Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
1.2 Problem Statement
1.3 Research Aim and Objectives
1.4 Structure of the Dissertation
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
2.2 Employee Job Engagement
2.3 Impact of Leadership Style on Job Engagement
2.4 Impact of Performance Assessment on Job Engagement
2.5 Impact of Compensation and Welfare on Job Engagement
2.6 Impact of Training and Development on Job Engagement
CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY
3.2 Research Philosophy
3.3 Research Approach
3.4 Research Strategy
3.4.1 Questionnaire survey
3.4.2 Questionnaire Design
3.5 Sample and Sampling Techniques
3.6 Data Collection
3.7 Data Analysis
3.8 Validity and Reliability
3.9 Research Ethics
CHAPTER 4: RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
4.1 Overview of the Study Findings
4.2 Impact of Leadership Style on Employee Engagement
4.3 Impact of Performance Assessment on Employee Engagement
4.3 Impact of Compensation and Welfare on Employee Engagement
4.5 Impact of Training and Development on Employee Engagement
CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
With the arrival of new economic times, competition among enterprises is increasingly fierce. In order to keep a strong market footing and sustainable operational improvement, enterprises are gradually realising that talents are the key factors of remaining competitive (Bakker and Laiter, 2010). Today, more and more enterprises have started to conduct researches on job engagement with a view to improving job performance and satisfaction (Kaplan et al., 2009). This has given popularity to the field of positive psychology. This is due to its utility in understanding employee behaviours and how such behaviours can be adjusted to realise high productivity. In recent years, managers and researchers are gradually realising the great impact that positive psychology has on improving business performance (Bakker and Leiter, 2010; Warr and Inceoglu, 2012). Through positive psychology employers are able to rollout new employee welfare programmes to boost employees’ morale and hence their ability to remain focused and committed to organisational goals.
Under the backdrop of this realisation, job engagement as a business management concept has become very popular in China as well as in the western world. Job engagement pays attention to the individual's positive attitude towards the job. This exerts a significant impact on the business performance and can greatly improve job efficiency and retention rate (Rich, Lepine and Crawford, 2010). Therefore, it is necessary for enterprises to try to improve employees’ job engagement by rolling out programmes that address the individual, group and family needs of the employees.
The concept of employee engagement is multidimensional. Attridge (2009) posits that “the concept of employee work engagement describes the extent to which workers are involved with, committed to, and passionate about their work” (p.1). For Bakker and Leiter (2010), employee engagement is a concept of managing contemporary enterprises that involves increasing the overall involvement of employees towards the organisational goals. Normally, employee engagement is measurable in terms of how employees positively or negatively attach themselves emotionally to workplace processes, people and the organisation in general. However, it should be noted that employee engagement is very different from employee satisfaction or employee motivation but motivation and satisfaction forms part of employee engagement (BlessingWhite, 2011). From these closely related arguments it can be concluded that the concept of employee engagement which is also referred to as worker engagement or even employee job engagement is a set of positive attitudes towards the organisation, its vision, mission and values.
Employee engagement is a function of multiple factors. Conventional knowledge gathered from multiple sources show that employee engagement is normally influenced by factors that have a direct bearing on the employees compensation levels and welfare at the workplace (see for example Bakker and Leiter, 2010; Muller and Trannoy, 2011; Warr and Inceoglu, 2012). This is an indicator that organisations that embrace collectivism and other worthwhile, modern human resource management practices such as share-based employee loyalty programmes strengthen their long term strategic standing while those that do not practice this are at a disadvantage.
Studies carried out by Avolio, Bass, and Walumbwa (2004), Tims and Bakker (2011), Walumbwa and Hartnell (2011), Wang and Chen (2005) all point out to the notion that leadership style has a great bearing on employee engagement. Specifically, these studies believe that transformational leadership style has the greatest impact on employee engagement among all existing leadership styles. This is so because transformational leadership increase employees’ dedication and commitment to their tasks, increases employees’ potency and efficacy, and increases employees’ ability to undertake complex organisational tasks.
Employee engagement is also influenced by performance assessment. According to studies carried out by Denisi and Pritchard (2006) and Muchinsky (2012), employee engagement is influenced by performance assessment related factors such as performance management and target setting. On the other hand, studies carried out by Schraeder, Becton and Portis (2007), Sudarsan (2009) show that employee engagement is influenced by factors related to employee welfare and welfare programmes. Performance appraisal has strong bearing on employee engagement as it gives employees an opportunity to re-examine and align their capabilities with those of the organisation (Armstrong and Baron, 2005; Denisi and Pritchard, 2006; Manasa and Reddy, 2009; Muchinsky, 2012). On their part, Gruman and Saks (2011) and Keeping and Levy (2000) when performed professionally, performance appraisal help to identify training needs, communicate employee skill needs and how best these skills can be acquired. However, Cawley, Keeping and Levy (1998), Keeping and Levy (2000), and Muchinsky (2009) cautions that if performed unprofessionally, performance appraisal can be detrimental to employee engagement as it can kill employee morale and commitment especially when the appraiser is biased.
Lastly, studies carried out by Brum (2007), Becker (1993), Castellano (2001), York (2010) and Truss et al. (2006) argue that employee engagement is influenced by factors related to training and development. These studies argue that employee training and development is the best way of managing human capital. Specifically, these authors argue that when employees are given the necessary knowledge and skills to perform their tasks, they tend to become more happy, resourceful and engaged. Moreover, Truss et al. (2006) posit that employees need to be taken through regular training drills so as to become their overall productivity, an organisational target that is directly impacted by the level of employee engagement. Overall, these studies seem to arrive at the conclusion that employee engagement is a business management idea whose core premise is to make employees more productive.
Employees who are not meaningfully engaged are costly to maintain. A study commissioned by the Gallup Organisation show that employees that are not meaningfully engaged cost between $250 and $350 billion every year to employers in the United States (Attridge, 2009). Another study carried out in the 1990s show that employees that are not connected to their jobs pose a major challenge to CEOs especially when building competitive advantage through cost reduction and sustainable innovation (Wah, 1999). These two studies are reflective of the situation at ground in many organisations across the global divide. For instance, BlessingWhite (2011) argues that studies carried out in the 1990s show that only about one out of every five employees is meaningfully engaged. This converts to about 20 percent of all employees in the world. According to Attridge (2009), a survey whose results were tabled in a 2005 Conference Board showed that about two thirds of employees lack the will power to pursue their employers’ goals; another 40 percent employees lack a genuine connection to their jobs, while another 25 percent only attend their tasks to get paid. This large number of unengaged employees could be responsible for the occasional market crises and losses in the global market especially among large multinational companies with foot prints in major markets that are known to treat their employees differently according t the local labour and employment cultures.
1.2 Problem Statement
In the past decades, job burnout has become a hot topic among western and Far East organisations. Based on survey results published in the Chinese Human Resource Development website, almost 70 percent of Chinese employees possess different levels of job burnout. This is due to the rapid development of the economy and the gradual westernisation of the originally conservative society. Under this background, job engagement becomes important point in human resource management among many organisations.
Many researchers have studied the antecedents of job engagement and factors including leadership style, performance assessment, compensation and welfare and training and development (see for example Hassan and Ahmed, 2011; Albrecht, 2011; Attridge, 2009; Bakker and Leiter, 2010; BlessingWhite, 2010; Earnshaw, 2005, Kaplan et al., 2009; Maslach and Leiter, 2008; O’Neil and Maitland, 2008; Taylor Nelson Sofres, 2011; Warr and Inceoglu, 2012). As expected, majority of these studies address employee engagement from an international perspective while only a few narrow down their scope on Chinese situation. Studies addressing Employee engagement in China include BlessingWhite (2011), Earnshaw (2005), O’Neil and Maitland (2008) and Taylor Nelson Sofres (2011) all suggest that employee engagement in China is at its lowest compared to other countries in the world. For instance, BlessingWhite (2011) argue that employee engagement in China was found to be 52 percent, about 6 points lower than the situation in other parts of the world. BlessingWhite study found that the number of Chinese employees likely to leave their jobs was triple the global benchmark (16 percent against 5 percent). The study also found that employees engage themselves because they like their work while employees disengage themselves from their work because of lack of career opportunities, desire for better compensation, and because they do not like their work.
Despite these cross cutting studies, it is wise to argue that studies on job engagement in China are still in their nascent stages – most of the existing studies do not critically address the major factors that affect employee engagement, they only report employee engagement levels in the country without outlining in deeper detail the reasons behind these levels. Therefore, it is important to carry out a study that critically analyses the major factors that influence employees’ job engagement in China by collecting information from practising human resources management professionals through the China Human Resource Website. In addition, the extremely low employee engagement levels in China are another precursor for more studies to be done on this area. Moreover, with the prevailing uncertainty in the international market and the growing competition in both local and international markets following the country’s entry into the World Trade Organisation, it is only fair to assert that more studies need to be carried out so as to establish the degree which critical factors such as leadership style, performance assessment, compensation and welfare, and training and development impact employee engagement. This will provide useful information that organisations can utilise to improve employees’ job engagement level and the wellbeing of the entire organisation.
1.3 Research Aim and Objectives
Currently, in the intense market competition around the global business, talents are the core resources of enterprises, and organisational performance greatly can be determined by the level of these talents engaging in the work. Job engagement is a crucial facet for building competitive advantage among organisations in emerging markets such as China. Therefore, this research is very crucial as it seeks to analyse the factors influencing employees’ job engagement among Chinese organisations. From this overarching aim, the study will also pursue the following specific research objectives:
1. To explore the impact of leadership style on employees’ job engagement in China.
2. To investigate the impact of performance assessment on employees' job engagement in China.
3. To report the impact of compensation and welfare on employees' job engagement in China.
4. To analyse the impact of training and development on employees' job engagement in China.
1.4 Structure of the Dissertation
This dissertation comprises of five chapters. Chapter covers a background of the study, problem statement, research objectives and aims. Chapter two covers a comprehensive review of the existing relevant literature gathered from journal articles, textbooks, and authentic websites. The third chapter will cover the research methodology, sampling, data collection and data analysis methods. The fourth chapter will present a set of findings and discussion of these findings. Lastly, the fifth chapter will wrap up the study and offer recommendations that organisations in China can employ to enhance employees’ job engagement.
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
This chapter provides a rich set of information on job engagement. This is in line with Creswell (2009) who posits that a literature review chapter should cover information related to the study aims and objectives. To this end, chapter is divided into five main sections. Firstly, the chapter covers a comprehensive discussion/definition of job engagement. The second section addresses information related to leadership style and job engagement, the third section will address literature related to performance assessment and job engagement, the fourth section will address literature related to compensation and employee welfare and job engagement while the fifth section will address training and development and job engagement. Lastly, the chapter will be wrapped up with a short but comprehensive summary addressing all the major points reviewed in the chapter.
2.2 Employee Job Engagement
Researchers have put forward multiple definitions and dimensions of employee engagement. For instance, Wefald and Downey (2008) defined job engagement as the ability for organisational members to control themselves to integrate with work related roles. From this definition, it can be deduced that self and work role are actually in a dynamic process of transformation. When job engagement is relatively high, individuals will input the energy to role behaviour (self-employment), and express self in role (self-expression). Based on this point, Kahn further divided job engagement to physical, cognitive and emotional dimensions. Kim, Shin and Swanger (2008) redefined job engagement as the omission of burnout. They regarded burnout and engagement as two external points of a three-dimensional continuum and divided job engagement into three dimensions of energy, involvement and efficacy. On their part, Schaufeli et al. (2002) defined the concept of job engagement as a kind of durable perfect state full of positive emotion and motivation characterised by vigour, dedication and absorption. Based on the above discussions, it can be summarised that job engagement refers to the state of mutually satisfying contentment among employees. Employee engagement is a facet of emotional attachment. Studies show that actively engaged employees have strong emotional attachment towards both the organisation and the values it stands for. A 2010 study by BlessngWhite shows that only about 31 percent of all employees are emotionally attached to their jobs (BlessingWhite, 2011). These employees have been noted to work with great passion and are always willing to paint a good image of their organisation – a big chunk of the emotionally engaged employees believe that they have the capacity to make their organisation succeed in the long run (Bakker and Leiter, 2010). Specifically, these employees believe they have a positive impact on the quality of the product an organisation sells to its customers, they can positively influence customer perceptions regarding brand quality and most importantly, they can positively impact on an organisation’s cost reduction efforts. Again, emotionally attached employees will most likely recommend the organisation to their colleagues (Robinson and Hayday, 2003). Overall, emotional attachment has to do with the intrinsically positioned prompts that an organisation extends to its employees such as personal growth and a sense of common purpose and involvement in core organisational processes such as workplace restructuring and change of mission statement. Extrinsic prompts such as pay and rewards too have substantial impacts on emotional engagement but it is intrinsic prompts which have the biggest influence.
Employee engagement entails maximum employee involvement in organisational processes and activities. According to a study carried out by Appelbaum et al (2000) on 10 electronic manufacturers, 17 apparels manufacturers, and 15 steel mills, to compare and modern production systems, it was found that employees become more engaged if they are involved in organisational activities. When employees are involved in making decisions they develop positive attitudes towards the organisation and are easier to manage. To this effect, Attridge (2009) argues that engaged employees are usually passionate about their organisation. Bakker and Leiter (2010) argue that employee engagement is a contemporary business management concept that whose core goal is to generate morale and therefore make employees more involved in workplace activities. Overall, employee engagement is determined by how employees positively or negatively attach themselves emotionally to workplace processes, people and the organisation.
Employee engagement also incorporates commitment involvement and higher organisational performance. Employee engagement is a function of many performance related constructs which all narrow down to employee involvement and performance (Attridge, 2009; Bakker and Leiter, 2010). According a study carried out by Lockwood (2007), engaged employees were found to be 87 percent less likely to quit their current jobs, perform 20 percent better, are committed to the organisation. Lockwood also agrees that engaged employees are likely to serve customers well and therefore earn the organisation more revenue. Moreover, engaged employees are less likely to be involved in workplace accidents as they command a better understanding of organisational processes. This helps to reduce operation costs and therefore freeing the much needed funds for use in income-generating activities. Again, two studies one involving over 3500 employees from 49 organisations and the other one involving over 4800 employees from 92 organisations in the life insurance industry found that when employees are constantly involved in running the organisations, their morale increases and hence their performance (Konrad, 2006). Overall, these findings lead to the conclusion that organisations with committed and engaged employees outperform their colleagues whose employees were less engaged.
2.3 Impact of Leadership Style on Job Engagement
Leadership style refers to the different characters expressed by leadership in the long-term operations process of an enterprise. The leadership style varies a lot from one enterprise to another. Mainly, there are three typical kinds of leadership styles including autocratic leadership style, democratic leadership style and laissez-faire leadership style (Albrecht, 2011; Wang and Chen, 2005). Democratic leadership style can further be broken down into transformational and transactional leadership facets (Vugt et al., 2004). Overall, a leadership style shapes the employer-employee relationships and makes the workplace more accommodative.
Trust is an important facet of democratic leadership styles as shown by a survey conducted by BlessingWhite (2011) in China – trust creates a sense of entitlement and belonging among employees (Tims, Bakker and Xanthopoulou, 2011). BlessingWhite (2011) found that most of employees would like to have more chances to engage in their jobs because they considered that leadership is an important factor in employees' job engagement. Further the study found that about two thirds of all employees working for various organisations in China reported to have trust in their organisation’s leadership. This was the second highest show of trust on organisational leadership after India (with 75 percent) and ahead of Southeast Asia (with 62 percent), Australia/New Zealand (with 55 percent), North America (52 percent), and UK/Europe (50 percent). Further, the study found that 3 in every 4 Chinese employees have trust in their managers, an almost similar trend with the situation in other major markets of the world. On their part, Ludwig and Frazier (2012) found that when employees can connect with the destiny and purpose of enterprises, they will possess high level of engagement with high aspirations. Through conducting research on ten thousand employees in Great Britain, Institute of Employment Studies found that a sense of being involved and valued is a significant driver of job engagement. It has been achieved that leadership qualities can help organisations achieve high level of engagement (Markos and Sridevi, 2010). It is arguable that leadership and management styles have a great impact on employee engagement because employees tend to trust leaders and managers are capable of setting a good organisational culture and inspiring them to greater heights.
Leadership styles that enhance workplace interpersonal relationships have a greater impact on job engagement than others. Tims et al. (2011) investigated whether supervisor’s leadership style has a direct influence on employee work engagement and found that transformational leadership that puts in place strong workplace relationships boosts employee engagement. Bass (1985) found that transactional leadership and laissez-faire leadership styles have a lesser impact on employee engagement compared to transformational leadership. The author argues that this is because the former two leadership styles lack motivational and inspirational appeal and therefore cannot impact on employee engagement as transformational leadership does. This is because transformational leadership provides individual support for employees. These findings are supported by Vugt et al (2004) who found that employees are more likely to leave groups headed by transactional and laissez-faire leaders and join groups headed by transformational leaders. Vugt argues employees are discouraged by the limited control they enjoy when it comes to decision making processes when in transactional leadership groups and lack the drive to invest more efforts in their tasks when in laissez-faire leadership groups. These findings are supported by Skogstaad et al (2007) that leadership styles that does not support to employees normally reduce employee morale. Overall, transformational leadership transforms employees’ norms and values, inspires employees and makes them more happy and useful to the organisation. This in turn boosts their job engagement.
Leadership styles that address employees’ interests increase job engagement. Since managers are known to exercise a hard style of leadership where employees are assumed to be knowledgeable enough as to undertake their tasks without guidance or motivation, it is arguable that the gist of leadership in an organisation is to create a soft approach for achieving the set organisational goals (see for example Tims et al, 2010). Evidence shows that employees tend to become more committed to their tasks if the top management rolls out programmes that improve their overall welfare such as programmes aimed at covering their medical insurances expenses or aligning employees’ interests with organisational interests. Transformational leadership for instance, inspires employees, influences employees positively, takes into consideration employees’ individual needs, and stimulates employees’ intellectual faculties (Tims and Bakker, 2011). Inspiration takes the form of objective communication that is appealing in nature while idealised influence take the form of convincing employees to believe that group interests are more important than individual interests. Together, idealised influence and inspiration constitutes what is generally referred to as charismatic leadership style as demonstrated by renowned leaders such as the late Steve Jobs or Apple Computers (Warr and Inceoglu, 2012). On the other hand, individual consideration acknowledging employees career growth needs and providing tailor made programmes that fulfil these needs (Avolio, Bass, and Walumbwa, 2004). Lastly, intellectual stimulation has to do with the constant talks that managers hold with employees to convince them to practice a multidimensional approach to workplace challenges. This involves critical thinking and can only be made possible if employees are more engaged with their tasks (Avery, McKay, and Wilson, 2007). When followers are challenged, involved, share the vision of the leader they tend to drop their own personal visions and work towards the collective organisational vision.