Chinese Employees’ Job Engagement

Factors Influencing Chinese Employees’ Job Engagement


Factors Influencing Chinese Employees’ Job Engagement 1


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1.1 Backgrounds 1

1.2 Problem Statement 3

1.3 Research Aim and Objectives 4

1.4 Structure of the Dissertation. 4


2.1 Introduction. 5

2.2 Employee Job Engagement 5

2.3 Impact of Leadership Style on Job Engagement 7

2.4 Impact of Performance Assessment on Job Engagement 10

2.5 Impact of Compensation and Welfare on Job Engagement 13

2.6 Impact of Training and Development on Job Engagement 15

2.7 Summary. 17


3.1 Introduction. 19

3.2 Research Philosophy. 19

3.3 Research Approach. 20

3.4 Research Strategy. 21

3.4.1 Questionnaire survey. 21

3.4.2 Questionnaire Design. 22

3.5 Sample and Sampling Techniques 23

3.6 Data Collection. 24

3.7 Data Analysis 25

3.8 Validity and Reliability. 25

3.9 Research Ethics 26


4.1 Overview of the Study Findings 26

As the reviewed literature shows, there is no doubt that leadership style, performance assessment, compensation and welfare, and training and development have a direct bearing on employee engagement (see for example BlessingWhite, 2011; Bakker and Later, 2010; Downey, 2008; Kim et al. 2008; Schaufeli et al. 2002; Albrecht, 2010; Appelbaum, 2000; Attridge, 2009; Avery et al., 2007; Avolio et al., 2004; Armstrong and Baron, 2005; Cawley et al., 1998; Denisi and Pritchard, 2006; Nnazir, 2012; Castellano, 2001; Muller and Trannoy, 2011; Robinson et al., 2004; Schaufeli and Bakker, 2004; Brum, 2007; Becker, 1993; Virginia, 2012; Herzberg, 1966; Maslow, 1943). The respondents confirmed this through their comprehensive answer to question 6 of the introductory part of the questionnaire – all the respondents had a clear understanding of what employee engagement entails – they said it entails unrivalled commitment, desire to want to achieve the set personal and organisational goals, desire to work for the current employer for the long term, low burnout levels, and the ability to withstand organisational challenges without desiring to resign. Specifically, this is in line with Attridge (2009) assertion that “the concept of employee work engagement describes the extent to which workers are involved with, committed to, and passionate about their work” (p.1). 26

4.2 Impact of Leadership Style on Employee Engagement 28



1.1 Backgrounds

With the arrival of new economic times, competition among enterprises is increasingly fierce. In order to keep a strong market footing and sustainable operational improvement, enterprises are gradually realizing that talents are the key factors of remaining competitive (Bakker and Laiter, 2010). Today, more and more enterprises have started to conduct researches on job engagement with a view to improving job performance and satisfaction (Kaplan et al., 2009). This has given popularity to the field of positive psychology. This is due to its utility in understanding employee behaviors and how such behaviours can be adjusted to realize high productivity. In recent years, managers and researchers are gradually realising the great impact that positive psychology has on improving business performance (Bakker and Leiter, 2010; Warr and Inceoglu, 2012). Through positive psychology, employers are able to roll out new employee welfare programmes to boost employees’ morale and hence their ability to remain focused and committed to organizational goals.

Under the backdrop of this realisation, job engagement as a business management concept has become very popular in China as well as in the western world. Job engagement pays attention to the individual’s positive attitude towards the job. This exerts a significant impact on the business performance and can greatly improve job efficiency and retention rate (Rich, Lepine and Crawford, 2010). Therefore, it is necessary for enterprises to try to improve employees’ job engagement by rolling out programmes that address the individual, group and family needs of the employees.

The concept of employee engagement is multidimensional. Attridge (2009) posits that “the concept of employee work engagement describes the extent to which workers are involved with, committed to, and passionate about their work” (p.1). For Bakker and Leiter (2010), employee engagement is a concept of managing contemporary enterprises that involves increasing the overall involvement of employees towards the organisational goals. Normally, employee engagement is measurable in terms of how employees positively or negatively attach themselves emotionally to workplace processes, people and the organisation in general. However, it should be noted that employee engagement is very different from employee satisfaction or employee motivation but motivation and satisfaction forms part of employee engagement (BlessingWhite, 2011). From these closely related arguments it can be concluded that the concept of employee engagement which is also referred to as worker engagement or even employee job engagement is a set of positive attitudes towards the organisation, its vision, mission, and values.

Employee engagement is a function of multiple factors. Conventional knowledge gathered from multiple sources show that employee engagement is normally influenced by factors that have a direct bearing on the employees compensation levels and welfare at the workplace (see for example Bakker and Leiter, 2010; Muller and Trannoy, 2011; Warr and Inceoglu, 2012). This is an indicator that organizations that embrace collectivism and other worthwhile, modern human resource management practices such as share-based employee loyalty programmes strengthen their long term strategic standing while those that do not practice this are at a disadvantage.

Studies carried out by Avolio, Bass, and Walumbwa (2004), Tims and Bakker (2011), Walumbwa and Hartnell (2011), Wang and Chen (2005) all point out to the notion that leadership style has a great bearing on employee engagement. Specifically, these studies believe that transformational leadership style has the greatest impact on employee engagement among all existing leadership styles. This is so because transformational leadership increase employees’ dedication and commitment to their tasks, increases employees’ potency and efficacy, and increases employees’ ability to undertake complex organisational tasks.

Employee engagement is also influenced by performance assessment. According to studies carried out by Denisi and Pritchard (2006) and Muchinsky (2012), employee engagement is influenced by performance assessment related factors such as performance management and target setting. On the other hand, studies carried out by Schraeder, Becton, and Portis (2007), Sudarsan (2009) show that employee engagement is influenced by factors related to employee welfare and welfare programmes. Performance appraisal has strong bearing on employee engagement as it gives employees an opportunity to re-examine and align their capabilities with those of the organisation (Armstrong and Baron, 2005; Denisi and Pritchard, 2006; Manasa and Reddy, 2009; Muchinsky, 2012). On their part, Gruman and Saks (2011) and Keeping and Levy (2000) when performed professionally, performance appraisal help to identify training needs, communicate employee skill needs and how best these skills can be acquired. However, Cawley, Keeping and Levy (1998), Keeping and Levy (2000), and Muchinsky (2009) cautions that if performed unprofessionally, performance appraisal can be detrimental to employee engagement as it can kill employee morale and commitment especially when the appraiser is biased.

Lastly, studies carried out by Brum (2007), Becker (1993), Castellano (2001), York (2010) and Truss et al. (2006) argue that employee engagement is influenced by factors related to training and development. These studies argue that employee training and development is the best way of managing human capital. Specifically, these authors argue that when employees are given the necessary knowledge and skills to perform their tasks, they tend to become more happy, resourceful and engaged. Moreover, Truss et al. (2006) posit that employees need to be taken through regular training drills so as to become their overall productivity, an organisational target that is directly impacted by the level of employee engagement. Overall, these studies seem to arrive at the conclusion that employee engagement is a business management idea whose core premise is to make employees more productive.

Employees who are not meaningfully engaged are costly to maintain. A study commissioned by the Gallup Organisation shows that employees that are not meaningfully engaged cost between $250 and $350 billion every year to employers in the United States (Attridge, 2009). Another study carried out in the 1990s show that employees that are not connected to their jobs pose a major challenge to CEOs especially when building competitive advantage through cost reduction and sustainable innovation (Wah, 1999). These two studies are reflective of the situation at ground in many organisations across the global divide. For instance, BlessingWhite (2011) argues that studies carried out in the 1990s show that only about one out of every five employees is meaningfully engaged. This converts to about 20 percent of all employees in the world. According to Attridge (2009), a survey whose results were tabled in a 2005 Conference Board showed that about two thirds of employees lack the will power to pursue their employers’ goals; another 40 percent employees lack a genuine connection to their jobs, while another 25 percent only attend their tasks to get paid. This large number of unengaged employees could be responsible for the occasional market crises and losses in the global market especially among large multinational companies with foot prints in major markets that are known to treat their employees differently according t the local labour and employment cultures.

1.2 Problem Statement

In the past decades, job burnout has become a hot topic among western and Far East organisations. Based on survey results published in the Chinese Human Resource Development website, almost 70 percent of Chinese employees possess different levels of job burnout. This is due to the rapid development of the economy and the gradual westernization of the originally conservative society. Under this background, job engagement becomes important point in human resource management among many organisations.

Many researchers have studied the antecedents of job engagement and factors including leadership style, performance assessment, compensation and welfare and training and development (see for example Hassan and Ahmed, 2011; Albrecht, 2011; Attridge, 2009; Bakker and Leiter, 2010; BlessingWhite, 2010; Earnshaw, 2005, Kaplan et al., 2009; Maslach and Leiter, 2008; O’Neil and Maitland, 2008; Taylor Nelson Sofres, 2011; Warr and Inceoglu, 2012). As expected, the majority of these studies address employee engagement from an international perspective while only a few narrow down their scope on Chinese situation. Studies addressing Employee engagement in China include BlessingWhite (2011), Earnshaw (2005), O’Neil and Maitland (2008) and Taylor Nelson Sofres (2011) all suggest that employee engagement in China is at its lowest compared to other countries in the world. For instance, BlessingWhite (2011) argue that employee engagement in China was found to be 52 percent, about 6 points lower than the situation in other parts of the world. BlessingWhite study found that the number of Chinese employees likely to leave their jobs was triple the global benchmark (16 percent against 5 percent). The study also found that employees engage themselves because they like their work while employees disengage themselves from their work because of lack of career opportunities, desire for better compensation, and because they do not like their work.

Despite these cross cutting studies, it is wise to argue that studies on job engagement in China are still in their nascent stages – most of the existing studies do not critically address the major factors that affect employee engagement, they only report employee engagement levels in the country without outlining in deeper detail the reasons behind these levels. Therefore, it is important to carry out a study that critically analyses the major factors that influence employees’ job engagement in China by collecting information from practising human resources management professionals through the China Human Resource Website. In addition, the extremely low employee engagement levels in China are another precursor for more studies to be done on this area. Moreover, with the prevailing uncertainty in the international market and the growing competition in both local and international markets following the country’s entry into the World Trade Organisation, it is only fair to assert that more studies need to be carried out so as to establish the degree which critical factors such as leadership style, performance assessment, compensation and welfare, and training and development impact employee engagement. This will provide useful information that organisations can utilise to improve employees’ job engagement level and the wellbeing of the entire organisation.

1.3 Research Aim and Objectives

Currently, in the intense market competition around the global business, talents are the core resources of enterprises, and organisational performance greatly can be determined by the level of these talents engaging in the work. Job engagement is a crucial facet for building competitive advantage among organisations in emerging markets such as China. Therefore, this research is very crucial as it seeks to analyze the factors influencing employees’ job engagement among Chinese organizations. From this overarching aim, the study will also pursue the following specific research objectives:

  1. To explore the impact of leadership style on employees’ job engagement in China.
  2. To investigate the impact of performance assessment on employees’ job engagement in China.
  3. To report the impact of compensation and welfare on employees’ job engagement in China.
  4. To analyse the impact of training and development on employees’ job engagement in China.

1.4 Structure of the Dissertation

This dissertation comprises of five chapters. Chapter covers a background of the study, problem statement, research objectives and aims. Chapter two covers a comprehensive review of the existing relevant literature gathered from journal articles, textbooks, and authentic websites. The third chapter will cover the research methodology, sampling, data collection and data analysis methods. The fourth chapter will present a set of findings and discussion of these findings. Lastly, the fifth chapter will wrap up the study and offer recommendations that organisations in China can employ to enhance employees’ job engagement.


2.1 Introduction

This chapter provides a rich set of information on job engagement. This is in line with Creswell (2009) who posits that a literature review chapter should cover information related to the study aims and objectives. To this end, the chapter is divided into five main sections. Firstly, the chapter covers a comprehensive discussion/definition of job engagement. The second section addresses information related to leadership style and job engagement, the third section will address literature related to performance assessment and job engagement, the fourth section will address literature related to compensation and employee welfare and job engagement while the fifth section will address training and development and job engagement. Lastly, the chapter will be wrapped up with a short but comprehensive summary addressing all the major points reviewed in the chapter.

2.2 Employee Job Engagement

Researchers have put forward multiple definitions and dimensions of employee engagement. For instance, Wefald and Downey (2008) defined job engagement as the ability for organisational members to control themselves to integrate with work-related roles. From this definition, it can be deduced that self and work role are actually in a dynamic process of transformation. When job engagement is relatively high, individuals will input the energy to role behaviour (self-employment), and express self in role (self-expression). Based on this point, Kahn further divided job engagement to physical, cognitive and emotional dimensions. Kim, Shin and Swanger (2008) redefined job engagement as the omission of burnout. They regarded burnout and engagement as two external points of a three-dimensional continuum and divided job engagement into three dimensions of energy, involvement and efficacy. On their part, Schaufeli et al. (2002) defined the concept of job engagement as a kind of durable perfect state full of positive emotion and motivation characterised by vigor, dedication, and absorption. Based on the above discussions, it can be summarised that job engagement refers to the state of mutually satisfying contentment among employees. Employee engagement is a facet of emotional attachment. Studies show that actively engaged employees have strong emotional attachment towards both the organisation and the values it stands for. A 2010 study by BlessngWhite shows that only about 31 percent of all employees are emotionally attached to their jobs (BlessingWhite, 2011). These employees have been noted to work with great passion and are always willing to paint a good image of their organisation – a big chunk of the emotionally engaged employees believe that they have the capacity to make their organisation succeed in the long run (Bakker and Leiter, 2010). Specifically, these employees believe they have a positive impact on the quality of the product an organisation sells to its customers, they can positively influence customer perceptions regarding brand quality and most importantly, they can positively impact on an organization’s cost reduction efforts. Again, emotionally attached employees will most likely recommend the organisation to their colleagues (Robinson and Hayday, 2003). Overall, emotional attachment has to do with the intrinsically positioned prompts that an organisation extends to its employees such as personal growth and a sense of common purpose and involvement in core organisational processes such as workplace restructuring and change of mission statement. Extrinsic prompts such as pay and rewards too have substantial impacts on emotional engagement but it is intrinsic prompts which have the biggest influence.

Employee engagement entails maximum employee involvement in organizational processes and activities. According to a study carried out by Appelbaum et al (2000) on 10 electronic manufacturers, 17 apparels manufacturers, and 15 steel mills, to compare and modern production systems, it was found that employees become more engaged if they are involved in organizational activities. When employees are involved in making decisions they develop positive attitudes towards the organization and are easier to manage. To this effect, Attridge (2009) argues that engaged employees are usually passionate about their organization. Bakker and Leiter (2010) argue that employee engagement is a contemporary business management concept that whose core goal is to generate morale and therefore make employees more involved in workplace activities. Overall, employee engagement is determined by how employees positively or negatively attach themselves emotionally to workplace processes, people and the organisation.

Employee engagement also incorporates commitment involvement and higher organisational performance. Employee engagement is a function of many performance related constructs which all narrow down to employee involvement and performance (Attridge, 2009; Bakker and Leiter, 2010). According a study carried out by Lockwood (2007), engaged employees were found to be 87 percent less likely to quit their current jobs, perform 20 percent better, are committed to the organisation. Lockwood also agrees that engaged employees are likely to serve customers well and therefore earn the organisation more revenue. Moreover, engaged employees are less likely to be involved in workplace accidents as they command a better understanding of organisational processes. This helps to reduce operation costs and therefore freeing the much needed funds for use in income-generating activities. Again, two studies one involving over 3500 employees from 49 organisations and the other one involving over 4800 employees from 92 organisations in the life insurance industry found that when employees are constantly involved in running the organisations, their morale increases and hence their performance (Konrad, 2006). Overall, these findings lead to the conclusion that organisations with committed and engaged employees outperform their colleagues whose employees were less engaged.

2.3 Impact of Leadership Style on Job Engagement

Leadership style refers to the different characters expressed by leadership in the long-term operations process of an enterprise. The leadership style varies a lot from one enterprise to another. Mainly, there are three typical kinds of leadership styles including autocratic leadership style, democratic leadership style and laissez-faire leadership style (Albrecht, 2011; Wang and Chen, 2005). Democratic leadership style can further be broken down into transformational and transactional leadership facets (Vugt et al., 2004). Overall, a leadership style shapes the employer-employee relationships and makes the workplace more accommodative.

Trust is an important facet of democratic leadership styles as shown by a survey conducted by BlessingWhite (2011) in China – trust creates a sense of entitlement and belonging among employees (Tims, Bakker and Xanthopoulou, 2011). BlessingWhite (2011) found that most of employees would like to have more chances to engage in their jobs because they considered that leadership is an important factor in employees’ job engagement. Further the study found that about two thirds of all employees working for various organisations in China reported to have trust in their organisation’s leadership. This was the second highest show of trust on organisational leadership after India (with 75 percent) and ahead of Southeast Asia (with 62 percent), Australia/New Zealand (with 55 percent), North America (52 percent), and UK/Europe (50 percent). Further, the study found that 3 in every 4 Chinese employees have trust in their managers, an almost similar trend with the situation in other major markets of the world. On their part, Ludwig and Frazier (2012) found that when employees can connect with the destiny and purpose of enterprises, they will possess high level of engagement with high aspirations. Through conducting research on ten thousand employees in Great Britain, Institute of Employment Studies found that a sense of being involved and valued is a significant driver of job engagement. It has been achieved that leadership qualities can help organisations achieve high level of engagement (Markos and Sridevi, 2010). It is arguable that leadership and management styles have a great impact on employee engagement because employees tend to trust leaders and managers are capable of setting a good organisational culture and inspiring them to greater heights.

Leadership styles that enhance workplace interpersonal relationships have a greater impact on job engagement than others. Tims et al. (2011) investigated whether supervisor’s leadership style has a direct influence on employee work engagement and found that transformational leadership that puts in place strong workplace relationships boosts employee engagement. Bass (1985) found that transactional leadership and laissez-faire leadership styles have a lesser impact on employee engagement compared to transformational leadership. The author argues that this is because the former two leadership styles lack motivational and inspirational appeal and therefore cannot impact on employee engagement as transformational leadership does. This is because transformational leadership provides individual support for employees. These findings are supported by Vugt et al (2004) who found that employees are more likely to leave groups headed by transactional and laissez-faire leaders and join groups headed by transformational leaders. Vugt argues employees are discouraged by the limited control they enjoy when it comes to decision making processes when in transactional leadership groups and lack the drive to invest more efforts in their tasks when in laissez-faire leadership groups. These findings are supported by Skogstaad et al (2007) that leadership styles that does not support to employees normally reduce employee morale. Overall, transformational leadership transforms employees’ norms and values, inspires employees and makes them more happy and useful to the organisation. This in turn boosts their job engagement.

Leadership styles that address employees’ interests increase job engagement. Since managers are known to exercise a hard style of leadership where employees are assumed to be knowledgeable enough as to undertake their tasks without guidance or motivation, it is arguable that the gist of leadership in an organisation is to create a soft approach for achieving the set organisational goals (see for example Tims et al, 2010). Evidence shows that employees tend to become more committed to their tasks if the top management rolls out programmes that improve their overall welfare such as programmes aimed at covering their medical insurances expenses or aligning employees’ interests with organisational interests. Transformational leadership for instance, inspires employees, influences employees positively, takes into consideration employees’ individual needs, and stimulates employees’ intellectual faculties (Tims and Bakker, 2011). Inspiration takes the form of objective communication that is appealing in nature while idealised influence take the form of convincing employees to believe that group interests are more important than individual interests. Together, idealised influence and inspiration constitutes what is generally referred to as charismatic leadership style as demonstrated by renowned leaders such as the late Steve Jobs or Apple Computers (Warr and Inceoglu, 2012). On the other hand, individual consideration acknowledging employees career growth needs and providing tailor made programmes that fulfil these needs (Avolio, Bass, and Walumbwa, 2004). Lastly, intellectual stimulation has to do with the constant talks that managers hold with employees to convince them to practice a multidimensional approach to workplace challenges. This involves critical thinking and can only be made possible if employees are more engaged with their tasks (Avery, McKay, and Wilson, 2007). When followers are challenged, involved, share the vision of the leader they tend to drop their own personal visions and work towards the collective organisational vision.

Communication, as a facet of transformational leadership style has a great impact on employee engagement. According to a series of studies conducted by Watson Wyatt Worldwide between 2002 and 2006 among a wide range of enterprises to test the impact of communication-based leadership style on employee engagement, firms that communicate regularly with their employees have a chance of improving employee engagement up to four times more compared to their counterparts who do not communicate to their employees regularly. One of these series of studies indicated companies that practise corporate communication realised a 91 percent total return to shareholders, a facet for measuring the level of employee engagement in public owned enterprises. This was phenomenal improvement compared to only 62 percent return to shareholders for companies that did not embrace corporate communication. These studies also found a correlation between corporate communication and market value improvement of up to 16 percent for the observed companies (Watson Wyatt Worldwide, 2007). Another study conducted by Mercer in 2002 dubbed “People at Work Survey” supports these later findings. Based on more than 2500 persons working for United States based companies, the study found that the effectiveness of workplace communication improved the level of employee engagement as it boosted employee satisfaction, employee commitment, and employee loyalty. Specifically, the study found that when senior management communicated a company’s mission and vision to the junior employees, a large section of the employees became more confident and focused to their specific organisational responsibilities up to a margin of 39 percent compared to a margin of 7 percent when such communication was absent (Attridge, 2009). Overall, these studies seem to support the notion that interactive and individualised leadership styles increases the level of certainty among the employees, increases employees knowledge of organisational values and therefore boosts employee engagement in the long run.

A transformational leader creates a good environment that influences employee engagement. A study carried out by Tuckey et al (2009) found that apart from instilling worthwhile states among employees, leaders boost employee engagement by creating friendly environment that stimulates their cognitive faculties. Tuckey et al studied 84 Australian fire fighters and found that their empowering leadership style was responsible for increasing the number of voluntary workforce. According to Albrecht (2010), empowering leadership style is characterised by sharing an organisation’s vision with the employees, showing how tasks should be carried out, involving employees during critical decision making processes, and offering regular coaching to employees. To this end, Tuckey et al (2009) study found that the fire brigade increased employee engagement (the number and the level of commitment of the voluntary fire fighters) by availing cognitive challenges and cognitive resources. The cognitive challenges took the form of complex assignments while cognitive resources took the form of job control and training. Arguably, empowering leadership style creates and environment atypical to transformational leadership style’s facet of individualised influence and consideration. However, it differs in the way it challenges employees to put aside their individual commitments for the good of the organisation, community or the larger society. Unlike, transformational leadership which transforms employees into happy and useful resources (Tims et al, 2011), empowering leadership has to do with the workplace environment (Albrecht, 2010) – it creates an interactive and resourceful environment that boosts the level of employee commitment and engagement.

The reviewed literature in this section shows that leadership styles such as transformational leadership that empower, support, and challenge employees have a direct bearing on their level of engagement. As Albrecht (2010), Avery et al. (2007), Tims et al. (2011), Tuckey et al. (2009), Walumbwa and Hartnell (2011), and Wang and Chen (2005) argue, this is so because these leadership styles trigger engagement-specific facets such as hope, optimism, self-awareness, and self-efficacy. While drawing from these studies, it is wise to argue that the trade-off between the expected and actual workplace environment tend to have a direct bearing on the level of employee engagement.

In extension, the trade-off between the expected and the actual nature of job has a direct bearing on the level of employee engagement. This is true since employees always have expectations on the environments they want to work in and the quality of job opportunities they want to take (Albrecht, 2010). To this effect, Avery et al (2007) argue that workplace environments that are not in congruent with employees’ expectations will reduce employee engagement as employees will have few incentives for self-efficacy and awareness. On the other hand, Albrecht (2010) argues that employees who are forced to take jobs which they do not have a liking for them but because there are no other better and fulfilling jobs will tend to have a lower engagement as they will be disillusioned and always in a job-searching mode. However, this negative mentality may be completely changed for the best by good leaders capable of instilling a sense of self-awareness and self-efficacy (Tims et al, 2011; Walumbwa and Hartnell, 2011; Wang and Chen, 2005). It is wise to assert that all workplaces have some unpleasant environments and all jobs have negative features, however, sound leadership that is built on rewarding employees’ efforts and addressing their welfare can go a long way in increasing employee engagement.

2.4 Impact of Performance Assessment on Job Engagement

Performance assessment entails a set of systematic procedures undertaken to evaluate employees’ productivity against set goals. Most organisations regularly appraise the performance of their employees against a set evaluation criteria (Denisi and Pritchard, 2006). This criterion does not only evaluate organisational performance but also the employees’ behavior at the workplace and their ability to work in different work environments (Manasa and Reddy, 2009). Results of such appraisal are then used by the management to place employees in the most appropriate sections of the organisation where they can achieve their maximum production capacity, retrenching off unproductive employees, rewarding hardworking employees and rolling out new programmes for enhancing workplace performance (Muchinsky, 2012). Normally, performance assessment is carried out once every quarter or once every year as may be determined by the existing organizational culture. Data for performance assessment is collected by use of questionnaires or even interviews and analysed through easy to understand data analysis methods such as descriptive statistics or even coding (Armstrong and Baron, 2005). Nevertheless, care should be taken so that performance assessment enhances employer-employee relationships and not ligations which normally arise when managers use performance appraisal drills to settle personal differences with employees by giving hardworking employees lower performance rating while giving less working ones higher performance rating. This is true since Gruman and Saks (2011) confirmed that employees’ perception on the fairness of performance assessment drives can affect individual and organisational performance including job satisfaction, job engagement, organisational commitment and loyalty to organisational values and trust to supervisors.

Performance assessment is a critical facet of employee engagement. Armstrong and Baron (2005) considered that performance management is an effective measure to improve employees’ overall performance. These authors are in harmony with a finding by Schraeder et al. (2007) who found that performance assessment is regarded as a crucial component that employers should use to monitor employee commitment and to improve their overall attachment to their tasks. On their part, Gruman and Saks (2011) argue that performance appraisals are one of the best ways to measures organizational productivity. Gruman and Saks agree that like in institutions of learning workplace performance appraisals offer employees the opportunity to re-examine their skills relative the set organisational objectives and therefore make the necessary improvements. Specifically, studies carried out by Muchinsky (2006) and Denisi and Pritchard (2006) show that performance assessment can be used as a benchmark for collective goal setting and performance enhancement exercises. The organisation can engage employees from both an individual and group level with a view of revisiting their performance appraisal results and identifying common goals which address employees and organisational needs. On the same note, results derived from performance appraisal drives can help organisations make the necessary communication, a precursor to sustainable employee engagement (Schraeder et al., 2007). Such communication should aim at highlighting job-specific expectations as well as broad organisational expectations and how better the employees can fulfil such expectations.

Results derived from performance assessment can be applied in wide areas in an organisation related to employee engagement. According to Denisi and Pritchard (2006), the main reason for conducting performance assessment is to improve productivity from both the individual and organisational fronts. Organisations also use performance assessment as a basis for making employee engagement decisions such as choosing where to place newly hired employees or when to distribute leave days to employees while ensuring that all tasks are adequately manned by the right people (Manasa and Reddy, 2009). This is true since employees need to know how they are performing relative to the set organisational objectives and therefore make the right career progression decision on which facets of their jobs they should specialise in (Muchinsky, 2012). For example, newly hired trainee managers can gauge their performance in various sections of the organisation and make a decision on which section suits their personal and professional capabilities better.

Performance assessment results are used to make hiring, promotional, and retrenchment decisions. Among the many reasons why employers appraise their workforce capability is to identify immediate and future human capital needs. This helps to make proper hiring, job placement and training decisions. Specifically, employers can utilise performance appraisal results to streamline the workforce in a bid to reduce redundancy (Denisi and Pritchard, 2006). As a matter of fact, Manasa and Reddy (2009) argue that results of performance assessment drives are used to make promotional and retrenchment decisions. To this effect, it is wise to argue that when employees are promoted on the basis of their job performance they tend to become more loyal and committed to the organisation and its values. On the other hand, retrenchment or encouraging aged employees to go for early retirement is arguably a better method of restructuring the workplace as it eliminates individuals who negatively influence hard working employees through irresponsible and selfish actions (Armstrong and Baron, 2005; Muchinsky, 2012). For instance, individuals with difficulties in interacting with other employees or customers should not be allowed to operate in sections of the workplace that demand constant exposure and interactions with other employees or customers. Arguably, when the workplace is restructured and proper bonding and orientation exercises performed on new and existing employees the level of confidence and morale will definitely be boosted.

Nevertheless, performance assessment is not always a positive factor to employee engagement. An analysis of multiple studies and performance appraisal incidences reported by Sudarsan (2009) show that many employees view performance assessment drives to be biased and subjective. Specifically, performance appraisal drives in the public sector organisations such as government agencies lead in terms of biasness of the appraiser (Muchinsky, 2012). Other situations show that the feedback process is sometimes not transparent while the frequency of performance appraisal drives is irregular and ill-timed (Keeping and Levy, 2000). For example, a manager may intentionally leak the results of performance appraisal to the wrong persons with the intention of humiliating certain employees while in some cases the appraisal drives can be carried out without alerting employees to make the necessary preparations in good time. In addition, a meta-analysis study by Cawley et al. (1998) found that if employees are actively involved in the appraisal process they will likely develop a positive perception about the whole process since they will view its results as authentic and reliable. Moreover, the study found that if the employees believe that the feedback system is foolproof then they will definitely accept the results and they will work positively to improve their rating. To this end, BlessingWhite (2011) recommends that performance assessment results should be accompanied by a meaningful follow-up action so as to make it meaningful and useful to employees. If no feedback is given, employees may perceive the whole exercise as meaningless and only meant to humiliate them.

2.5 Impact of Compensation and Welfare on Job Engagement

Compensation can be defined as all forms of pay given to employees arising from their position in an organization. This definition does not, however, cover non-financial benefits but includes both direct and indirect financial compensation (Nnazir, 2012). Compensation through diverse means such as monetary and non-monetary rewards, benefits and performance geared management practices contribute significantly to increases in employees competencies which ultimately translates into an organizations competitive edge and better employee welfare (Castellano, 2001; Muller and Trannoy, 2011). Robinson, Perryman, and Hayday (2004) argued that compensation and welfare include all kinds of properties, service and material benefits of any forms. For individual, compensation and welfare are not only the reward for work but also the affirmation of personal ability and achievement. Schaufeli and Bakker (2004) pointed out that compensation and welfare are designed to encourage employees to work for the shared objectives. Holbeche and Springett (2003) proved that compensation system is obviously related to job engagement, and the fairness of compensation and welfare is positively related to job performance.

The importance of compensation and welfare especially in today’s competitive and dynamic economic environment cannot be simply wished away when determining factors that play a critical role in the success of increasingly global and complex organization. In a survey conducted by WorldatWork in conjunction with Watson Wyatt Worldwide, comprehensive data analysis showed that compensation plays a key role in determining the success of an organization by differentiating it from its competitors, driving positive organizational performance especially during economic recessions, underscoring internal consistency and increased efficiency and effectiveness as a result of increased job engagement (WorldatWork, 2011). Arguably, these critical success indicators were associated with a dedicated workforce that understands its roles in enhancing organisational performance and the overall achievement of organisational goals. This is true since organisational performance is attributable to a committed workforce (Warr and Inceoglu, 2012), it can be deduced that organisations that pay their employees good salaries and also address their welfare experience low employee turnover and high job engagement.

Organizations worldwide have also understood that job satisfaction is important for business sustainability. This has led to increased effort by companies to adequately compensate employees and ensure their welfare. Recent research has shown this strategy is working in ensuring job engagement with positive results beginning to show. In the US for example, a research by WorldatWork (2004) has shown that 83 percent of employees are satisfied with their job with 41 percent of these being very satisfied while 42 percent are somewhat satisfied. These statistics have been attributed to factors such as; increased determination and confidence of employees to accomplish their work goals which accounts for about 83 percent of the respondents who were satisfied, better relationships with employers and co-workers (76 percent), effective use of skills in their work environment (74 percent) and increased alignment of employee activities to achievement of organization’s business goals and objectives (SHRM, 2011). The survey by SHRM (2011) however unearthed factors that have previously been considered strong contributors of job engagement but which employees reported as not very important. These factors include; organizations commitment to diversity in the workplace, ‘green’ workplaces and company paid training programs (SHRM, 2011). Employees are also realizing that increased company competitiveness enhanced through their contribution helps companies succeed especially in these uncertain economic conditions leading to the so called ‘reflex’ job engagement.

In their research, May et al. (2004) suggest that there is a distinct relationship between emotional well-being and the general welfare of an employee to level of job engagement. This is due to the influence emotions and welfare has on employee’s job satisfaction and engagement. It actively influences the inspirations and affirmations they get from their work and other participants in the context of the organization. This notwithstanding, Holbeche and Springett (2003) argues that most employees feel that their work environment is not conducive enough and a lot of reforms need to be done to increase job engagement. This is true especially among contemporary organisations that are only inclined towards profit maximisation at the expense of creating friendly working environment that carters for all the major employee needs.

The perception of safety whether real or otherwise which May et al. (2004) considers one of the three psychological conditions affecting job engagement, is critical in creating an increasingly engaged workforce. It can be fostered by supportive work environments which genuinely show concern for employee’s needs and feelings, positive and productive criticism and encouraging open channels of communication where genuine employee concerns can be voiced. This will go a long way in continually developing skills and solving work related problems (Deci and Ryan, 1987; Muller and Trannoy, 2011). These conditions lead to an employee base that feels safer and actively commits to their organisation and work resulting in high levels of job engagement (Edmondson, 1999; Muller and Trannoy, 2011). Overall, compensation and welfare instils a strong sense of belonging among employees and makes them aware of their responsibilities and how such responsibilities impacts on the overall organisational performance.

Another model that is slowly gaining popularity among scholars comes from the ‘burnout’ literature and has actively been championed by Maslach (2001) among others. This model begins by first identifying six important work-life areas which can lead to either increased job engagement or burnout. These areas include rewards and recognition, social support, perceived fairness and justice, control and workload. The model’s dominant argument views job engagement as being inseparable from an employee’s perception of being valuable and where they fit in the higher organizational picture. This sense of meaning is brought increasingly by compensational and welfare factors such as recognition and reward, supportive work community and the feeling of being valued in the work place. This has been supported by a research by May et al. (2004) which showed an active association between job engagement and appropriate compensation for value of work done.

While compensation and welfare are not the only factors which affect job satisfaction, they have nonetheless been argued to be important in determining the level of employee job engagement. Maslach (2001) Saks (2006) for example argues that the impacts of employee welfare and compensation can better be viewed in light of the Social Exchange Theory (SET). SET deductions are that employee’s sense of obligation which lead to increased job satisfaction is as a result of interactions of parties who are in a state of reciprocal interdependence. This interdependence overtime grow in to mutual trust, loyalty and long term commitments (Cropanzano and Mitchell, 2005). Saks (2006) views job engagement as a reaction of employees to resources they receive from the organization; these can be in form of compensation packages or resources that contribute to their general well-being or welfare. This has further been supported by Kahn’s (1990) earlier works which view increased investment of individuals emotional, cognitive, and physical resources as a response to favourable organization’s actions towards employees.

Monetary compensation and general employee welfare have been traditionally been considered critical in determining level of employee job engagement, recent trends and studies are watering down this notion. A research conducted by Johnson in Singapore and Thailand for instance set out to determine impacts of motivation through compensation in determining job engagement (cited by Sandeep et al., 2008). The study found out that in Singapore and Japan, levels of job engagement were in some cases as low as 9 percent while levels of employee job non-engagement were as high as 82 percent. These findings were stunning as well as mind boggling and have increased the need to take into account factors such as the economic structure, culture and values, politics and management styles while determining the effects of compensation as a means of motivating employees and its impacts on job engagement (Sandeep et al, 2008). This is particularly so for multinationals who mostly deal with people from diverse cultures, values and ways of life.

2.6 Impact of Training and Development on Job Engagement

Employee training and development are two important facets of human resource management. Training is the wholesome process of collective set of activities which are designed to impart information among employees. It is a phenomenon that requires a comprehensive and detailed understanding of all organisational transformations (Brum, 2007). Increased emphasis of training in today’s business structures has, however, come with its own controversies and still ignites heated debate among professionals and scholars alike. Two schools of thoughts have emerged on the effect it has on employee and organizational goals. One school of thought argues that training leads to increased employee turnover while the other views training as a tool that leads to high levels of employee retention (Becker, 1993). Development on the other hand is an organised usually life-long approach used to match employee’s goals and wants with the businesses long and short term goals in support of workforce development initiatives (Virginia, 2012).

Employee training and development is increasingly becoming an important driver of job engagement in the work place. Tower’s study on the effects of training and development on employee’s job engagement found out that increased investment in employee training usually results on an average 3.74 percent higher operating margin and a 2.06 percent higher net profit. This has been attributed to the fact that employee training make them feel more involved and valued, which translates to increased job engagement. This study reiterated Herzberg (1966) and Maslow’s (1943) theories that employee reward and increased value is critical in driving employee engagement to the organization, employee value mostly is increased through continued and vigorous on and off job training as well as career development. This therefore makes the Human Resource department a critical pillar in ensuring continued on job engagement (Castellano, 2001). Towers Watson’s global research has been able to reinforce training and development as a major driver towards job engagement. The study found out that since employees in today’s work environment are highly trained and find it easier to change jobs, they are more likely to be loyal and productive in a work environment that meets their needs and help them better their skills through career development initiatives and training (O’Connor and Fairhurst, 2010). Organisations have therefore been more cautious when considering job cuts since they have to weigh the cost of cutting down employee cost against losing qualified and talented individuals who could be helpful in enhancing organisation’s long term fortunes.

Most successful organisations attribute their success stories to effective management and investment in four main tenets which include capital, equipment or appropriate hardware, information and ultimately human resource (York, 2010). Human resource investment increases productivity and employee effectiveness. Investing in employees to a large extent involves investing in their training and development. There have therefore been numerous studies on the effects of employee training in achieving the organizations bottom line. The Burke and Day’s analysis on the effects of managerial training found out that managerial training is moderately effective in contributing to manager’s job engagement (York, 2010). This has been supported by Mathieu and Leonard’s empirical analysis which analyzed the effects of a training program on 65 bank supervisors, while the cost of the training for this particular training program was $50,500, the gains by the organization from the same was $34,600 for the first year, $108,600 by the third year and in excess of $148,000 by the fifth year (Mathieu and Leonard, 1987). This shows how employee training and development can lead to significant growth in the organization.

Since an individuals’ intention of leaving an organization can be used to measure their feelings towards their work and their organization (Schaufeli and Bakker 2004), employees with a greater job engagement are likely to have greater attachment to their work and organization (Truss et al., 2006). The implications of this approach can have one of two possible outcomes; it can help reduce employee turnover and human resource cost but can also lead to employees staying long in an organization which sometimes leads to reduced job engagement (Ferguson, 2007; Truss et al., 2006). To counter this however, continuous employee training and development can be used to keep employees motivated and aligned to the organization even in the long run. This ensures that the employer-employee relation does not become or stay ‘stale’. Mills et al. (2012) considered that training is to provide employees with the skills they need to implement their jobs. Presently the most widely used training system model is the instructional system design model advanced by Crawford, LePine and Rich (2010). It includes training demand analysis, training objectives formulation, training programme design and implementation and training assessment. Overall, training and development increases employee ability to make positively imparting decisions and actions that have a direct bearing on their overall commitment to their jobs.

2.7 Summary

Authors agree that leadership style influences employee engagement. Albrecht (2010), Appelbaum (2000), Attridge (2009), Avery et al. (2007), Baker and Leiter (2010), ColeySmith (2006), Ludwig and Frazier (2012), Skogstaad et al (2007), Tims et al. (2011), Tuckey et al. (2009), Warr and Inceoglu (2012), Vugt et al (2004), agree that leadership styles that help employees to connect their personal destinies with the destiny and purpose of enterprises, they become more engaged. Specifically, it was established that transformational leadership has the greatest impact on employee engagement compared to other forms of leadership such as transactional and laissez-faire styles. This is because unlike the latter two styles, transformational leadership is more engaging, fulfilling, stimulating, meaningful and rewarding in terms of nurturing employee talents (Albrecht, 2010; Bass, 1985; Skogstaad et al, 2007; Tuckey et al., 2009; Vugt et al., 2004). Overall, these findings support the first study objective that the leadership style an organisation pursues influences the level of employee engagement.

In summation, the reviewed literature shows that when used well, performance assessment can enhance employee engagement. According to Armstrong and Baron (2005), BlessingWhite (2011), Cawley et al. (1998), Denisi and Pritchard (2006), Gruman and Saks (2011), Keeping and Levy (2000), Manasa and Reddy (2009), Muchinsky (2012), Schraeder et al. (2007), and Sudarsan (2009) show the importance of performance assessment in enhancing employee efficiency and productivity. Manasa and Reddy (2009) show that performance assessment results are used to make critical human resource management decisions such as hiring, promotion, job placement, and retrenchment. These critical decisions have a direct bearing on employee engagement. BlessingWhite (2011) however cautions that performance and assessment should be performed in a professional manner that allows employees to take active positions, that is transparently and fairly conducted, and whose feedback is used to identify future training needs. Moreover, the reviewed literature shows that performance assessment should not be used by the management in a biased manner that favours some employees at the expense of others (Cawley et al., 1998; Keeping and Levy, 2000; Muchinsky, 2009; Sudarsan, 2009). These findings support the second study objective that performance assessment has a direct bearing on the level of employee job engagement.

Compensation and welfare have a direct bearing on employee engagement. In regards to the second objective that compensation and welfare influences employee engagement, section 2.5 of this chapter has presented arguments supporting the notion that employees tend to be more engaged if they believe that their welfare is well addressed. Cropanzano and Mitchell (2005), Kahn (1990), May et al. (2004), Maslach (2001), Saks (2006), Sandeep et al. (2008) show that organisations that conduct regular appraisal of the benefits accorded to employees in view of improving them are more likely to achieve high productivity. This is because improving employee welfare positively imparts the desire to improve the propensity of employees to commit them to an organisation. Ultimately, such employees become engaged to their tasks. On the other hand, monetary compensation has a direct bearing on employees’ commitment – employees are less likely to leave their present jobs if they enjoy competitive compensation packages (Cropanzano and Mitchell, 2005; Sandeep et al., 2008). This is in tandem with the social exchange theory which according to Saks (2006) determines the level of employee engagement and commitment. Overall, this evidence strongly helps to propose the third study objective, as it clearly shows that there is a positive relationship between compensation and welfare on one side and employee engagement on the other.

The reviewed literature supports the notion that training and development enhances employee retention and productivity. Brum (2007), Becker (1993), Crawford et al. (2010), Ferguson (2007), Castellano (2001), O’Connor and Denise (2010), Mathieu and Leonard, (1987), Schaufeli and Bakker (2004), Truss et al. (2009), Virginia (2012), and York (2010) agree that training and development are two critical facets of building a strong workforce that is commmitted to fulfilling the set organistaional goals. When employees are taken through regular training they are able undertake challenging tasks without raising much concerns. Employees will stay in their current jobs if they are constantly recieiving training on how to approach new and challenging tasks at the workplace – rgeular training are needed when a new system or machine is bought. This evidence proposes the fourth study objetcive that constant training and development is essential for employee engagement.



3.1 Introduction

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2009) argue that a research study should be understood from the philosophy it subscribes to, research strategy utilised as well as the research instruments (sampling, data collection and data analysis tools) it employs. This study employs an interpretivism philosophy, inductive research approach survey research strategy, convenience sampling method, e-questionnaires data collection method, and descriptive statistics data analysis method. The choice of these methods was advised by the study aims and objectives shown in chapter one – the study investigates the factors that influence employee engagement from a Chinese perspective. From this broad aim, the study seeks to achieve the following specific and operational objectives. To explore the impact of leadership style on employees’ job engagement in China; to investigate the impact of performance assessment on employees’ job engagement in China; to report the impact of compensation and welfare on employees’ job engagement in China, and; to analyse the impact of training and development on employees’ job engagement in China. Specifically, the study will

3.2 Research Philosophy

Research philosophy entails a set of beliefs that determine how data is collected, analyzed, interpreted, and utilised. Many researchers hold that the purpose of any research is to generate new knowledge by transforming what is generally believed to be true by a given personality or a group of personalities into a universally accepted and known knowledge (Cooper and Schindler, 2011). Generally, research philosophy falls within three broad categories: positivism, interpretivism and realism (Saunders et al., 2009). Nevertheless, positivism and interpretivism are the most popular, with positivism being the most preferred by researchers especially those undertaking studies falling in the social science domain. The reason why interpretivism is not popular with many social science theorists is because it is perceived as less scientific particularly in the observation of phenomenon and drawing of inferences (Creswell, 2009; Saunders et al., 2009). Nevertheless, all three philosophies have some degree of weaknesses – each has its own level of researcher bias especially when it comes to data analysis and interpretation.

Positivists prefer to observe social reality and make generalisations in an objective manner. The positivist philosophy emphasises on the adoption of constructional method and assumes that the researcher should be independent and should not be affected in any way by the research processes and subjects (Saunders et al., 2009). On the other hand, interpretivism aims to understand general questions of the complexity of the social environment and seeks to understand the subjective reality of the research so as to understand the motivation, behaviour and intention in a meaningful way for the research (Cooper and Schindler, 2011). On its part, realism considers that reality is independent of people’s thoughts and beliefs (Ponterotto, 2005). Overall, each of these three philosophical standpoints is relevant and equally important in generating new knowledge.

Nevertheless, this study utilised interpretivism research philosophy. The rationale behind the selection of interpretivism was based on the fact that the philosophy helps to better understand human perceptions of the world. The philosophy allowed the researcher to “interact” with the subjects and develop shared understandings of their perception of the real-life situation (employee engagement) at the workplace and other social places (Saunders et al., 2009). This was possible because interpretivism does not view phenomena as rigid but rather as dynamic social constructs that may change during the research process period. Moreover, this philosophy agrees that the duty of the researcher is to understand how such changes can be accommodated during the process of data collection and analysis (Creswell, 2009). Furthermore, this philosophy gave the researcher the opportunity to interpret the study findings in a subjective but professional manner based on the set of knowledge based built through reviewing the existing relevant literature in chapter two.

3.3 Research Approach

Research approaches can be generally grouped into two groups – deductive approach and inductive approach. A deductive approach can be adopted when hypotheses are put forward based on existing theories. In addition, an operable term should be put forward to state how variables are measured and expound the relationship between the two categories of special variables – independent and dependent variables (Cooper and Schindler, 2011). Moreover, a deductive approach aims to explain the causal relationship between variables and requires the researcher to be independent especially when interacting with the study objects (Overmars, Verburg and Veldkamp, 2007). Another important feature with deductive approach is that it requires quantitative measurements to make it operable.

On the other hand, the inductive approach is flexible and it does not require pre-determined theories to collect or analyse data. According to Saunders et al. (2009), this research strategy only requires a researcher to observe and collect data and use such data to make a tentative hypothesis that is then used to build or interpret existing theories based on the research aims and objectives. To this end, inductive approaches can be described as rich in terms of engaging study variables. Unlike, deductive approach which is mostly associated with positivism, inductive approach is mostly used alongside interpretive philosophy (Saunders et al., 2009). Lastly, this approach allows the researcher to subjectively interpret phenomena using real life examples unlike the deductive approach which can only do so through relevant theories.

This research study adopted an inductive approach. It was reasoned that a deductive approach was not suitable for this study since it is mostly concerned with the testing of hypotheses using scientific methods such as correlation and regression analyses (Cooper and Schindler, 2011), a thing not consistent with the research aims, objectives, and philosophy of this research. Moreover, an inductive approach allowed the researcher to gather and effectively analyse data when determining the impact of each of the four identified factors on job engagement. In addition, the researcher reasoned that since the collected data was not based on measurable scales of the four variables, an inductive approach was the best in guiding the researcher to link existing knowledge with new knowledge (Overmars et al., 2007). Lastly, an inductive approach was crucial in reducing researcher bias especially during the interpretation of study results – it allowed for the application of a wide range of theories some of which were not directly related to the research objectives (Cooper and Schindler, 2011). Nevertheless, this approach posed potential imitations to the study. Saunders et al. (2009), argue that an inductive approach may be difficult to adopt especially when there is limited study time to gather meaningful observations that can lead to hypothesis and theory building. However, this was not a major problem as the e-questionnaires were structured in a way as to capture maximum and all the questionnaires were successfully completed and returned.

3.4 Research Strategy

3.4.1 Questionnaire survey

Research strategy guides a researcher in determining the nature of data to collect and how to collect it. Research strategy includes experiment, survey, case study, grounded theory, ethnography, and action study (Schunk, 2008). Different research strategies should be applied to different kinds of research studies and topics. While each of the above listed strategy has its strengths and weaknesses, what counts is what, why and how a researcher wants to achieve in a certain topic as well as the audience to whom the study is directed (Saunders et al., 2009). To this effect, Creswell (2009) advises that most research strategies are applicable in more than one academic field while others are limited to a particular field of study and therefore a researcher should exercise due diligence when narrowing down to a specific research strategy.

In light of the four major objectives restated at the beginning of this chapter, this research study adopted a survey strategy. As Creswell (2009) posits, survey strategy is mostly used alongside inductive approach in social sciences studies. Moreover, Saunders et al. (2009) argue that survey can acquire standardised data through questionnaires or interviews and can collect large amounts of data from a large study sample. On their part, Cooper and Schindler (2011) argue that surveys help a researcher to study more than one variable at a time, a thing that is not possible with field experiments or laboratory experiments.

Moreover, have a major validity and reliability strength when carried out by professional researchers. This is because they help a researcher to collect data about real life situations without interfering with the study phenomenon (Saunders et al., 2009). However, a key weakness with survey strategy is that it is usually very hard to accurately deduce the cause-effect relationships between and among the various processes involved in the studied phenomena. Moreover, if the process of selecting study subjects is not conducted well or the subjects are not given enough time to answer the survey questions, there may be high levels of bias (Coopers and Schindler, 2011). However, these concerns were mitigated by the fact that the study subjects were active professionals (human resource managers) with vast knowledge on the study topic. Moreover, these concerned were mitigated by the fact that the study adopted an inductive approach, collected quantitative data through a structured and objective strategy. This allowed the researcher to employ quantitative analytical tools to draw inferences regarding the relationships between leadership style, performance assessment, compensation, and training and development on one side and employee engagement on the other side (Saunders et al., 2009). Lastly, the survey strategy was handy in collecting standardised data on the four customised study areas, that is, leadership style, performance assessment, compensation and welfare and training and development as they relate to the Chinese scenario.

3.4.2 Questionnaire Design

As Appendix 1 shows, the e-questionnaire has five sections. The first section comprises of personal, professional and academic questions. In addition, this section covers a question on employee engagement. Each of the following sections consists of a five-point scale about a single variable in the following order – leadership style, performance assessment, compensation and welfare, and training and development. The questions in all sections except the basic information part are designed based on knowledge gathered from the previous research as stipulated in the literature review chapter. The questionnaire design can be seen as follows.

Items Academic Resources Question Numbers
Employees’ Job Engagement Downey (2008), Kim, Shin and Swanger (2008), Schaufeli et al. (2002), BlessingWhite (2011),  Bakker and Leiter (2010), Robinson and Hayday (2003), Appelbaum et al (2000), Attridge (2009), Bakker and Leiter (2010), Lockwood (2007), and Konrad (2006). Question 1-5 (Section 1)
Leadership Style Albrecht (2010), Appelbaum (2000), Attridge (2009), Avery et al. (2007), Avolio et al. (2004),  Baker and Leiter (2010), Bass (1985), BlessingWhite (2011), ColeySmith (2006), Ludwig and Frazier (2012), Markos and Sridevi (2010), Skogstaad et al (2007), Tims and Bakker (2011), Tims et al. (2011), Tuckey et al. (2009), Warr and Inceoglu (2012), Watson Wyatt Worldwide (2007), Vugt et al (2004). Question 1-15 (Section 2)
Performance Assessment Armstrong and Baron (2005), BlessingWhite (2011), Cawley et al. (1998), Denisi and Pritchard (2006), Gruman and Saks (2011), Keeping and Levy (2000), Manasa and Reddy (2009), Muchinsky (2012), Schraeder et al. (2007), and Sudarsan (2009). Question 1-15 (Section 3)
Compensation and Welfare Nnazir (2012), Castellano (2001), Muller and Trannoy (2011), Robinson et al. (2004), Schaufeli and Bakker (2004), Holbeche and Springett (2003), WorldatWork (2011), Warr and Inceoglu (2012), SHRM (2011), May et al. (2004), Deci and Ryan (1987), Muller and Trannoy (2011), Edmondson (1999), Maslach (2001), Saks (2006), Cropanzano and Mitchell (2005), Kahn (1990) and Sandeep et al. (2008). Question 1-15 (Section 4)
Training and Development Brum (2007), Becker (1993), Virginia (2012), Herzberg (1966), Maslow (1943), Castellano (2001), O’Connor and Fairhurst (2010), York (2010), Mathieu and Leonard (1987), Schaufeli and Bakker (2004), Truss et al. (2006), Ferguson (2007), Crawford, and LePine and Rich (2010). Question 1-15 (Section 5)

3.5 Sample and Sampling Techniques

The Chinese Human Resource Website is a professional forum that brings together all cadres of human resource professionals in China. Since the advent of social networking sites and professional networking sites, most professionals in China as and other emerging nations have embraced new ways of sharing information (Warr and Inceoglu, 2012). A large chunk of practising and upcoming human resource professionals meet in this forum to share crucial information on how matters regarding the management of human capital can be carried out better in the country. Nevertheless, this study narrowed down its scope on active human resource managers registered in the Chinese Human Resource Website. Managers were chosen because they have a deeper understanding of issues affecting employee engagement. In total, 5000 potential subjects were identified. However, due to time and monetary constraints the study could only accommodate 50 subjects. The decision to only incorporate 50 subjects was based on Ader, Mallenberg and Hand (2008) who posit that a study sample should not be too large or too small; rather, it should be manageable and adequately representative of the target population.

Sampling techniques can be divided into probability sampling and non-probability sampling. Probability sampling requires that the probability of selecting each individual from the potential subjects is equal to all other individuals in the identified group of potential subjects (Saunders et al., 2007). It was not easy to accurately determine the authenticity of each of the potential subjects but the researcher relied on the subjects’ profiles in the forum. To this end, the researcher adopted a non-probability sampling. Basically, non-probability sampling includes convenience sampling, snowball sampling, quota sampling, and judgment sampling (Creswell, 2009). Since the target population differences and the sample size were deemed small, this research adopted a convenience sampling method.

As opposed to other non-probability sampling techniques, convenience sampling allows a researcher to select subjects who are easily accessible. Since human resource professionals are easy to access in the Chinese Human Resource Website, sampling them was fast, inexpensive, and easy. However, this type of sampling could have locked out potential subjects (Creswell, 2009). Nevertheless, the technique increased the response rate as the selected subjects were willing to take part and easily accessible (Cooper and Schindler, 2011). Overall, the researcher conveniently selected 50 reliable subjects from the 5000 potential subjects.

3.6 Data Collection

Data collection is a multidimensional and involving exercise. Studies in the social science domain require a rich set of data gathered using both primary and secondary data collection methods (Saunders et al., 2007). Secondary data collection method entails the review of existing data with a view of extracting evidence that supports the construction of study objectives and research questions while primary data collection entails the extraction of first-hand information from study participations through interviews, surveys, questionnaires or focus groups (Cooper and Schindler, 2011). As chapter two of this study indicates, a large chunk of secondary data supporting the topic (employee engagement) study aim, objectives and research questions was reviewed (collected). As Creswell (2009) argues, this data was very crucial in the interpretation and understanding of the study findings.

On the other hand, the primary data collection employed questionnaires. The study utilised the Chinese Human Resource Website to distribute the questionnaires to the selected study subjects. To enhance privacy and hence participation, these e-questionnaires were posted in anonymous manner to the selected subjects accounts in the Chinese Human Resource Website. This is a time and energy saving method of gathering data from geographically apart subjects – the researcher was able to reach the geographically apart subjects. Moreover and as Cooper and Schindler (2011) posits, the data collected can be more reliable and persuasive as the subjects have completely different experiences regarding the study topic.

To enhance response rate, the subjects were given a period of seven days to fill the e-questionnaires and return them for analysis. Moreover, the subjects were given the opportunity to make requests for correcting to the initially completed and submitted e-questionnaires. This took another seven days. In addition, subjects who did not return their questionnaires within the first seven days period were contacted using their forum accounts and mobile phones and given three more days to complete and return the questions. Though this may have a negative impact on other study activities it nevertheless enhanced maximum response rate – all the e-questionnaires were successfully completed and returned, a very rare phenomenon for studies using questionnaire surveys. To this effect, Saunders et al. (2009) argue that when prompted regularly, subjects can willingly respond to data collection instruments.

Nevertheless, this method of distributing questionnaires has limitations too. For instance, if it were not for the timely measures taken by the researcher, some subjects may be tempted to use third parties without a deep insight in the job when answering the questions. However, since the subjects were given enough time (one week) to complete and return the e-questionnaires and another week to countercheck their questionnaires, it was reasoned that chances of the subjects using third parties were minimal or almost nil. As Creswell (2009) argues, time is an important especially when collecting data from professionals with busy work schedules.

3.7 Data Analysis

Data analysis is the process of presenting and interpreting data. Quantitative data can be analysed using two most commonly used statistical techniques, that is, descriptive or inferential statistics (Saunders et al., 2009). Descriptive statistics covers two major areas, that is, measures of central tendency and measures of variability. Measures of central tendency includes averages (mean, median and mode) while measures of variability includes range and standard deviation (Creswell, 2009). On its part, inferential statistics includes the outcomes of statistical tests that guide a researcher in making deductions from the collected data. This also includes the testing of the set hypothesis and linking the findings thereof to the study population.

Other notable methods of analysing quantitative data include the use of correlation analysis and regression analysis techniques to analysis primary data. As the name suggests, correlation analysis is used to analyse the relationship between independent and dependent variables while regression analysis analyses how variables are spread across a set of observed data (Cooper and Schindler, 2011).

This study employed descriptive statistics. The rationale behind the selection of this data analysis technique is because it allowed the researcher to describe all the major features of the collected data in a simple and easy to understand manner. Moreover, the descriptive statistics method allowed the researcher to present the data in graphical and tabular formats that are easy to understand (Saunders et al., 2009).

Lastly, data supporting each of the four research objectives was subjected to comparative analysis to determine which among the four core variables (leadership style, performance assessment, compensation and welfare and training and development) had the largest impact on employee job engagement in China.

Finally, this comparative data was contextualized within the existing body of literature reviewed in chapter two and relevant inferences and conclusions drawn. Nevertheless, this data analysis method had limitations – it could not capture or analyse non-numerical data. To this effect, the researcher made considerable efforts in transcribing and transforming non-numerical data into numerical data through coding and drawing of short memos.

3.8 Validity and Reliability

All the processes involved in this study met the minimum validity and reliability requirements for quantitative studies. These requirements cover the sampling techniques, data collection techniques as well as the data analysis and interpretation techniques (Saunders et al., 2009). Firstly, it was reasoned that convenience sampling procedure increased response rate as only willing and available subjects were incorporated in the study. As Creswell (2009) posits, a large response rate is a good sign that study findings are valid and reliable as they can be applied in a wide range of situations.

Moreover, the use of the Chinese human Resource Website as the link for contacting the surveys was good for the study. This is because it allowed the researcher the opportunity to reach out to geographically diverse subjects with diverse experiences on employee engagement. Unlike laboratory experiments or field surveys this method of data collection served to enrich the depth of the study findings (Saunders et al., 2009). Moreover, the descriptive statistics data analysis method employed by the study helped to set a clear platform for drawing inferences as all the major variables were described, analysed and interpreted in an operational and objective manner.

3.9 Research Ethics

As it is common with quantitative studies (Cooper and Schindler, 2011), the researcher relied on professional and academic knowledge to structure the study objectives, structure research questions, develop e-questionnaire questions, select a research approach, select subjects, collect data, analyse data and interpret the analysed data. To this effect, efforts were made to reduce researcher bias especially during the analysis of the collected data.

However, one major unethical undertaking was that no formal permission was sought from the subjects before incorporating them in the study part from sending messages to them inquiring about their availability during the study period. This could be interpreted as a glitch but it was reasoned that since the research focused on their professional opinions on the study topic it was not necessary to seek their express consent. Nevertheless, the respondents were guaranteed of their privacy and informed that data collected was for the sole purpose of the research study, an academic undertaking which would ultimately add value on the process of managing human capital in the country.



4.1 Overview of the Study Findings

This chapter presents the findings of the study as analysed through descriptive statistics method. The analysed data is presented in four sections according to the four study objectives. In addition, the study offers a discussion of these findings with a view of drawing out the correlations and differences that emerge thereof. This forms part of theory building, an important facet of studies that adopt an inductive research strategy – the discussion will wrap the study finding and show how it relates to what is already known and juxtapose the new knowledge with existing knowledge in a manner that advances and builds new theories.


As the reviewed literature shows, there is no doubt that leadership style, performance assessment, compensation and welfare, and training and development have a direct bearing on employee engagement (see for example BlessingWhite, 2011; Bakker and Later, 2010; Downey, 2008; Kim et al. 2008; Schaufeli et al. 2002; Albrecht, 2010; Appelbaum, 2000; Attridge, 2009; Avery et al., 2007; Avolio et al., 2004; Armstrong and Baron, 2005; Cawley et al., 1998; Denisi and Pritchard, 2006; Nnazir, 2012; Castellano, 2001; Muller and Trannoy, 2011; Robinson et al., 2004; Schaufeli and Bakker, 2004; Brum, 2007; Becker, 1993; Virginia, 2012; Herzberg, 1966; Maslow, 1943). The respondents confirmed this through their comprehensive answer to question 6 of the introductory part of the questionnaire – all the respondents had a clear understanding of what employee engagement entails – they said it entails unrivalled commitment, desire to want to achieve the set personal and organisational goals, desire to work for the current employer for the long term, low burnout levels, and the ability to withstand organisational challenges without desiring to resign. Specifically, this is in line with Attridge (2009) assertion that “the concept of employee work engagement describes the extent to which workers are involved with, committed to, and passionate about their work” (p.1).

Moreover, and in response to Section One of the questionnaire, the respondents confirmed that all the four variables, that is, leadership style, performance assessment, compensation and welfare, training and development have a direct bearing on employees’ job engagement in China. However, the study established that leadership style has the highest impact on employee engagement compared to the other three variables. As Table 4.1.1 below shows, rated on a 1-5 scale, leadership style received the highest approval from the respondents. The analysed results show that leadership style was rated at 5 out of 5, performance assessment was rated at 4 out of 5, compensation and welfare was rated at 3 out of 5, and training and development received 4 out of 5 each. This is an indicator that Chinese employees attach a relatively lower emphasis on the amount of monetary reward, they get from their employers when compared to other pressing workplace indicators such as leadership style, the overall performance expectation, and workplace training and career development.

Table 4.1.1: Overview of the Study Results

  1st Variable 2nd Variable 3rd Variable 4th Variable

NB: 1st Variable = Leadership Style, 2nd Variable = Performance Assessment, 3rd Variable = Compensation and Welfare, 4th Variable = Training and Development.

This finding is in tandem with the reviewed literature. For instance, Attridge (2009) and Bakker and Leiter (2010) argue that some leadership styles such as transformational leadership help employees to become more committed to their jobs, Armstrong and Baron (2005) and Denisi and Pritchad (2006) argue that when performance assessment is done in a professional and collaborative manner, employees become motivated to want to achieve high performance rating. On their part, Nnazir (2005) and Robinson (2004) argue that a work force that is not well compensated will become more loyal to their employer. Lastly, Burn (2005) and Becker (1993) assert that when employers lay down proper training and development strategies that address both present organisational needs of the organisation, employees tend to become ore engaged.

Nevertheless, the reviewed literature does not provide any numerical value regarding the strength of the influence of each of the four variables on employee engagement as majority of these studies only provide statistics on the level of employees’ job engagement in different countries, across industries, across employees’ age, and across employee cadres. The reason behind this clear difference is the fact that the study utilised a well structured data collection tool (e-questionnaire) and study sample comprised of highly experienced respondents. All the respondents were practising HR professionals with at least three years in the industry – 30 were HR managers while the remaining were HR officers in their respective organisations. In addition, their academic qualifications were strong – 3 had PhD qualification, 13 had master’s qualification, 30 had bachelor’s qualification, while the remaining had diploma qualification. It was therefore not a surprise that the respondents had a deeper understanding of employee engagement dynamics from a Chinese context and were in a position to comfortably discern all the major factors that affect employees’ job engagement in the country. Specifically, the respondents were in a position to accurately estimate how leadership quality, performance assessment, compensation and welfare, and training and development influence employee engagement.

4.2 Impact of Leadership Style on Employee Engagement

Leadership is a strong facet of employees’ job engagement. The reviewed literature shows that job engagement is a facet of the leadership style employed by an organisation.


4.3 Impact of Performance Assessment on Employee Engagement


4.3 Impact of Compensation and Welfare on Employee Engagement


4.5 Impact of Training and Development on Employee Engagement




This study’s aims were fourfold. To explore the impact of leadership style on employees’ job engagement among Chinese organisations, to investigate the impact of performance assessment on employees’ job engagement among Chinese organisations, to report the impact of compensation and welfare on employees’ job engagement among Chinese organisations, and to analyse the impact of training and development on employees’ job engagement among Chinese organisations.


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