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«Employee Engagement A study of employee engagement at Topaz‟s South Dublin Region Service Stations By Robert Knight A dissertation submitted in ...»

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Employee Engagement

A study of employee engagement at Topaz‟s

South Dublin Region Service Stations

By

Robert Knight

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment

of the requirements of the Masters in Human

Resource Management

Research Supervisor: Colin Whitston

Presented to the National College of Ireland

August 2011

Abstract

This dissertation is attempting to delve into the prevailing attitudes and employee

engagement within Topaz South Dublin service stations. The importance of employee engagement is highlighted in relation to the concept of Human Capital Management. The data collection was based on a survey which was carried out by the CIPD (2006) on employee engagement in the UK.

The researcher seeks to understand aspects of working life at the Topaz service stations within the South Dublin catchment area. Aspects such as meaningfulness of tasks within the role, aspects of feelings towards the role, individual perceived performance levels, the amount of effort given by employees and the level of employee satisfaction with aspects such as working environment, co-workers and management. The dissertation aims to measure engagement and look at the areas where management interventions can be implemented to increase the overall level of employee engagement.

Declaration I declare that this piece of research is entirely my own work and all research was conducted ethically.

Signed: _________________________________ Date:______________________

Acknowledgements The researcher would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the assistance and support that has been received from the faculty at the National College of Ireland, in particular Colin Whitston.

The researcher would also like to thank Karl Thompson, the area manager for Topaz South Dublin and Ruta Ciutiene for her help and support during the research process.

Contents Chapter Page No.

Chapter 1 Introduction 1 Chapter 2 - Literature Review Why Employee Engagement is of importance and interest? 3 Engagement – Definition 5 The context for analysing the employee engagement phenomenon 8 Human Capital Management 11 Disengagement 11 Engagement and the Psychological States 12 Consequences of Engagement 16 Employee Engagement-Cultural, Economic & Occupational Contexts 18 Engagement Models

–  –  –

Employee engagement, according to the Corporate Executive Board (2004) is the “extent to which an employee commits to something or someone in the organisation and how long they stay as a result of their commitment”.

The main focus of this dissertation is an evaluation and measurement of employee engagement. Employee engagement is defined by Kahn as “the harnessing of organisational members’ selves to their work roles; in engagement, people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively and emotionally during role performances” (Kahn, W.A. 1990). Within the literature review the researcher reviewed academic as well as practitioner research relating to the subject matter of employee engagement. The researcher, in completion of the dissertation, utilised peer review journals, as well as internet searches in order to find up to date practitioner publications on employee engagement.

The context of the dissertation was based within the service stations of Topaz, which fall under the South Dublin catchment area. Topaz has been present in the Irish petrol service station market for the last 3 years. It took a foothold in the Irish market by acquiring and subsequently merging Statoil and Shell service stations, which through their re-branding of the acquired service stations, gave them a country wide presence in a matter of months.

In order to collect the data to complete the dissertation, the researcher personally distributed employee engagement surveys to the assigned service stations. The survey is based on a report which was carried out by the CIPD in 2006, which attempted to measure the levels and drivers of employee engagement in the UK. The results from the CIPD (2006) report were used as a benchmark by the researcher in analysing the results from the data collection.

The dissertation looked at employee engagement and how its component parts cognitive, physical and emotional engagement measure up across the different sections of employees. The employee groupings are as follows: sales assistant, supervisor, assistant manager and manager.

–  –  –

 Why Employee Engagement is of importance and interest?

Employee engagement has become a heavily discussed topic in recent years.

However, there is still ambiguity within the academic literature as to how employee engagement can be influenced by management. There has been significant interest in employee engagement, but this has been coupled with a good deal of misunderstanding. According to Kular et al (2008), this misunderstanding can be partly attributed to the fact that there is no definitive definition, resulting in engagement being operationalised and subsequently measured in varying ways.

From a HR perspective today, engagement continues to be an important consideration. Due to the challenging economic climate, organisations now more than ever are deciding to restructure and resize, which has resulted in organisations investigating new approaches to maintain and increase engagement. Organisations fight to recruit and train their talent, so they need to do their best to keep hold of it.





Organisations need to strike the right balance between fostering and enhancing employee engagement levels while at the same time not compromising their competitive position.

The connection between the attitudes and behaviours of employees and the link to the organisations bottom line was first successfully displayed 19 years ago by US retail company Sears. Sears advocated employee engagement in the form of the „employee-customer-profit chain‟. The results which Sears attained from this initiative were astounding. In one year, Sears transformed its biggest loss making division (merchandising) from a $3bn loss to the company into a $752m revenue generating division (De Vita, 2007).

As a result of the immense impact employee engagement had on Sears, HR consultancy firms began to work with organisations to develop metrics in order to quantify employee attitudes and behaviours and there resulting impact on customer satisfaction and organisational performance. According to Jim Crawly, a principle at HR research and consultancy company Towers Perrin, “while previously anyone would intuitively have said there is a link between people being well disposed towards an organisation and the likelihood of that organisation being successful, now there is evidence to prove it” (De Vita, 2007).

In December 2004, the Harvard Business Review released the results of a survey carried out by the Corporate Leadership Council (CLC), which involved the compiling of 50,000 employee engagement surveys in more than 59 countries worldwide. One of the main findings from the study was that increased commitment can result in a 57% improvement in discretionary effort displayed by employees.

According to Buchanan (2004) the increased discretionary effort displayed by employees produced on average, a 20% increase in individual performance and an 87% reduction in desire to leave the organisation.

According to Sirota, Mischkind & Meltzer (2005), from the analysis of their research on employee attitudes, which was based on never before-published case studies and data from 920,000 employees from 28 multinational companies over four years, resulted in the generation of hard data to prove that the share price of organisations with highly engaged employees increased on average by 16% in 2004 in comparison to the industry average of 6%. Similarly, the stock price of organisations with high morale had superior performance to comparable companies in the same industry by a ratio of 2.5:1 during 2004. Conversely the stock price of companies with low morale underperformed in relation to the industry competitors by a ratio of 5:1.

According to Sirota (2005) “Morale e is a direct consequence of being treated well by the company, and employees return the „gift‟ of good treatment with higher productivity and work quality, lower turnover (which reduces recruiting and training costs), a decrease in workers shirking their duties, and a superior pool of job applicants. These gains translate directly into higher company profitability. Satisfied employees lead to satisfied customers, which results in higher sales. Satisfied customers and higher sales, in turn, result in more satisfied employees who can enjoy the sense of achievement and the material benefits that come from working for a successful company. It‟s a „virtuous circle‟ – the best of all worlds”.

 Engagement – Definition Kahn (1990) was credited with conceptualising the term personal engagement which he defines as “the harnessing of organisational members‟ selves to their work roles;

in engagement, people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively and emotionally during role performances”.

Kahn‟s study started with the work of Goffman (1961), as well as looking across disciplines such as psychology (Freud 1922), sociology (Merton 1957) and group theorists (Slater 1966, Smith & Berg 1987) who all documented the natural resistance of an individual, concerning becoming a member of on-going groups and systems. The individual seeks to prevent total isolation or engulfment by being in a constant state of flux towards and away from the group (Kahn 1990). Kahn named this forward and backward flux as, „personal engagement‟ and „personal disengagement‟.

The cognitive aspect of employee engagement deals with the employees beliefs about organisation factors such as, how it is led, by whom and the working conditions which exist within the organisation. The emotional element deals with how the employee feels about each of the three aforementioned factors and if they possess a positive or negative attitude towards the organisation and its leader(s). The physical aspect of Kahn‟s definition relates to the physical energies employed by individuals in order to carry out their organisational role(s).

The literature concerning employee engagement poses a challenge due to the fact that there is no one universally applied definition to cover the topic of employee engagement. According to Baumruk (2004) employee engagement has been defined within the confines of emotional and intellectual commitment to the organisation or the quantity of discretionary effort, defined by Yankelovich and Immerwahr (1984), as the voluntary effort employees provide above and beyond what is required by employees in their job (Frank et al 2004). From Kahn‟s definition it is clear that employee engagement is a multi-faceted paradigm. The multi-dimensional approach to looking at engagement comes from the perspective that Kahn took on the individual‟s working experience. Kahn (1990) argued that the work of Goffman (1961) only concentrated on momentary face-to-face meetings, whereas an altered concept needed to be developed which would transcend appropriately into organisational life, which is, according to Diamond & Allcorn (1985), “on-going, emotionally charged and psychologically complex”. Truss et al (2006), define employee engagement as a „passion for work‟, which encompasses the three elements of engagement, previously discussed by Kahn (1990) in one psychological state.

Due to the varying definitions of employee engagement, the results of different studies become difficult to examine. This is because each study may look at the subject of employee engagement through a different lens, depending on the definition they decide upon. According to Ferguson (2007), with a universal definition of employee engagement lacking, it cannot be accurately defined and thus it cannot be measured and thus managed. According to Robinson et al (2004), while it has been noted that employee engagement has been defined in numerous ways, a number of those definitions within their construct are similar to more established con-structural definitions relating to organisational commitment and organisational citizenship behaviour (OCB). Robinson et al (2004) define engagement as „one step up from commitment‟, which begs the question, is employee engagement just „old wine in a new bottle‟?

Saks (2006) argues that employee engagement differs from organisational commitment (OC) on the grounds that OC represents a person‟s attitude and connection concerning their organisation, while on the other hand, engagement is more than an attitude, it is how psychologically, cognitively and behaviourally employed the individual is in their role, displayed by how attentive they are to their work and how absorbed the individual is in the performance of the role. Employee engagement also differs from OCB, as engagement is concerned with the passion for one‟s role, while OCB is concerned with extra-role and voluntary behaviour.

 The context for analysing the employee engagement phenomenon The employment relationship is the arena in which employee engagement will either be fostered or negated. The employment relationship has had much iteration through the years, with the employment level as well as union presence and strength exerting an influence over the relationship. Harbison and Myers (1959) discuss the shift among employers in the early nineteenth century, where employers were beginning to come to the realisation that in order to create satisfactory conditions for capital accumulation they would need to utilise subordination, loyalty ( a characteristic of the unitary perspective) and increased productivity (combating „Saint Monday‟) among workers. Pollard (1968) proposed three employer methods for managing and maintaining discipline among the workforce, (1) „the proverbial stick‟ (pp. 218-221);

(2) „the proverbial carrot‟ (pp. 221-225) and (3) „the attempt to create a new ethos of work order and discipline‟. These three methods were along a spectrum, the „carrot‟ at one end and the stick at the other, it was up to employers (more so management) as to how they would utilise each element.



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