The relationship between employee engagement and the quality of work environment (QWE): a mixed method analysis using Australian evidence
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 23:34 authored by Elizabeth Frino
Employee engagement is a multifaceted concept encompassing the physical,emotional and cognitive connections employees experience at work. Ensuring employees are engaged is considered important in today's organisations due to claimed benefits such as improved productivity, increased innovation as well as greater commitment and employee wellbeing. However, globally, there is an increasing divergence between the perceived benefits or expectations of engagement and reported levels of employee engagement. So, understanding what factors or conditions are most likely to create a highly engaged employee has become one of the most urgent questions for organisations and practitioners to address. Although several influencing factors or 'determinants' of employee engagement have been identified in the scholarly literature, there is no universally accepted set of factors. The engagement literature has reached a crossroads that requires a consideration of new options and alternative approaches to research in moving forward. Firstly, in order to advance our understanding of employee engagement, new avenues and perspectives must besought from neighbouring disciplines. Currently, employee engagement research has made limited use of wider environmental factors, such as context, as controlling conditions influencing engagement. Much of the engagement field has become pigeon holed towards one main research approach, based on the positivist paradigm, which lends all research to test and explore individual behaviours and attitudes in isolation. Such an approach assumes a single or narrow relationship, rather than adopting a more nuanced approach to better understand how a wider network of influencing factors influence employee engagement. There is also a lack of qualitative studies exploring the employee 'experience' of engagement. This has limited the scope and depth of research that is needed to understand engagement and its determinants. To address these gaps, a new expanded conceptual framework is proposed and empirically analysed to test for the work environment as a determinant of engagement. This thesis uses Kahn's definition of employee engagement (Kahn, 1990), which is grounded on the notion that employee engagement is a broad multifaceted concept which captures all aspects of the self at work. It also extends and integrates engagement research by emphasising the primacy of context in influencing employee engagement, echoing Kahn's concern that situational and not merely individual factors need to be explored in order to understand this concept. An existing conceptual model from the wellbeing literature is applied to the study of employee engagement in a novel way to capture the contextual factors.The thesis captures the 'interactions' or contextual factors through the notion of the 'work environment'. Work environment is represented through the concept known as quality of the work environment (QWE), using the World Health Organisation's 'Healthy Workplaces Framework'. The central concern of the QWE perspective is the wellbeing of employees by paying particular attention to the physical aspects, psychosocial and organisational environment of work rather than individual employee or job characteristics. This conceptual model provides a valuable extension to the current research on employee engagement. Until now, QWE has not been considered as an influencing factor. Despite there being previous research which examines the impact of specific components of the work environment on individual employee engagement, such as 'the values and actions of management' and 'the organisational climate and structure', there has been no research which explores how employee engagement may in fact be influenced by a unique combination or set of interrelated work environment factors.