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Understanding Drivers of Engagement from Employees’ Perspective During Pandemic

Abstract: Modern organizations are like organisms constantly evolving on an evolutionary scale. Employee engagement is a vital nutrient which in…

By Shobha Singh , in Human Resource Management , at September 16, 2020

Abstract:

Modern organizations are like organisms constantly evolving on an evolutionary scale. Employee engagement is a vital nutrient which in most cases, decides the survival of the modern organization the creature in a jungle fighting for resources. Employees in the modern era constantly seek organizations that provide and actively improve the levers of engagement which provides them with both purpose and satisfaction of meaningful contributing.

In this study, responses from participants re-enforce and push to the frontier an important organizational cultural aspect that emerges as a key driver apart from “Leadership”, “Communication” & “Meaningful Purpose” across different strata of the occupations, industry, age group, and genders.

An additional dimension of the COVID pandemic (Impact Onset from May 2020 considered for study) is also considered as a key factor in finding out how the drivers will evolve in the future.

In the present study, a survey method is applied, and statistical tools have been employed to determine both traditional and evolving employee engagement drivers. In total, a sample of 286 participants from diverse cultures as well as an age has been analyzed.

Introduction:

Employee engagement entered the dictionary of human resource practitioners in the early 2000s and has been constantly gaining attention from organizations. There is a steady rise in terms of popularity.

According to Brad Shuck and Karen Wollard in “Employee Engagement and HRD: A Seminal Review of the Foundations”, The term employee engagement is seemingly as attractive for organizations as it is for the professional societies and consulting groups who promote it. The outcomes of employee engagement are advocated to be exactly what most organizations are seeking: employees who are more productive, profitable, safer, healthier, less likely to turnover, less likely to be absent, and more willing to engage in discretionary efforts.

Baliley, Madden et.al. (2017) identified the antecedents of employee engagement which included job design, leadership, team support, organizational intervention, and psychological well-being, and emphasized that engagement had a direct impact on performance. Dajani (2015), studied around 200 bankers from private and public sector banks in Egypt, Cairo and found out that Leadership and organizational justice were the two major drivers of employee engagement and this had a direct impact on employee performance, however, no significant impact was seen on organizational commitment. 

Bedarkar & Pandita (2014) threw light on the three major drivers of employee engagement which are Communication, Work-life balance, and Leadership behavior, and emphasized that these three when effectively used lead to engagement which further leads to employee performance and finally to organizational performance. Abraham (2012) Job satisfaction and employee engagement are related and the results of the regression tool revealed that the nature of one’s job, being recognized for the work done, interdepartmental support and cooperation, team spirit, and proper administration of company policies lead to a moderate level of engagement among employees. Shuck, Rocco et.al (2011) highlighted the factors which keep the employees engaged at work. The major drivers emphasized by them encompass interpersonal relations with colleagues/ peers, workplace environment, leadership behavior, and opportunities for learning and growth.  Sridevi & Markos (2010) stated that engaged employees are more emotionally attached and keenly involved in their work, therefore, perform with great enthusiasm in the organization.

Lockwood (2007) employees engaged at various levels, which may comprise active engagement, disengagement, and active disengagement determines the productivity level and retention in an organization. The research paper also highlighted that when an employee gets acknowledged for the good work, when they are better connected with the goals and mission of the organization and where there is an environment of continuous learning and development, employee engagement is found to be more in such organizations. High employee engagement leads to low turnover and maximum efficiency. Engagement in the words of William Kahn (1990) can be described as an employee’s ability to harness his/ her full self at work. To enable this, Kahn outlined three psychological conditions which are meaningfulness at work which implies whether the employee finds some worth in his/her work; secondly, Safety which connotes whether the employee feels secure enough to execute the task without any fear of being reprimanded in any manner and thirdly, availability which means whether the employee feels physically and mentally available to harness one’s full potential.

Methodology:

 A google form was constructed with 23 questions with responses in the form of a “Likert Scale” which had the following values,

  1. Strongly Agree
  2. Agree
  3. Disagree
  4. Strongly Disagree

“Neutral” was not provided as an option to the respondents, intentionally forcing them to express their views as either “Agree” spectrum and “Disagree” spectrum.

The survey was attended by 316 respondents. A data quality measure was applied to remove incomplete responses from the survey data which was available. Post the cleaning process only 286 survey responses remained.

Question Groups:

The 23 questions were divided into 4 groups, namely

1.      Organizational Culture

2.      Meaningful work/purpose

3.      Communication

4.      Relationship/Trust and Leadership 

Statistical Technique:

The Likert scale responses were given an ordinal value that does not describe the distance or levels of the continuum, but rather is used to determine correlation and factor scores. The following values were assigned,

S.No. Likert Scale Response Ordinal Value

1

Strongly Disagree

1

2

Disagree

2

3

Agree

3

4

Strongly Agree

4

 Statistical measure “Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) Test for Sampling Adequacy” was applied to determine suitability to employ “Factor Analysis”. The KMO returns values between 0 and 1.

A rule of thumb for interpreting the statistic:

       KMO values between 0.7 and 1 indicate the sampling is adequate.

       KMO values less than 0.6 indicate the sampling is not adequate and that remedial action should be taken.

       KMO Values close to zero means that there are large partial correlations compared to the sum of correlations. In other words, there are widespread correlations which are a large problem for factor analysis.

For all our analyses all the 23 variables had a KMO value of more than >= 0.7.

As a next step “Principal Component The analysis” (PCA) technique was employed to find out the set of principal components for Age, Industry, and Gender Diversity. Bartlett Factor Score technique was used to determine the true factors contributing to a principal component and their relationship with other variables. 3 components were determined as part of the PCA calculations.

PCA Technique

Of Age Less than 30:

The mean for this group was between “3.28 and 2.84” which indicated the majority of the respondents “Agreed” with the survey questions.

Primary Employee Engagement Driver

The primary driver emerging from the Age <30 group is the,

1. “Organizational Culture” along with

The other two factors,

2. “Meaningful Work/Purpose”

3. Relationship/trust in leadership

Are also present, but are minimal layer a secondary role for this group of respondents

Of Age between 30 & 40:

The mean for this group was between “3.4 and 2.9” which indicated the majority of the respondents “Agreed” with the survey questions.

Primary Employee Engagement Driver

The primary driver emerging for the Age between 30 and 40 groups are balanced between  and are two equally important drivers,

1. “Organizational Culture”

2. “Relationship/trust in leadership”

For the IT industry:

The mean for this group was between “3.5 and 2.98” which indicated the majority of the respondents “Agreed” with the survey questions.

Primary Employee Engagement Driver

The primary driver emerging for the respondents in the IT industry is the,

1. “Organizational Culture”

For the Manufacturing industry:

The mean for this group was between “3.51 and 2.98” which indicated the majority of the respondents “Agreed” with the survey questions.

Primary Employee Engagement Driver

The primary driver emerging for the respondents in the manufacturing industry are the,

1. “Organizational Culture”

For Male Gender:

The mean for this group was between “3.49 and 2.97” which indicated the majority of the respondents “Agreed” with the survey questions.

Primary Employee Engagement Driver

The primary driver emerging for the respondents among “Men” are,

1. “Organizational Culture”

2. “Relationship/Trust in Leadership”

3. “Meaningful work/Purpose”

For Female Gender:

The mean for this group was between “3.33 and 2.72” which indicated the majority of the respondents “Agreed” with the survey questions.

Primary Employee Engagement Driver

The primary driver emerging for the respondents among “Men” are,

1. “Relationship/Trust in Leadership”

2. “Organizational Culture”

Discussion

From the above “Factor Analysis” there clear drivers emerging from different groups, Listed below are a tabular summary for easy reference, 

Category (Respondents) Primary Factor Secondary Factor Tertiary Factor
Age <30 (89) Organizational Culture Meaningful Work/Purpose Relationship/trust   in leadership
Age > 30 & <40 (114) Organizational Culture Relationship/trust   in leadership  
IT Industry (102) Organizational Culture    
Manufacturing   (70) Organizational Culture    
Male (209) Organizational Culture Relationship/trust   in leadership Meaningful Work/Purpose
Female  (77) Relationship/trust   in leadership Organizational Culture  

Evolution of the driver in the future:

The recent COVID pandemic has changed the whole paradigm of the organizational fabric by the majority of the workforce being forced to work from home. Many large technology companies which are digital natives (Twitter, Facebook, etc.,) have already announced measures for work from home policies that have a deep impact on concepts such as,

1.      Social Exchange Theory by Alan Saks (2006)

 “SET the theory proposes that relationships are built around mutual obligations. When Saks transferred this theory to the workplace, he found that employees choose to engage themselves based on the resources the organization gives them. The organization provides support, certain conditions, and reward: the employee weighs these up, and if they find the balance suits them, they’ll commit in return. These two-way relationships will continue to thrive and grow, provided the rules of social exchange aren’t broken.” 

 

Category (Respondents) Primary Factor Evolution in future
Age <30 (89) Organizational Culture

       Remote working conditions will bring on a new kind of cultural paradigm in organizations

       The organizations that are not digital natives will undergo contractions in social exchanges between employees which were an essential way of working in the new era

       There will be more spend from “employers” to improve the culture through remote infrastructure and new social norms

 

Age > 30 & <40 (114) Organizational Culture
IT Industry (102) Organizational Culture
Manufacturing   (70) Organizational Culture
Male (209) Organizational Culture
Female  (77) Relationship/trust   in leadership

       The “Leadership”, especially in traditional companies, will have to now connect more through digital tools to re-enforce connect

       Earlier a mere presence in the office room re-assured   the employees psychologically of the presence of a leader but in a remote scenario there must be more digital interventions

Conclusion:

Employees are human beings, and as such, they are dynamic and are impacted by a wide range of factors daily that can’t be measured and compared in a vacuum. This includes their physical and mental health, relationships, living situation, the work environment, role, strategy, team, leadership, and much more.

Employee engagement is a moving objective because changes are constantly taking place in the workplace and individual experiences at work change over time. Objectives and goals are shifting, along with the competitive landscape and employee expectations. So, the way we think about employee engagement needs to shift, too, to stay appropriate during disruption and change.

 

Recommendation:

  1. Focus organizational approach to improve employee engagement.
  2. A committee should be established to examine and encourage the culture of employee engagement during crisis periods.

 

References:

 

Brad Shuck & Karen Wollard, Employee Engagement and HRD: A Seminal Review of the Foundations. Human Resource Development Review 2010 9: 89 originally published online 2 December 2009

Bedarkar, M., & Pandita, D. (2014). A study on the drivers of employee engagement impacting employee performance. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences133, 106-115.

Dajani, M. A. Z. (2015). The impact of employee engagement on job performance and organizational commitment in the Egyptian banking sector. Journal of Business and Management Sciences3(5), 138-147.

Abraham, S. (2012). Job satisfaction as an antecedent to employee engagement. SIES Journal of Management8(2).

West, M., & Dawson, J. (2012). Employee engagement and NHS performance. London: King’s Fund.

Bailey, C., Madden, A., Alfes, K., & Fletcher, L. (2017). The meaning, antecedents, and outcomes of employee engagement: A narrative synthesis. International Journal of Management Reviews19(1), 31-53.

Gruman, J. A., & Saks, A. M. (2011). Performance management and employee engagement. Human resource management review21(2), 123-136.

Shuck, M. B., Rocco, T. S., & Albornoz, C. A. (2011). Exploring employee engagement from the employee perspective: Implications for HRD. Journal of European Industrial Training.

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