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Drivers of employee engagement Research Paper

The concept of Engagement

Engagement maybe understood as the extent to which one is positively attached to one’s undertaking. It has a positive effect on one’s productivity or the rate at which one is willing to take on new tasks. It is often denoted by the level of intellectual and emotional involvement of that person in the undertaking (Schmidt et al., 2002).

For instance, a student who is highly engaged in his education will not feel bored by class attendance and other routine activities that he or she must perform as part of his or her course. People who are engaged tend to be absorbed in their ventures and are also very alert (Snyder & Lopez, 2002). They are also less likely to abandon their activities than those who are not engaged.

Engagement in Business

In business, engagement is the process by which stakeholders, such as employees and customers, are committed to, satisfied with, and involved with an organisation. This may be witnessed through a high level of customer engagement or employee engagement. Engagement in business ensures that companies can retain customers or employees, and this leads to desirable business results.

Some of them include better customer service, better productivity, better departmental performance, great financial performance, and even better organisational-level performance (Weiss & Brief, 2002).

Engagement in business is not a holistic construct; it may be understood as a collection of a series of qualities that are cognitive, behavioural or emotional. Most indications of employee engagement are behavioural in nature. Therefore, measures of the same concept should be behavioural.

The Research Objectives

The overall research objective is to determine the drivers of employee engagement in an organisation. This objective is split into smaller objectives that are as follows:

  1. To investigate whether quality of work is a driver for employee engagement
  2. To investigate whether tangible rewards affect employee engagement
  3. To examine the relationship between growth opportunities in the future and employee engagement
  4. To investigate whether an enabling environment is a driver for employee engagement
  5. To investigate whether inspiration values are a driver for employee engagement
  6. To investigate whether work life balance is a driver for employee engagement

The Research Focus

This research will specifically focus on identifying the drivers of employee engagement. In other words, it will not focus on other types of business engagements such as customer engagement. This is necessary because employee engagement has a profound effect on other stakeholders such as customer themselves (Macey et al., 2009).

Additionally, the research will not get into the effects of employee engagement, even though these play an important role in determining the outcomes of the organisation. Furthermore, the research will not attempt to find a definition of employee engagement as this has already been done. This research will not attempt to analyse the extent of employee engagement in the country, region or business environment.

Doing so would require massive resources, and would also expose the research to many errors in sampling and methodology. It is better to work with a select number of employees from the same institution in order to minimise biases that arise out of organisational environments.

As stated earlier, employee engagement has many facets; all these elements will be analysed in the research under various headlines.

The research will focus on the extrinsic as well as the intrinsic factors that cause employees to be engaged in their firms. Extrinsic factors relate to rewards, enumeration and other material benefits. Intrinsic factors are all those factors that dwell on internal issues such as work growth, being part of an organisational process.

Literature Review

Definition of Engagement

Employee Engagement is a positive behavioural, emotional and cognitive state that workers direct towards organisational outcomes. Prior to the 1990s, most employees looked for a stable work environment (Becker et al., 2004). They were satisfied with reasonable pay and job security. However, after this period, most companies began reengineering themselves.

Furthermore, employee mindsets began to change. Lifelong commitment to one employer was no longer the norm. Instead, workers started looking for personal fulfilment in their workplaces. Now, most employees feel that it is their right to work in a rewarding business environment. If they cannot find this in one institution, many of them are willing to look for it somewhere else (MatzCosta & Pitt Catsouphes, 2008).).

One of the reasons why employees leave their workplaces is the absence of engagement in their present environments. Companies, therefore, have an important incentive to keep engagement up as this causes them to maintain some of their most talented individuals.

On top of that, companies stand to benefit from greater value, which stems from greater productivity. This leads to customer satisfaction and eventually customer loyalty. The ultimate result of customer loyalty is greater opportunities for growth and profitability.

Engagement should be understood as something that goes beyond motivation but is also an advancement of the motivation concept (Borman, 2004). It causes staff members to commit to the values within an organisation and to help others in their daily endeavours. Employees now look for opportunities to air out their views to their administrators. Additionally, a number of them want to know about the goings on in their institution.

This is the reason why engagement is vital to the company. Additionally, employees need to believe that their supervisors are just as committed to the firm as they are (Hui et al., 2000). This means that there ought to be a two-way connection between the employer and his staff. No one factor is responsible for the ultimate feeling of engagement within one’s institution, but it is the combination of these factors that matters.

Measuring Engagement

In order to measure engagement, firms must utilise a series of platforms in order to get to all the relevant issues. Normally, one can use employee opinions from surveys in order to measure engagement. Additionally, a company can combine the surveys with personal interviews with managers as well as employees. They may also use focus groups in their institutions in order to assess this phenomenon.

Alternatively formal meetings between stakeholders can allow firms to measure engagement. Performance measures may also do the trick; however, they must relate to the progress that the entity is making towards engagement.

Engagement Challenges: impact of engagement on performance

Engagement presents a series of problems to the institutions that use them. First, financial challenges tend to knock – off employee engagement from the priority list. Tough economic times often shift company attention towards retrenchments, restructurings, mergers and acquisitions or cost cutting. It is quite difficult to stay committed to engagement when one is simply trying to stay profitable.

However, company owners need to realise that the very survival of their institution is at stake if they neglect employee engagement. It is during times of crises that companies need to have their staff in their corner. Employers must resist the temptation to ignore this phenomenon during hard economic and financial times.

Some corporate structures or values may hamper employee engagement tremendously. Some companies, especially government-affiliated ones, tend to place too much emphasis on bureaucracy.

This implies that so many of them think of their superiors as bosses or masters. They also feel that they are nothing more than servants. Such cultures often cause employee values to conflict with those ones that are required in a well engaged atmosphere (Harter et al., 2004).

Additionally, interdepartmental or inter-team conflicts can minimise employee engagement greatly. When teams are too independent within an organisation, then chances are that they will all be heading in different directions.

Their least concern will be the overall benefit of the organisation and they will eventually hamper the level of connectedness between the stakeholders in the enterprise. For instance, if the operations department receives supplies from the logistics department on time, then they are likely to think of it as a work obligation rather than a service (Bakker et al., 2006b).

Governance structures can also be an impediment to existence of employee engagement. If a company lacks mechanisms for establishing accountability and proper governance, then this can make it quite difficult to foster a spirit of engagement in the firm (Ruddy et al., 2006). Members will always feel like they are on their own and that there is no point in doing things in an ethical manner.

Employee engagement is also challenging because one must maintain company morale at all times. Employees feel especially vulnerable when change takes place in their institution. This may come in the form of an outsourcing service or a merger. At such times, employees may have doubts about their place in the institution and this could compromise on their commitment towards the organisation (Towwers-Perrin, 2003).

How to maintain and improve engagement

To maintain and improve engagement, one must illustrate to one’s employees that one cares about them. This means furnishing them with all the resources they require to get a job done (Eisenberger & Rhoades, 2002). A number of workers develop a sense of dissatisfaction, frustration and disengagement when they lack the necessary support needed to carry out tasks (Conway & Coyle Shapiro, 2005).

Additionally, company owners must ensure that they show employees the big picture when carrying out their individual tasks. This will build a sense of commitment to the institution even through tough times. Managers and business owners must cultivate an atmosphere of fairness within their enterprises. All workers need to feel that they have an equal voice and that they are valued in their companies (Maslach et al., 2001).

Companies need to synchronise employee strengths with their work roles. Doing challenging work can lead to a great sense of engagement because it ascertains that all the employees are maximising on their talents. It is also makes them feel like they are making an important contribution to the enterprise. In lien with this approach, a company should also provide employees training opportunities.

This will allow them to take advantage of advancements in their enterprises. They will also feel that they have a say in the way decisions are made in their institutions. Doing this also increases the likelihood of accepting decisions in the future if they were involved in them. If they can do projects that contribute to their growth, then this will definitely boost their level of engagement (Bakker et al., 2006a)

Business owners need to cultivate a sense of trust in their enterprises by treating their employees personally. They can communicate policies and procedural changes individually so as to achieve this effect.

Employers, supervisors or managers need to appear as engaged to the company as they expect employees to be (Rama Devi, 2009). Additionally, business owners need to start engagement initiatives among superiors as they have the capacity to spread their enthusiasm to other individuals within the company. Superiors should never be left out in such programs (Greenberg & Colquitt, 2005).

Summary of key findings

Previous research on employee engagement reveals that there is a positive correlation between productivity and engagement. Therefore, it is in the best interest of an organisation to ensure that engagement is a top priority (Durkin, 2007). Additionally, one must realise that employees are intrinsically and extrinsically motivated. One must measure these two types of facets during the process of assessment (Shaffer, 2004).

Research shows that financial difficulties, poor governance structures, bureaucratic relationships and low morale all act as challenges to proper employee engagement (Schmidt et al., 2001). Business owners must, therefore, lead by example, offer ample resources for work, give their employees a voice, and offer them advancement opportunities if they wish to improve employee engagement (Murlis & Schubert, 2001).


This research will employ a quantitative approach because the research question is something that can be measured (Schindler et al., 2006). The association between employee engagement and its drivers is something can be quantified. Aside from that, several quantitative studies exist, and this justifies the use of such a method. Additionally, this is more of a confirmatory analysis rather than an exploratory one.

Quantitative methodologies are always appropriate when confirming hypothesis rather than creating them (Caulkin, 2001). Time constraints also necessitate the use of quantitative research as it does not require too much attention to detail like qualitative research.

The research approach

The independent variables in this research include quality of work, tangible rewards, growth opportunities, an enabling environment, inspiration values, work-life balance. The dependent variable in all the cases is employee engagement.

If a positive correlation is found between the dependent and independent variable, then one can assert that the independent variable is a driver and if the opposite is true then it will be ruled out as a driver for employee engagement. It should be noted that tangible rewards include things such as benefits, pay and recognition awards.

Growth opportunities include career advancement as well as learning and development (Csikentmihalyi, 1990). An enabling environment is one in which the proper tools, processes and information are available. Inspiration values denote leadership, recognition and organisational values. Work life balance refers to the income security, social environment and the ability of a company to recognise an employee’s life cycle needs.

Quality of work refers to the workload, sense of achievement and work relationships in the enterprise. These traits were suggested by the Murlis & Schubert (2001). It will be imperative to identify them first before asking employees to give their views. This will create more structure in the research.

The research strategy and the time horizon

The first step in the research was to identify the variables involved. These have been mentioned in earlier portions of the paper. Thereafter, the type of data needed was determined, and this included the six independent and one dependent objective. The best data collection was chosen and this was the use of questionnaires.

Later on, samples were selected from an existing institution through stratified sampling. Thereafter data was collected and analysed. The time horizon for the research was six months because ample time was needed to collect the samples and to follow the protocol needed to respond to the queries (Leedy, 1997).

The participants

The participants were members of an anonymous organisation that has one hundred and twelve workers. Since the company had various departments, it was essential to select members from each department in order to minimise biases that may arise out of one’s work area.

This is the reason why the research used stratified sampling. All the subjects were selected in a way that would ensure equal representation and equal numbers from the department. 5 members from each of the six departments resulted in a total number of 30 participants.

The research instruments

Questionnaires were the main research instruments in this survey. The research questions were framed in such a manner that would allow the candidates to select one of the five points in a Likert scale. They has to select one of these choices: ‘Agree’, ‘Disagree’, ‘Strongly disagree’, ‘Strongly agree’ and ’Do not agree or Disagree’ (Anderson et al., 1998).

Ethical Considerations

Participants should not feel obligated to participate in the research. They should receive informed consent and this should only take place when they are sure about their role in the research. Since the research involves collecting sensitive information, then the respondents’ anonymity needs to be maintained; it would be unethical to jeopardise their jobs for the research (Kraut, 2006).

Individual responses will not be singled out in this research. As a researcher, one needs to avoid bias by manipulating results. Additionally, one should select the right methodology in order to avoid biases in the sample. It would also be wrong to use the information found in the research in order to manipulate findings in the future.

Conducting the primary research

The research was carried out among thirty participants in an anonymous organisation. To protect the jobs of the subjects, this report will not mention their institution or their names. After ensuring that the percentage of workers representing the various departments was alright, one week was selected for carrying out the interviews. Each day involved an analysis of six candidates.

Prior to the actual data collection, the key concepts were first described. Participants were told about employee engagement and also about the six variables. Thereafter, they were expected to select the drivers that mattered to them.

After obtaining the information, a tabulation was done and then a histogram created to indicate whether the employees thought that the six variables were drivers of employee engagement (Hussey & Collis, 2003).

Analysis of the data

Data analysis was done through the use of histograms. Shown below is a summary of the key findings.

Strongly agree Agree Do not agree or Disagree Disagree Strongly disagree
quality of work 29% 13% 35% 11% 12%
tangible rewards 32% 18% 23% 20% 7%
growth opportunities 30% 25% 19% 21% 5%
enabling environment 38% 26% 13% 22% 1%
inspiration values 16% 37% 9% 23% 15%
work-life balance 31% 26% 10% 19% 14%

The limitations of the research

The research only relied on survey questionnaires as a source of information. No qualitative analysis of employee’s opinion was done in order to determine their perceptions of drivers of employee engagement (Viswesvaran & Cooper Hakim, 2005).

Furthermore, because the research was based on preset answers in the questionnaire, employees were limited to the choices that the researcher had made during questionnaire design. There could have been other factors that were overlooked in the research process, yet employees were not allowed to give their suggestions. The independent variables in the research were multifaceted.

In other words, one variable represented a myriad of other factors that employees might consider as potential drivers. Although all participants knew what the variables represented, a number of them may have been prompted to select one answer over another because of a minor characteristic.

For instance, an employee may state that work balance does not affect his or her employee engagement simply because of the fact that he does not value work relationships. Additionally, some employees may not necessarily understand the concept of employee engagement.

All the responses are dependent on their interpretation of the term. However, to minimise this problem, the researcher made a point of explaining to all participants what employee engagement was. Thereafter, they had to pick on the factors that they thought led to that situation.

Summary of key findings

In the research it was found that the key drivers of change are quality of work, tangible rewards, growth opportunities, enabling environment, inspiration values and work life balance. The histogram was skewed towards agree and strongly agree. It is likely that some employees were uncertain about quality of work because they did not understand the parameter fully.


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