The Relationship Between Employee Engagement and a ... Relationship Between Employee Engagement and a Workplace Culture ... engagement, your workplace culture must include a clear set of goals, ... engagement
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Running head: ENGAGEMENT AND WORKPLACE CULTURE 1
The Relationship Between Employee Engagement and a Workplace Culture of Excellence & Ethics
Eric D. Martin
Adult Learning and Organizational Performance
CULTURE OF EXCELLENCE AND ETHICS 2
A study by the Gallup Management Journal (2006) found that when employees are
engaged, they stay with their company longer than less engaged employees. They are also more
productive, innovative, safe, employees and more invested in building strong relationships with
their customers. The same study indicates that approximately 15% of workers that are 18 or
older in the United States are disengaged workers. The authors estimate that disengaged workers
costs the U.S. economy approximately $328 billon. According to Loehr and Schwartz (2003) in
order for employees to be fully engaged in the workplace, they must look beyond their
immediate needs and self interest and align themselves emotionally, physically, mentally and
spiritually with a purpose greater than their everyday tasks.
According the United States Department of Labor (2012) there are 12.7 million
unemployed workers in our country. Disengaged employees cost billions of dollars in our
national economy. Reasonably, therefore, studying engagement in the workplace is a worthwhile
The concept of employee engagement, however, is still relatively new and that academic
researchers are starting to complete more research on the topic (Macey & Schneider 2008).
Robinson et, al., (2004) content that there is very little academic research on employee
engagement in academic literature or journals. The study of engagement is in its infancy and this
topic would benefit from continued research and exploration.
Definitions of Engagement
Saks (2006) argues that while there are varied operational definitions of engagement
presented in current research it is important to note that while related, engagement is different
than other employee constructs such as organizational commitment, citizenship behavior and job
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involvement. He suggests that engagement is the level when a person is attentive and absorbed
in the performance of their roles and how they invest themselves in the performance of their
jobs. Individuals must actively integrate their emotions and behaviors with their thinking. This
alignment of cognitive and emotional elements provides an environment for people to be fully
present and attentive to their work.
Kahn (1990) provides one of the most widely referenced operational definitions for
personal engagement and personal disengagement. Each term denotes the personal behaviors
that people demonstrate or omit in the workplace. Kahn defines personal engagement as the
harnessing of organization members selves to their work roles; in engagement, people employ
and express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally during role performances (1990,
p. 694). In contrast, when people withdraw themselves in the same engagement domains they
are exhibiting personal disengagement.
Further, Schaufeli, Salanova, Gonzalex-Roma & Bakker, (2001) define engagement as a
positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigor, dedication, and
absorption (p.74). Vigor relates to energy level, mental resilience, investment and persistence.
Dedication includes involvement, significance, enthusiasm, pride and challenge. Lastly,
absorption is presented as being so involved in your work, time seems to slip by quickly and you
have trouble disconnecting from the tasks at hand. This engagement model presented by
Shaufeli et. al., served as the basis and operational definition of engagement for this study.
Engagement and Culture
In order for employees to successfully engage and feel challenged in their work and to
exhibit behaviors such as enthusiasm, dedication, and resilience, we must consider the workplace
culture that they are working in every day. Intentionally creating a positive workplace culture
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provides the backdrop and environment for employees to be productive and satisfied with their
work and those colleagues that they work with everyday.
Schein (1985) suggests that the culture of an organization is based on beliefs, values and
basic assumptions that are common to people in that organization. Identifying core shared
values and belief systems are critically important for an organization to build a strong workplace
culture. Seijts and Crim (2006) support this notion by highlighting the importance of identifying
a strategy that engages employees in the decision making process which, enables trust and
creates a culture where employees want to take charge of the challenges presented to them and to
find solutions. Furthermore, leaders in an organization must craft an environment that stimulates
trust and collaboration.
As the professional workplace landscape changes over time, the shared values of an
organization can impact the attraction and recruitment of employees. In one study, Catanzaro,
Moore and Marshall (2010) researched men and women and their preference of working at an
organization that was more competitive or on that offered a more supportive environment and
culture. They found that when given a choice of working for an organization that was considered
more competitive with more attractive salaries, benefits and advancement opportunities versus
working for an organization that was more supportive with a strong emphasis on work-life
balance, both men and women had a stronger preference for the supportive work culture.
Participants in this study indicated that they were more interested in working in a supportive
environment to allow a balance of personal and work life and the perception that the company
was more friendly and supportive of the employees.
The notion of being happy and engaged in a supportive work environment and positive
culture is supported by Csikszentmihalyis research and study of Flow (1990). The flow concept
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is based on the idea of being happy and engaged in what you are doing so that you tend to loose
yourself in the activity and are in a state of enjoyment. This experience is what
Csikszentmaihalyi calls an autotelic experience; is something that humans strive for in both our
work and leisure time. According to Csikszentmihalyi, in order to obtain this level of flow and
engagement, your workplace culture must include a clear set of goals, knowledge of skills and
perceived challenges, rules as well as immediate feedback. The intrinsic motivation needed to
become engaged and loose oneself into their work is supported by what Pink (2010) describes as
Motivation 3.0. He contents that this paradigm shift is needed to meet the new realities of how
we organize, think about, and do what we do (p. 77). Pink makes the case that there are three
elements needed to be successful with his motivation theory. The three elements are Autonomy,
Mastery and Purpose (p. 80). He goes on to state the science confirms that this sort of behavior
is essential to being human-and that now, in a rapidly changing economy, it is also critical for
professional, personal and organizational success of any kind (p. 81).
The Culture of Excellence and Ethics
The Culture of Excellence and Ethics (CEE) framework presented by Davidson,
Khmelkov, & Baker (2011) from the Institute for Excellence and Ethics is a character
development-based approach to achieving success and building positive culture in school or the
workplace. The authors build on the work of Lickona and Davidson (2005) that further defines
character in two key elements, performance character and moral character. Performance
character is a mastery orientation that includes values such as diligence, work ethic, positive
attitude and perseverance. Moral character is relational in nature and includes values such as
integrity, justice, caring, responsibility, etc., skills that are needed for interpersonal relationships
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and ethical behavior. Striking a balance of both the moral and performance character values
provides a strong foundation for a positive culture in any organization.
The Excellence and Ethics approach originates from research conducted in schools across
the country. Davidson and his colleagues have recently evolved their framework into
professional workplace applications. The extensive research-based teaching tools and strategies
found in the CEE resources (Davidson & Khmelkov, 2011) are now being implemented in
collegiate athletic departments, non-profit organizations, colleges and universities and numerous
industries including health care, manufacturing, insurance and finance. In addition, they have
recently created the Culture of Excellence and Ethics Assessment Workplace (CEEA-W). The
CEEA-W has grown out of their nationally recognized character and culture assessment
instruments. Components of the CEEA-W were used to capture data for this research project.
The Culture of Excellence and Ethics framework is designed to intentionally teach
individuals and organizations to reach excellence through the development of both moral and
performance character skills based on eight focus areas (2011, p. 37), which include the
1) Developing positive and productive relationships
2) Communicating and collaborating with efficiency and effectiveness
3) Managing priorities and reducing stress
4) Committing to high standards and continuous improvement
5) Demonstrating emotional intelligence, integrity, and responsibility
6) Exhibiting creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving
7) Leading and serving others
8) Living a balanced, purposeful, and healthy life
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These eight focus areas are not designed to be specific outcomes but a grouping of topical
areas. They are based on applied research and the identified areas are often found in policies and
strategic initiatives that organizations implement systemically to ensure a positive organizational
culture (Davidson et al., 2011).
The purpose of this research study is to examine the impact of a positive workplace
culture, specifically promoting excellence and ethics and employee engagement.
This project sought to investigate the correlation between five of the eight focus areas
presented in the culture of excellence and ethics framework (Davidson et al., 2011) which
includes; Developing positive and productive relationships, Communicating and collaborating
with efficiency and effectiveness, Managing priorities and reducing stress, Committing to high
standards and continuous improvement and finally leading and serving others. These five CEE
focus areas were identified as the ones potentially best aligned with the three components of
engagement; vigor, dedication and absorption defined by Schaufeli et al., (2001).
This was a cross-sectional quantitative study. The data were collected from the online
social network community of human resources professionals Linked: HR (www.linkedhr.com)
via an anonymous survey. Linked: HR had approximately 680,000 members across the globe at
the time the survey was administered in late February 2012.
This study investigated the relationship among the following variables:
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The dependent variable in this study was employee engagement, defined by Schaufeli et
al., (2001) as a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterized by
vigor, dedication, and absorption (p.74).
The independent variable was workplace culture. For the purpose of the study I used five
of the eight culture of excellence and ethics focus areas presented by Davidson, et al.,
(2011). These focus areas are values based topical areas derived from a character
development foundation identifying the skills needed to build a strong organizational
culture. This character-based approach is further defined in two distinct parts: (1) moral
character, those skills that help us develop our best ethical self and (2) performance
character, the skills needed to develop excellence in order to perform our best work.
This study was guided by the following question: What is the strength and direction of
the relationships between employee engagement and workplace culture of excellence and ethics.
Five of the eight focus areas presented by Davidson et. al., (2011) were used for this correlation
This project utilized two assessments to gather data. The assessment tools used for this
project include questions from the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES) that includes 17
questions developed by Schaufeli and Bakker (2003) to measure engagement which is further
defined as vigor, dedication and absorption. The questions are further delineated by six questions
related to vigor, 5 questions related to dedication and 6 questions for absorption. Schaufeli and
Bakker (2004) demonstrate that there has been numerous validity studies have been completed
on the UWES. The authors note validity studies have been carried out with the UWES show
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that work engagement is indeed negatively associated with burnout, albeit that the relationship
between vigor and exhaustion and between dedication and cynicism is somewhat less strong than
was expected. Further more, engagement can be discriminated from workaholism (p.11).
Through additional reliability studies, he UWES also shows internal consistencies of the scales
of the various versions of the instrument (p. 20).
The Culture of Excellence & Ethics Assessment Workplace (CEEA-W) was used to
seek perceptions regarding the culture and competencies of excellence and ethics (2011) in the
workplace environment. For the purpose of this study, questions were selected from five of the
eight focus areas found in the CEEA-W for a total of thirty-five questions. Since the CEEA-W
used in this study is a relatively new assessment tool, validity and reliability studies have not
been completed at the time of this research project. However, the instrument is built upon the
constructs of the original Culture of Excellence and Ethics Assessment (CEEA) that have
demonstrated research on validity and reliability (Khmelkov & Davidson 2010).
Both survey instruments were used with permission for non-commercial scientific
research. They were combined into one survey and delivered through Qualtrics
(www.Qualtrics.com) an online data collection system.
The survey yielded 521 responses, the data were analyzed via the S...