model which mentions the foremost engagement drivers.
Kavya and Padmavathy (2017), further state that once the drivers are set right and employees connect themselves with the organisation they get engaged and exhibit the individual outcomes as mentioned as Say, Stay and Strive. Say means employees speak well about the organisation and gets the prospective employees through their words. Stay means interest and willingness to work with the organisation and understands its goals and finds meaning. Strive is the situation wherein employees take an extra effort to reach both individual and organisational goals.
Figure 2.3 The AON Hewitt model on employee engagement
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The Aon Hewitt model, according to Padhi and Panda (2015), examines both the individual state of engagement as well as the organisational antecedents. It states engagement as the state of emotional and intellectual involvement that motivates employees to do their best work. The model has a global validation supported by over 15 years of research in the area of organisational psychology.
2.5.4 The Robinson Model on Employee Engagement
The employee engagement model below developed by Robinson et al. (2004) describes engagement as a two-way relationship between the employer and employees. According to Padhi and Panda (2015), the model further identified that an engaged employee is one who is aware of business context and works with colleagues to improve performance within the job to add value to the organisation. The model emphasises, the commitment of employees is possible when the organisation continues to focus on developing and nurturing the employees. Robinson et al. (cited by Mehta & Mehta, 2013) highlight the importance of feeling valued and involved as a key driver of engagement. Within this umbrella of feeling valued and involved, there are a number of elements that have varying influence on the extent to which the employee will feel valued and involved and hence engaged. Robinson et al. (cited by Mehta & Mehta, 2013) further states that this can be a useful pointer to organisations towards those aspects of working life that require serious attention if engagement levels are to be maintained or improved.
Fig. 2.4 The Robinson model of employee engagement
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There are similarities to be found amongst the various engagement models, and some common drivers’ surface. In a distillation of the various models and studies, the following five key drivers repeatedly emerge, and these are Leadership, Communication, Learning and Development, Organisational Support, Working Environment as well as Safety. From the reviewed models, the ones that underpin this study are the Saks and Khan models of engagement. These models discuss organisational supervisory support (safety), reward and recognition (meaningfulness) and availability as antecedents of employee engagement resulting in organisational citizen behaviour, intention to quit/stay and job satisfaction which is what this study is also about and then find out how this impacts organisational performance.
2.6 Factors Influencing Employee Engagement
In accordance with the theoretical model in Figure 2.5 below, there are three factors/ antecedents that influence employee engagement namely emotional, cognitive/mental and physical energy factors. Margolis (2014) describes employee engagement as dedicating one’s cognitive energy, affective/emotional energy, and physical energy to one’s work. Engaged workers go to work, and they can be themselves. No role playing–just doing what they love to do with their head, their heart and their body totally directed at performing the tasks of their job. When engaged, work does not feel like work. Instead, work is a means of self-expression. Margolis (2014) further explains that:
- Engaged workers are cognitively focused: they are attentive and absorbed in their work.
- Engaged workers are effectively connected: their emotions and feelings are directed toward their work.
- Engaged workers are physically active: their behaviours and actions demonstrate extra effort and vigour.
When employees simultaneously invest their cognitive energies, their effective/emotional energies, and their physical energies in their work, they are totally engaged. Kahn (cited by Margolis, 2014), describes engagement as the ideal situation where employees do not sacrifice either themselves or their roles at work. They are physically involved in tasks, whether alone or with others, cognitively vigilant, and empathetically connected to others in the service of the work. An individual can be high in one dimension but not all three dimensions (physical, cognitive and emotional). The more involved one is in each dimension, the higher is one’s engagement.
2.6.1 Emotional energy factors
Positive psychology has revealed numerous dimensions that affect our performance and wellbeing at work. According to Goldschmid (2016), some of the most significant findings include positive emotions and a positive mindset lead to higher performance and better relationships. It is also stated that an optimistic outlook is contagious, just like an engagement. Positive feelings also help reduce stress and thereby improve productivity. Goldschmid (2016) further states that when we are happy, we are smarter, more motivated and thus more successful. Happiness fuels success rather than the other way around and gives the organisation a competitive edge. Google’s care for the happiness of its workers is legendary, as a result their outstanding business results. Cartwright (2014), states that emotional engagement concerns the degree that employees feel connected to and how they trust the organisation and its members. Cartwright (2014) is of the view that most organisations have come to recognise the importance of taking steps to create a climate of trust and involvement in order to foster emotional commitment. Cartwright (2014) further states that less attention is typically paid to the importance of the energy component of engagement. Energy underpins both engagement and wellbeing. So, it is not surprising that evidence from research shows that low levels of engagement are linked to a range of psychosomatic complaints such as headaches and chest pains, back and neck problems, as well as increased anxiety and depression. Furthermore, individuals who report high levels of emotional energy, rate their overall health as being more positive. Other authors like Zhou (2018) have noted that emotional energy drives employees to go above and beyond their call of duty regardless of external incentives such as compensation and benefits. Specific strengths that are sources of pride within a company feed this emotional energy, which in turn drives people to work harder toward bettering the organisation. The sense of pride that comes from this achievement further fuels emotional energy which cyclically motivates people to strive for even further success. In ‘Why Pride Matters More than Money: The Power of the World’s Greatest Motivational Force’, Jon Katzenbach (cited by Zhou, 2018) explains that pride is an emotional high that follows success. The anticipation of future successes serves as an intrinsic source of motivation, which is often more powerful than formal incentives and rewards. Emotionally engaged employees are positive about their work.
2.6.2. Cognitive/ Mental energy factors
Lopez (2016) describes cognitive/mental factors as features from work-related activities that required the use of cognition: attention (alertness, selective and sustained attention), working memory and executive function (initiative, decision-making and problem-solving). Cartwright (2014) observes that cognitive engagement relates to the need for employees to be acutely aware of and aligned with the organisational strategy and knows what they need to deliver the optimal return on their work efforts. Organisations are often prepared to invest a lot of effort in communications to ensure that people know what the organisational goals are, and the part they are expected to play in the accomplishment of these goals – and in doing so, attain cognitive engagement. Dan and Borman (2015) states that cognitive ability is widely considered the best predictor of job performance. Meta -analytic reviews and primary studies link cognitive ability to job performance in both United States and European countries. Cognitive ability impacts job performance through job knowledge acquisition. High cognitive ability individuals are better equipped to acquire the knowledge needed to perform their jobs at the highest levels. Cognitive demands are key competences that are needed to meet the challenges of job demands. Schaufeli cited in Sun and Bunchapattanasakda (2019) defined engagement as a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigour, dedication, and absorption, and a more persistent and pervasive affective-cognitive state that is not focused on any specific object, event, individual, or behaviour. Thavakumar and Evangeline (2016) are of the opinion that Cognitive engagement refers to being fully concentrated and deeply engrossed in one’s work, whereby time passes quickly and one has difficulties with detaching oneself from work Cognitively engaged employees can devote their full attention to their work.
2.6.3 Physical energy factors
Physical engagement involves employees applying their physical and mental energies wholly to their job performance. Therefore, in order for an organisation to be able to create, realise and release more energy in the workplace, it needs to ensure it has a physically and psychologically healthy workforce. Physically engaged employees see work as a source of energy (Cartwright 2014). Other factors have also been established to affect or influence employee engagement. For instance, Kahn (cited by Rich, Lepine & Crawford, 2010) found that higher levels of value congruence perceived organisational support and core-self evaluations were key antecedents or drivers for engagement.
Value congruence- The experience of psychological meaningfulness involves a sense of return on investments of the self in role performance (Padhi & Panda, 2015). Individuals who experience meaningfulness tend to feel worthwhile, useful, valuable, and able to give themselves to their work role and to others (Padhi & Panda, 2015). One important influence of meaningfulness is the congruence between the behaviours expected by an organisation and the behaviours that individual employees value as a part of their own self-images.
Perceived organisational support- The experience of psychological safety is described as feeling able to invest oneself without fear of negative consequences (Padhi & Panda 2015). Individuals feel safe in organisational contexts perceived to be trustworthy, secure, predictable, and clear in terms of behavioural consequences. Kahn was cited by Padhi & Panda (2015) as suggesting that employees experience psychological safety, in part, as a result of supportive management and supportive and trusting interpersonal relationships with others in their organisation. Individuals with trusting interpersonal relationships in supportive organisational environments are able to take risks, expose their real selves, and try and perhaps fail without fearing the consequences.
Core-self evaluations- Psychological availability is described as individuals’ readiness to personally engage at a particular moment (Padhi & Panda, 2015). Individuals who are psychologically available perceive themselves to be ready and prepared to put their physical, cognitive, and emotional energies into role performance, and thus, they tend to exhibit higher engagement in role performance contexts. Measuring employee engagement using behavioural and emotional outcomes is a first key step to improve employee engagement, according to Werner (2013:305). The author states that the factors that employee engagement measures are retention (desire to stay in the organisation), effort (willingness to do more than required), advocacy (mindset to actively recommend the workplace as a great place to work), and passion (an emotional connection to the organisation).
The other respective steps are correlation of the survey results with performance data (such as sales growth or staff retention), implementation of improvement plans, and lastly repeat of the survey, thus making this effort a continuous cycle. If the employees are fully engaged, then the organisation will reinforce or amend current work procedures and environment to keep the rate of employee engagement high. Rich et al. (2012) also conclude that engagement was a better predictor of performance than job involvement, job satisfaction and intrinsic motivation.
Patro (2013) state that there are some critical factors common to all types of organisations which lead to employee engagement. These factors create a feeling of valued and involved among the employees. The factors which influence employee engagement are:
- Recruitment and selection: While recruiting employees for desirable jobs, organisations enhance their engagement by maximising the person-job fit and commitment by providing growth and advancement opportunities to employees in return for their loyalty.
- Job designing: Job characteristics encompassing challenge, variety and autonomy are more likely to provide psychological meaningfulness, and a condition for employee engagement.
- Career development opportunities: Organisations with high levels of engagement provide employees with opportunities to develop their abilities, learn new skills, acquire new knowledge and realise their potential.
- Leadership: Employees need to feel that the core values for which their companies stand are unambiguous and clear. Successful organisations show respect for each employee’s qualities and contribution regardless of their job level.
- Empowerment: Employees want to be involved in decisions that affect their work. The leaders of high engagement workplaces create a trustful and challenging environment, in which employees are encouraged to give input and innovative ideas to move the organisation forward.
- Equal and fair opportunities: The employee engagement levels would be high if their superiors provide equal opportunities for growth and advancement to all the employees.
- Training and development: It is another important area which contributes to employee engagement. Redundancy of skills has been cited as one of the reasons for employee turnover, thereby indicating the necessity for training, re-training and multi-skill training. It promotes acceptance of challenging objectives, and also recognises and encourages contributions that exceed expectations.
- Incentives and compensation: The organisation should have a proper compensation management system so that the employees are motivated to work in the organisation.
- Health and safety: Research indicates that the engagement levels are low if the employee does not feel secure while working. Therefore, every organisation should adopt appropriate methods and systems for the health and safety of its employees.
- Job satisfaction: Only a satisfied employee can become an engaged employee. Therefore, it is very essential for an organisation to see to it that the job given to the employee matches his career goals which will make him enjoy his work and he would ultimately be satisfied with his job.
- Communication: The organisation should follow the open door policy. There should be both upward and downward communication with the use of appropriate communication channels in the organisation. If the employee is given a say in the decision making and has the right to be heard by his boss then the engagement levels are likely to be high.
2.7 Impact of Employee Engagement on Organisational Performance
The impact of employee engagement on organisational performance is well established. Employee engagement is defined by Ali et al. (2018) as a property of the relation between the organisations with their employees. In other words, employee engagement refers to the intellectual as well as the emotional commitment to an organisation by their employees in their job. Ali et al., (2018) also define employee engagement is a narrow intensive conceptualisation of the relationship between the employee and his/her job. Rich et al. (2010), establish that engagement was found to be a positive predictor of task performance and organisational citizenship behaviour. In turn, Werner (2013) unequivocally state that long-term benefits of employee engagement include more satisfied and loyal customers, increased profits, better quality products or services and greater growth potential. Similar studies have also established a strong correlation between employee engagement and organisational performance (Singh & Karki, 2015).
According to the research findings on a study on the impact of employee engagement on organisational performance by Pillay and Singh (2018) on a South African insurance company, all participants agreed that employee engagement does influence organisational performance. Some of the participants spoke of the positive influence of employee engagement on organisational performance and highlighted performance outcomes such as improved profits, improved bottom line, improved productivity, employee’s proactive nature of finding ways to improve revenue and improved customer services. Other participants felt that when employees are unhappy, not given the opportunity to speak, not recognised for their efforts and not encouraged to participate in decision making- they do not exercise their full potential resulting in reduced individual performance and ultimately reduced organisational performance. Pillay and Singh (2018) argue that employee engagement is integral in driving organisational success as engaged employees are motivated and strive to achieve organisational goals and objectives. In order to remain competitive in the market, organisations should encourage positive employee engagement as a strategic tool to attain competitive advantage for the organisation. Robertson-Smith & Markwick (2013:12) found that engagement can affect employees’ attitudes, absence and turnover levels and various studies have demonstrated links with productivity, increasingly pointing to a high correlation with individual, group and organisational performance, a success measured through the quality of customer experience and customer loyalty. Organisations with higher engagement levels tend to have lower employee turnover, higher productivity, higher total shareholder returns and better financial performance.
Patro (2013) came up with eight impacts of positive aspects of employee engagement on an organisation and these are:
Higher profits and productivity: Proper employee engagement will help in incurring higher profits and at the same, productivity also increases. Engagement allows for the possibility that organisations with growth and profit increases bring about a very engaged workforce, not the other way around.
Improved quality: The quality can be improved when proper opportunities are given to the employees. When the organisation commits towards effective engagement, the quality levels also increase.
Customer loyalty: The employees who are happy in their work are more likely to create loyal customers. Engaged employees tend to have a better understanding of how to meet customer needs and as a result, customer loyalty tends to be better in organisations where the employees are engaged.
Financial success: Effective employee engagement will be having a higher effect on the organisation’s financial success. Employee engagement predicts employee outcomes, organisational success, and financial performance.
Employee performance: Engagement affects employee performance. Engaged employees work harder, are more loyal and are more likely to go the ‘extra mile’ for the corporation. Engagement is an ‘illusive force’ that motivates an individual to achieve higher levels of performance.
Commitment and Motivation: High levels of engagement at work support employees in taking initiative and pursuing learning. By providing incentive plans, the employees are motivated towards the increase in productivity.
Retention: Employee retention policies have received the lion's share of the spotlight. Many researchers have suggested that employees who are happy in their work are more likely to stay in the organisation.
Organisation Culture: Organisational culture is a significant driver of employee engagement, where employees must be expected to work together and provide a voice for the customer within the organisation. Engaged employees are more likely to advocate the organisation as a place to work and actively promote their products and services.