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Introduction to research

Explain the Factors influencing the employee engagement of two different teams in the same department.

Employees are the essence, potency, power and sustenance that work to strengthen any organisation functionality (Truss et al. 2013). Breidbach, Brodie & Hollebeek (2014) indicated that to make an eatable healthy and tasty there is the requirement of a good recipe. Similarly, to make an employee effective and workable for the organisation there is the requirement of effective employee engagement strategies that add a potential to the workforce. An effective employee engagement with a positive perseverance can add increased productivity, flexibility and quality ensuring employee retention. In contrast, employee disengagement will produce an opposite effect leading to high employee turnover. Therefore, Gorgievski, Antonio Moriano & Bakker (2014) stated that any organisation either small or large requires employee engagement strategies that induce moral, social, spiritual, physical and emotional engagement in employee towards their organisation (Wilkinson et al. 2014).

In this research, a clear focus is made on one specific organisation that has been detected of having failed employee engagement in its workplace. The research focus is to analyse the factors leading to this failure of employee engagement that will also help to understand the importance of employee engagement in workplace scenario.

This research on analysing the importance of employee engagement in any working scenario and the factors influencing employee engagement will help to strengthen the business management process. Better employee engagement will provide a passionate, committed, honest and effective workforce that will surely deliver effectual services to their organisation. By understanding the barriers to employee engagement, the management can reproduce better engagement strategies to overcome these hurdles and add potential to the roots of their organisation (Anitha, 2014).

Following recent events, which uncovered failures in systems and resulted in bad publicity, Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board (ABMUHB) have launched a Health Board wide initiative concentrating on values and behaviours. The ethos of this initiative is ‘Caring for each other -Working together - Always improving’. Managers are assigned with cascading the information and encouraging these improvements in their specific areas and teams.

Presently, the ABMUHB Community Dental Service (CDS) are tasked with delivering the Designed to Smile Programme (D2S) in the three localities of Swansea, Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend. D2S is a National oral health improvement programme for children from 0-11 years old. A team was established within the CDS specifically to deliver this prevention programme with an allocated ring-fenced budget from Welsh Government (WG).

Significance of research

There are nineteen D2S team members, three of whom existed CDS staff who applied for the new posts and sixteen new recruits. The D2S team consists of one manager, dental nurses with additional qualifications in oral health education, dental healthcare support workers, administration staff and a mobile dental unit driver. Within the CDS team, there is twenty staff with congruent duties and bindings with the D2S team; in addition, the CDS have twelve dentists and three dental therapists. The CDS management team includes a clinical services manager, two senior dental officers, one service improvement manager and one dental nurse manager.

Recent sickness monitoring revealed that the CDS has one of the highest sickness absence rates in the entire ABMU Health Board. Morale amongst the majority of the CDS team appears to be consistently low. Not only are the relationships between managers and staff fraught but there are additional tensions and frictions between CDS team members. It has been observed that this level of sickness absence and discontent is not as evident in the D2S team.

The IQT that is Improving Quality Together is a national quality improvement learning programme for all NHS Wales’ staff and contractors, which builds upon recognised local, national and international expertise. The content of the programme has been developed on a national level, and is being used locally by NHS Wales organisations and incorporated into existing organisational development programmes”. (ABMUHB Intranet, 2016). The CDS and D2S members were the participants of meeting held to introduce IQT awards.

The presenters of this session divided the audience into six groups of between six and eight people, they integrated CDS, D2S staff and the management team for the activities they had planned. There was a combination of practical team building tasks and questionnaires. Each group was asked to provide truthful responses to several questions relating to management. One member of each group was selected to feedback on the outcome of the results.

During the feedback process of the individual teams, it transpired that the members of the D2S teams in each of the groups elected to provide separate responses to those of the CDS teams. It became evident that each of the responses the CDS team provided was negative and critical towards the management team; however the D2S team responded with positivity and was complimentary in all areas of the questionnaire. Discussions between teams concluded that both endured similar levels of difficulties with the various aspects of their jobs; this consequently raises the question as to why one team appears to be ‘engaged’ while one does not. Some CDS staff stated they felt ‘unimportant’, ‘unhappy’ and ‘dissatisfied’ in work; this was not the case for the D2S team. Further discussions uncovered negative behaviours in the CDS team; individuals complained that there was no impression of ‘team-work’ within the department. Comments such as ‘that’s not my job’ were considered commonplace and resulted in low morale; in contrast the D2S team reported a strong sense of support for each other and a ‘can do’ attitude by all team members.

Background of research

The rationale for this research proposal has transpired following observations of the extremely differing attitudes of two teams in the same department. These observations were made during a CDS departmental meeting including the agenda of introducing the ‘Bronze Level IQT Award’. On the basis of background observations attained from this IQT meeting the major issue is to analyse the reasons for the difference in two-team  (CDS and D2S team) satisfactory level working for a same organisation.

The research will aim to investigate and address the reasons contributing to such differing levels of engagement of two teams in a relatively small department in the ABMUHB. This research aspires to aid the development of an initiative, which can be used to assist successful employee engagement in the CDS team and potentially for use by other department/teams in the Health Board.

  • Undertake a literature review of three papers on employee engagement.
  • Identify the differences between employee engagement and employee satisfaction.
  • Devise an effective employee engagement survey – involve employees in the design by using focus groups to identify key issues. Questions will include exploring attitudes on:
  1. Nature of the work – e.g. levels of involvement, autonomy and workload
  2. Communication levels of managers
  • Compose one to one interview questions following the results of the departmental questionnaire for a selected number of participants, in order to undertake a longitudinal survey.
  • Analyse the results of the survey and utilise them to identify strengths and weaknesses, which in turn can enhance employee engagement strategies.
  • Encourage all staff to take part and ensure confidentiality; allow two weeks for the questionnaire to be returned to team
  • What is the importance of employee engagement?
  • What is the difference between employee engagement and employee satisfaction?
  • What are the factors that influence employee engagement as per employee engagement survey involving focus group of research?
  • What are the outcomes of the qualitative survey conducted by interviewing the D2S and CDS team of the organisation?
  • What are the strength and weaknesses of these factors that can influence employee engagement strategies of survey organisation?
  • What are the possible recommendations to improve employee engagement in target organisation?

Kahn & Heaphy (2014) studied the most basic concept of employee engagement considering it as a characteristic for developing a relationship between employees and organisation. Further, the MacLeod and Clarke concept of employee engagement where employee engagement involves pathway to communicate the voice of employees to the administration, which promotes involvement and dialogues for enhancing two-way communication (Bakker & Leiter, 2010). Hence, employee engagement involves a concept of two-way communication rather than one-way dictatorship (Macleod & Clarke, 2009).

According to Leiter & Bakker (2010), employee engagement is a collaboration of tools and strategies that can improve work engagement. These tools and strategies help in employee satisfaction and trigger meaningful communication between the workforce and administration of any organisation. Further, Sharma & Kaur (2014) consider employee engagement as a technique of higher management to keep workers or employees completely engaged in the regular affairs of the organisation. This is a process to consume the potential and energy of employees for the overall betterment of organisation as well as employee career.

The three most workable employee engagement strategies for employee engagement are affinity, affiliation and autonomy. Affinity includes process and technique to develop affinity in conscious of employee for their work and organisation. This involves rewards, bonus, awards and incentives. Affiliation includes processes to allow employee participation in the regular organisation functionality. This involves social engagement, feedback collection, employee discussions, decision-making involvement. Lastly, the strategy of autonomy involves providing freedom to employees for their decision-making in work culture (Gagne, 2014).

According to Lyons & Kuron (2014) studies the top ten employee engagement strategies are: -

  1. Keeping employee engagement at the top priority
  2. Engaging top-line leaders
  3. Better communication
  4. Creating motivational organisation culture
  5. Rewarding high performance
  6. Individualized engagement
  7. Feedback mechanism
  8. Promote and appreciate right behaviours
  9. Involve workforce in decision-making process
  10. Perform progress analysis regularly

Research rationale

Sharma & Kaur (2014) indicated in their study that employee engagement and employee satisfaction are two contrasting scenarios that are directly proportional to each other. The employee satisfaction is the “measurement of an employee’s happiness with current job and conditions; it does not measure how much effort the employee is willing to expend” whereas employee engagement is the “measure of an employee’s emotional commitment to an organization; it takes into account the amount of discretionary effort an employee expends on behalf of the organization”.

The study of Sweetman & Luthans (2010) raised a question that “can an organisation have a satisfied employee who is not engaged and vice versa?” Further, it is argued by Markos & Sridevi (2010) that an engaged employee is a satisfied employee; as it would be unrealistic to assume an unhappy employee would perform additional tasks to those expected of them. The researches of Sweetman & Luthans (2010) indicated the relation between employee engagement and satisfaction on the basis of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; suggesting that “humans are motivated to fulfil basic needs before moving on to other, more advanced needs”.

According to Sharma & Kaur (2014) achieving satisfaction without engagement will have significantly less impact on business results. Further, Healthcare Commission (2008) studied the NHS Human resource management techniques leading to effective employee satisfaction that includes training opportunities, measuring performance, feedback appreciation, improving communication etc. that helped in sustaining employee engagement for the organisation.

There appears to be an impression of confusion around ‘employee engagement’; some maintain the belief that it is merely an alternative managerial trend, and argue that it is simply ‘job satisfaction’. However, there has been increasing awareness and acceptance amongst organisations and employers that there are significant differences in employee engagement and job satisfaction (Gallup, 2010).

In 2008 in the midst of a recession and with the assumption that improved employee engagement throughout the UK’s companies and organisations could impact positively on the economy; the UK Government requested that David Macleod and Nita Clarke produce a report on employee engagement and the potential benefits it could generate. The outcome was the report - ‘engaging for success: enhancing performance through employee engagement’ (Truss et al. 2006).

The report suggested that the significance of employee engagement has become a recognised necessity when examining the outcomes linked with organisational success (Macleod & Clarke 2009). They argue that there are four ‘enablers’ that should be considered; ‘a strategic narrative’, ‘engaging managers’, ‘employee voice’ and ‘integrity’. Case studies from the public and private sectors were reviewed, taking into consideration the opinions and advice of many individuals and collective stakeholders in the working environment. However it is apparent that the review failed to produce a succinct explanation of ‘employee engagement’ choosing to determine that   there is not ‘one agreed definition of employee engagement’. In point of fact there proved to be in excess of 50 definitions, one they quoted from the Institute of Employment Studies, “A positive attitude held by the employee towards the organisation and its values. An engaged employee is aware of the business context and works with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organisation. The organisation must work to develop and nurture engagement, which requires a two-way relationship between employee and employer” (Robinson, Perryman & Hayday, 2004). Generally, it appears that there is not one specific example of research that can determine completely that engagement accounts for improved performance or efficiency. However the conclusion is that even though each case study reviewed “are all open to some degree of challenge, taken together they offer a very compelling case”.

Research aim

Evidence suggests that only three in ten UK employees were actively engaged in their work in 2006 (Truss et al. 2006). Macleod & Clarke (2009) indicated that ‘failure of leadership and management is the main cause of poor employee engagement’. This statement follows results from the Towers Perrin report of 2007 which reveals only 29% of UK employees felt senior managers were concerned about their well-being, only 31% felt they were communicated with effectively, 60% felt they were ‘just another organisational asset to be managed. Supporting this theory is the 2008 NHS staff survey; this revealed only 51% felt they were involved with decisions that had a direct effect on them. However, it can be argued that the managers were not approached as part of the survey to provide responses as to why the information had not been shared; further analysis could disclose realistic explanations on certain decisions made by management teams.

The study did not categorically create solutions needed to establish improved employee engagement but suggests the need for a ‘national discussion’. It concludes that for future improvements across the economy, whether in the private or public sector, levels of employee engagement need to improve. It is suggested this occurs with the encouragement of sustainable ‘culture change’ not by formal government involvement. In brief, the three recommendations made included:

  1. A nationwide awareness raising campaign
  2. Government-funded organisations and departments supporting one another to develop and achieve the necessary skills for engagement
  • Providing practical quality support for those who seek to develop engagement

However there is adequate information in the report that can establish important aspects, for instance:

  • Employee engagement is significant, but the level to which it can have an effect on an organisation is ambiguous. Even when areas of improvement are identified there can be substantial resistance from staff.  It can be argued that employee engagement may not have a positive impact when attempting to implement change in areas where there is opposition from staff and potential financial constraints.
  • The strategies adopted to improve certain areas of employee engagement can be measured. These improvements are measurable in areas such as staff sickness levels and personnel retention; however there can be difficulties when examining the results in areas such as improved patient experience.
  • Improvements in engagement can rely heavily on the line manager/management team. On the question of values and behaviours and best practice, effective communication is essential but does not necessarily incur a financial burden (Gagne, 2014).    

It is recognised that the recommendations submitted will need to be customised for the particular stakeholder. This research suggests that in view of people varying personalities and expectations it is unrealistic to expect a ‘one size fits all’ approach. In view of these findings, the research proposal will need to acknowledge such diversities when developing questionnaires, interview questions or recommendations. 

The formation and completion of any research require a proper methodology with this requirement the research onion described by Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill (2009) was followed to design the research methodology.

The research onion helps to study different aspects of research out of which the type of investigation required in current research was identified and implemented as the research method. Below provided are the details of different research onion aspects and justification for selected aspect regarding current research.

Research philosophy is the first layer of research onion that helps to determine the philosophy required in research. There are different categories of philosophy paradigms that involve Positivism, Realism, Interpretivism and Pragmatism. The positivism philosophy involves a logical philosophical methodology towards research. In contrast, Interpretivism is antipositivism philosophy dealing with descriptive studies. The realism philosophy involves the reality based concept in research approach whereas pragmatism deals with the practical approach for determining proposition in research (Somekh & Lewin, 2011).

Research objectives

For this research work, the positivism philosophy will be considered because this philosophy involves data of experience rather than assumptions. A logical flow of was an initial requirement in this research.

There are three types of research design as per the second layer of research onion that involves Exploratory, Explanatory and Descriptive. The exploratory design is adopted when there is the absence of much effective literature related to any research topic. Further, explanatory design involves an explanation of phenomenon rather than analysis. Lastly, the descriptive design is the combination of explaining and exploring in research (Cameron, 2009).

The descriptive design will be selected to design methodology of research to fulfil the qualitative researches aim of description based on observations and phenomenon.

There are two categories of research approaches that are the inductive and deductive approach. The inductive approach moves from observations to generalisations and development of theories. In contrast, deductive is just the reverse of inductive approach (Somekh & Lewin, 2011).

This approach will be adopted in this research because research needs an approach that performs theoretical development followed by determining hypothesis and then performing observation-based research.

Basically, there are two types of data collection method for this category of research design that are quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative data collection is used for data having the quantity for analysis that can be numerical findings, summative and calculative results. Further, qualitative data collection is basically the quality data including survey observations, information, and interviews (Cameron, 2009).

For this research, the qualitative data collection method will be adopted where Gallup Workplace Audit (GWA or Q12) will be used for the formation of content questions that will be asked to target participants of the research. These questionnaires will include six categories of responses where the participant needs to select one category as their response. The Q12 design will allow measurement of outcomes. 

There are two categories of sampling that are probability and non-probability sampling method. The probability sampling provides equal opportunity to every individual whereas non-probability involves selective and saturated sampling of interest individuals for research (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2009).

The probability sampling method will be adopted where members of CDS and D2S teams of CDS department will be selected for research. Participants will comprise of the 59 personnel in the entire CDS department of the ABMUHB. Participants will be required to complete and return the questionnaires within 10 days of receiving them. There is an internal departmental mailing system through which participants are able to return the questionnaires to the researcher.

Research questions

Those undertaking the interviews will be invited to a face-to-face or telephone interview. There is a separate private office away from the clinical areas, which is available to use for those participants involved in face-to-face or telephone interviews. Confidentiality will be guaranteed to all participants. Owing to the small numbers in the teams a questionnaire will be distributed to the entire CDS department, including both D2S and CDS teams.

The four focus groups of volunteers will be asked to form a focus group to ascertain whether the content of the questionnaire appropriately highlights the issues they feel will need addressing. Following the return of the questionnaires, the interview questions will then be decided upon. The interviews will begin 15 days after the returned questionnaires. This will allow for recommendations to be made following the outcome of the results of the questionnaires. 

The thematic analysis strategy will be adopted to analyse the interview and survey questionnaire quality responses of the target participants. The thematic analysis will involve the formation of themes that are linked with secondary research on employee engagement literature forming analysis of participant responses in research.

The major accessibility issue in this research will include consent for conducting the research. Approval to conduct the research will be required from the CDS Clinical Services Manager (CSM); a copy of the proposal and any other related paperwork would be provided for prior inspection. Further, the maintenance of data authenticity and confidentiality will involve distribution and collection of data through private e-mails.

The Data Protection Act of 1998 will be followed to maintain the authenticity of survey data. The survey questionnaire will be specifically research oriented with no fillers. The autonomy of participants will be maintained by providing them the freedom to withdraw for a survey at any time.

The value-based information and data as per responses from individual facing the issue will provide tremendous strength to this research. The data evaluation using thematic analysis approach will provide proper justifications for the findings and conclusions of the research.

The small sample size and time limitation will restrict the research approach. Further, the limited budget will put a limitation on the effort of the researcher to conduct further analysis. Limitation of literature sources related to research topic will be another research limitation.


ABMUHB Intranet. (2016). Retrieved 14 July 2016, from

Anitha, J. (2014). Determinants of employee engagement and their impact on employee performance. International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management.

Bakker, A. B., & Leiter, M. P. (Eds.). (2010). Work engagement: A handbook of essential theory and research. Psychology Press.

Breidbach, F., Brodie, R., & Hollebeek, L. (2014). Beyond virtuality: from engagement platforms to engagement ecosystems. Managing Service Quality, 24(6), 592-611.

Cameron, R. (2009) 'A sequential mixed model research design: design, analytical and display issues',International Journal of Multiple Research Approaches, 3(2), 140-152.

Gagne, M. (Ed.). (2014). The Oxford handbook of work engagement, motivation, and self-determination theory. Oxford University Press, USA.

Gallup (2010). The state of the global workplace: A worldwide study of        employee engagement and wellbeing. Omaha, NE: Gallup.

Healthcare Commission (2008) Sixth Annual NHS Staff Survey.

Gorgievski, M., Antonio Moriano, J., &  Bakker, A. (2014). Relating work engagement and workaholism to entrepreneurial performance. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 29(2), 106-121.

Kahn, W., & Heaphy, E. D. (2014). Relational contexts of personal engagement at work. Employee engagement in theory and practice, 163-179.

Leiter, M. P., & Bakker, A. B. (2010). Work engagement: introduction. Work engagement: A handbook of essential theory and research, 1-9.

Lyons, S., & Kuron, L. (2014). Generational differences in the workplace: A review of the evidence and directions for future research. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 35(S1), S139-S157.

Macleod, D. & Clarke, N. (2009) Engaging for Success: Enhancing performance   through employee engagement. London: BIS

Markos, S., & Sridevi, M. S. (2010). Employee engagement: The key to improving performance. International Journal of Business and Management, 5(12), 89.

Robinson, D., Perryman S., & Hayday, S., (2004). The drivers of employee engagement. IES Report 408.

Saunders, M., Lewis, P., & Thornhill, A. (2009). Research Methods for Business Students, (6th ed.) London: Pearson

Sharma, S. K., & Kaur, S. (2014). An introspection of employee engagement: A quantitative content analysis approach. IUP Journal of Organizational Behavior, 13(2), 38.

Somekh, B. & Lewin, C. (2011) Theory and Methods in Social Research, 2nd ed. London: Sage Publications

Sweetman, D., & Luthans, F. (2010). The power of positive psychology: Psychological capital and work engagement. Work engagement: A handbook of essential theory and research, 54-68.

Truss, C., Alfes, K., Delbridge, R., Shantz, A., & Soane, E. (2013). Employee engagement in theory and practice. Routledge.

Truss, C., Soane, E., Edwards, C., Wisdom, K., Croll, A., and Burnett, J. (2006).   ‘Working life: employee attitudes and engagement 2006’ CIPD.

Wilkinson, A., Donaghey, J., Dundon, T., & Freeman, R. B. (Eds.). (2014).Handbook of Research on Employee Voice: Elgar original reference. Edward Elgar Publishing.

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