Chapter 1

Chapter 1: Introduction.

1.1 Appropriate title.

An empirical study on employee engagement model to optimize organizational performance.

This thesis examines the factors that influence and shape employee engagement in building a competitive advantage by developing employee commitment and engagement. Despite the increment in spending to develop a committed workforce, research indicates that levels of employee commitment and engagement are not improving accordingly, possibly putting employee-generated competitive advantage in jeopardy. Therefore, the present research study was confined to only measure the current engagement level of employees and its impact on organizational effectiveness and to recommend suggestions to overcome organizational ineffectiveness through employee engagement enhancement. The study was empirical in nature, therefore quantitative research was used for data gathering and analysis. The study was conducted through the survey method. To carry out the study, the structured questionnaire technique was used to gain an insight about the issues explored in the study. For the purpose of the study, both primary and secondary data were collected, to achieve the formulated objectives. The primary data was collected from employees having a minimum of three years of work experience. The secondary data was collected from journals, books and websites.

1.2 Background of study.

Although employee engagement is not a new topic to be studied, it has been a favorite subject to delve in-depth for those in the management community. Engagement is more than simple job satisfaction and high retention rates. Fully engaged workers are those who are not only physically be there but also posed energetic, emotionally connected, mentally focused, and feel aligned with the purpose of the agency. Engaged employees have a strong bonding with the organization they work with. These employees feel empowered and in control of the outcome at work. They identify the company objectives and are willing to commit the necessary emotional and personal energies necessary to excel in their work. In short, engaged individuals willingly help achieve company goals and are emotionally involved in the tasks of their organization. Having an engaged workforce in the organization is vitally important because engaged employees help organizations reap benefits such as increased efficiency, higher levels of customer satisfaction, higher productivity, and lower turnover rates. However, although there are numerous studies had been done to describes how engaged employees contribute to the overall success of an organization, little were done to describe the benefits of engagement, and to identify what factors may predict it. Kahn (1990) model proposes that engagement differs from basic job involvement, in that it focuses not on worker skills but, rather, on how one commits him/herself during the performance of the job. Engagement entails the active use of emotions in addition to the simple use of cognition while completing work tasks. The major propositions of the model are that people express themselves cognitively, physically, and emotionally while performing their work roles. The model proposes that, in order for individuals to fully engage with their job, three psychological conditions must be met in the work environment: meaningfulness (workers feeling that their job tasks are worthwhile), feeling safety as though the work environment is one of trust and supportiveness), and availability such as workers having the physical, emotional, and psychological means to engage in their job tasks at any given moment. Another major proposition of the engagement model is that these three key psychological conditions are, to some degree, within the control of agency management. Employee engagement is also something that is changeable, and can vary widely from one workplace to another. Studies indicate that workers are, to some extent, a reflection of the administrators of an agency. Low or conversely high engagement scores have been traced back to the organization’s leadership, from top to bottom. Therefore, the results of engagement studies should have considerable applicability to the social work field. For instance, leaders in organizations could utilize data from engagement studies to create and implement strategies that would increase staff engagement, thereby decreasing the potential for burnout and maximizing successful outcomes for the agency and for the clients they serve.

1.3 Problem statement definition.

Despite evidence of how destructive employee burnout or disengagement can be, studies from the services field on the opposite condition, engagement, are limited. Surprisingly little academic and empirical research has been conducted overall, and a large portion of it comes from the business management community. Additionally, studies do not differentiate services industry from workers in other industries. To address this problem, more research that focuses specifically on the engagement levels of workers in services industry is necessary. Empirical data are needed so professionals can better understand employee engagement and use what they learn about it to develop managerial interventions and alternative strategies that foster engagement for human services workers.

1.4 Research objectives

The objectives of this research was to examine factors that predict levels of engagement for employees in organization. Demographic and work life variables were examined to determine if they impacted scores on the employee engagement scale. The exploratory research questions and hypotheses were developed following a review of the literature and the completion of a pilot study. As will be explained in Chapter Two, work life variables are thought to be related to levels of employee engagement. However, studies on work engagement are limited and the literature is unclear as to which variables are the strongest predictors. No identified studies have examined workers specifically in the service industry. Therefore, variables for this study were chosen by reviewing the limited data that are available regarding work engagement, followed by examining factors related to burnout. The assumption of this study is that if a factor predicts burnout, that same factor may have an opposite relationship to engagement. The factors which were explored for this study include office location, employee’s years of service to the agency, gender, and whether or not the employee’s job function includes supervising other staff.

1.5 Significance of study

The results of this study will provide insight and information for administrators, practitioners, and researchers about employee engagement in the human services field. Administrators from the agency that was evaluated may benefit from the survey feedback and could implement strategies for change that address participant responses. Administrators in other agencies can also benefit by understanding how critical engagement is, and that as a positive construct, it can be measured easily in a variety of settings. Once the level of employee engagement is measured, administrators can develop and implement change strategies that would actually improve staff engagement in their organization, thereby potentially increasing the overall effectiveness of the agency, and possibly decreasing levels of burnout. Practitioners may benefit by understanding engagement and coming to realize that they will be more successful in serving clients and, at the same time, at less risk for occupational burnout, if they are working at a job in which they can fully engage. Additionally, practitioners who function in supervisory positions may benefit by understanding that staff usually adopt the characteristics and attitudes of their leaders, making it difficult for staff to be engaged unless the managers are. Supervisors should, therefore, work toward creating a work environment that lends itself to engagement from themselves and from the staff. Finally, researchers can use the information to conduct similar studies that will contribute to the knowledge based about staff engagement in services industry. Researchers should attempt to further determine what similarities in engagement levels may exist across occupations in the field, what factors may predict engagement, and what the specific benefits of engagement are for services industry.

1.6 Scope ; feasibility of study.

Highly engaged employees make a substantive contribution to their agency and may predict organizational success. But the reverse holds true as well. Disengaged employees can be a serious liability. It compares disengagement to a cancer that can slowly erode an agency. Customer satisfaction, employee retention, and productivity are all at risk unless burnout and disengagement can be controlled. Unfortunately, some studies show that workers in general are not engaged with their jobs. This lack of engagement affects large and small organizations all over the world, causing them to incur excess costs, to under perform on crucial tasks, and to create widespread customer dissatisfaction. Disengagement can affect the financial solidarity of an agency as well. It explains the potential monetary impact by estimating that if an organization has employees who are only 30% to 50% percent engaged then 50% to 70% of the payroll is an ineffective expenditure of agency resources. And not only are these disengaged staff members taking up resources in pay and benefits, they also work against the best interests of the agency and can actually turn committed employees against the organization. To further emphasize how widespread this problem is and how critical it can be. This thesis focused on the overall purpose and direction for the key research area with a review of the pertinent literature. The following Chapters will provide a detailed description of the study, its findings and a discussion of its implications for policy, practice, and research in the field of employee engagement. This study was designed to help social service administrators understand and foster the positive state of staff engagement in their agencies. An engaged workforce may provide a buffer against the costly effects of disengagement and burnout, and may prove to be a critical element in achieving successful outcomes for agencies as well as for their individual clients.