NBS

Exploring Employee Engagement in Context

  • School: Nottingham Business School
  • Starting: 2019
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Self-funded

Overview

Employee engagement has long been popular in the public and private sector (see MacLeod and Clarke, 2009; Rayton et al 2012), but has only recently become an academic ‘hot topic’ (Purcell, 2014). Since MacLeod and Clarke’s (2009) report on employee engagement (and subsequent Government backing), there has been a flourish of research activity to uncover both what is meant by employee engagement and how we can capture and harvest it. In essence, it has become the (new) Holy Grail. The interest in employee engagement is not surprising, given its potential impact on organisational performance (MacLeod and Clarke). Engaged employees are argued to be more committed to the organisation, go beyond what is expected of them (commonly known as discretionary effort) and be highly motivated. Yet the antecedents that facilitate engagement are still unknown, along with a defined definition of engagement (Purcell, 2014).

In more recent years there has been increasing academic support for the benefits of workforce engagement (Jenkins and Delbridge, 2013; Truss et al., 2013), arguing that engagement ‘is not simply a case of repackaging existing ideas’ (Yalabik et al., 2013: 2817). However, opinions regarding employee engagement are diverse and there are more questions than answers (Truss et al., 2013), insufficient evidence (Yalabik et al., 2013), and limited critical scrutiny (Guest, 2013; Jenkins and Delbridge, 2013; Keenoy, 2013; Purcell, 2013). Questions remain regarding the implementation and development of engagement initiatives i.e. ‘doing’ engagement and ‘being’ engaged (see Truss et al., 2013). Research has also predominantly focused on an over-arching concept of engagement, and there are few (if any) studies that have deconstructed the relationship between employee engagement or specific processes and practices. It is imperative that we start to ask; engaged with what? In addition, research has largely focused on quantitative survey-based research asking employees questions about engagement through a managerial discourse. As a result, there is a lack of employee voice. Although employee voice was identified as significant by MacLeod and Clarke (2009), it has received little attention (Purcell, 2014). Instead employees ‘are viewed in a passive role [with] engagement seen as something that is driven by the organisation, rather than something that is largely under the control of employees’’ (Francis and Reddington, 2012: 272).  This has left several questions. Further research is needed to uncover the fluctuations in engagement (Fletcher and Robinson, 2014) and the impact of contextual issues (Jenkins and Delbridge, 2013).

References

Fletcher, L. and Robinson, D. (2014) ‘Measuring and understanding engagement’, in Truss, C., Delbridge, R., and Alfes, K., Robinson, D. (ed.) Employee Engagement in Theory and Practice. United Kingdom: Routledge.

Francis, H. and Reddington, M. (2012) ‘Employer branding and organizational effectiveness’, in Francis, H., Holbeche, L., and Reddington, M. People and Organisational Development: A New Agenda for Organisational Effectiveness. United Kingdom: Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development.

Guest, D. (2013) ‘“Employee Engagement: Fashionable Fad or Long-Term Fixture?”’, in Truss, C., Delbridge, R., and Alfes, K. Employee Engagement in Theory and Practice. United Kingdom: Routledge.

Jenkins, S. and Delbridge, R. (2013) ‘Context matters: examining “soft” and “hard” approaches to employee engagement in two workplaces’, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 24(14), pp. 2670–2691. doi: 10.1080/09585192.2013.770780.

Keenoy, T. (2013) ‘Engagement: A Murmuration of Objects’, in Truss, C., Delbridge, R., and Alfes, K. Employee Engagement in Theory and Practice. United Kingdom: Routledge.

MacLoed, D. and Clarke, N. (2014) The Evidence: Wellbeing and Employee Engagement. Engage for Success. Available at: http://www.engageforsuccess.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/wellbeing-and-engagement-04June2014-Final.pdf

Purcell, J. (2013) ‘Employee voice and engagement’, in Truss, C., Delbridge, R., and Alfes, K. Employee Engagement in Theory and Practice. United Kingdom: Routledge.

Rayton, B. (2012) ‘“Employee Work Engagement, Affect and Outcomes”’, Academy of Management Proceedings, 2012(1), pp. 1–1. doi: 10.5465/ambpp.2012.143.

Truss, C., Delbridge, R. and Alfes, K. (2013) Employee Engagement in Theory and Practice. United Kingdom: Routledge.

Truss, C., Shantz, A., Soane, E., Alfes, K. and Delbridge, R. (2013) ‘Employee engagement, organisational performance and individual well-being: exploring the evidence, developing the theory’, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 24(14), pp. 2657–2669. doi: 10.1080/09585192.2013.798921.

Yalabik, Z., Popaitoon, P., Chowne, J. and Rayton, B. (2013) ‘Work engagement as a mediator between employee attitudes and outcomes’, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 24(14), pp. 2799–2823. doi: 10.1080/09585192.2013.763844.

Supervisor

Dr Sarah Pass

Entry qualifications

An applicant for admission to read for a PhD should normally hold a first or upper second class honours degree of a UK university or an equivalent qualification, or a lower second class honours degree with a Master's degree at Merit level of a UK university or an equivalent qualification.

International students will also need to meet the English language requirements - IELTS 6.5 (with minimum sub-scores of 6.0). Applicants who have taken a higher degree at a UK university are normally exempt from the English language requirements. A research proposal (between 1,000 and a maximum of 2,000 words) must be submitted as part of the application.

For more information please visit the NTU Doctoral School – Research Degrees webpages.

How to apply

Applications are accepted all year round.

Download an application form here.
Please make sure you take a look at our application guidance notes before making your application.

Further information on how to apply can be found on this page.

Fees and funding

This is a self-funded PhD opportunity.

Guidance and support

Find out about guidance and support for PhD students.

Still need help?

Sarah Pass