Organizational Identification (OID) among Knowledge Workers in the Indian IT Industry.

AuthorMazumder, Tanusree


Today's business environment is marked by the need for quicker turnaround time, increased connectivity, and stupendous pace of change. To help employees make sense of this environment, corporations spend billions of dollars training their employees on leading and managing in this uncertain environment. As companies in technology and services sectors move to flexible models of working, they are losing control in monitoring the employees work and will need to place greater trust in the common sense of purpose that keeps up the focus of the team (Steffens et al., 2016). The employee's sense of belongingness to the team's purpose is becoming even more critical than ever before.

Attrition is another significant business parameter that is reported along with the financial earnings every quarter by companies. In technology sectors, the impact of this runs deep as the cost of replacement is very high, given the war for talent, and the negative impact on customer satisfaction. Thus, the ability to prevent attrition is becoming crucial to remain competitive. Hence the ability to increase the employee's identification with the organization has gained importance as it has been found to reduce chances of attrition (Cole & Bruch, 2006).

NASSCOM (National Association of Software Services and Companies) (1) projects the Indian IT industry to grow to about $350-400 billion by 2025. India is the recognized hub for software development for over 25 years now. Survey report by the Great Place to Work Institute showed across ninety eight firms the challenges of retention and attraction of employees was core to the IT industry in India. In another study by the Hay Group 2016 survey showed job engagement levels at an all-time low. Therefore the study of organizational identification seemed relevant to address the challenges of remaining competitive in the IT industry.

Literature Review

Organizational identification or the psychological connection (Dutton et al., 1994) between the individual and the organization, has dominated management literature for over three decades now (He & Brown, 2013). Organizational identification (OID) is a specific form of social identification, in which an individual identifies with a social entity, which in this case, is the organization. The individual then experiences the "success and failures of the group as one's own" (Ashforth & Mael, 1989: 21). Social identification has been defined as the "perception of oneness with or belongingness to some human aggregate" (Ashforth & Mael, 1989:21).

Literature review suggested several antecedents of OID in the Western context. Lee Sang (1971) studied OID in the context of scientists in the Federal Public Health Services. This study supported March and Simon's (1958) group identification model and found the salience of perceived prestige of the profession, prestige within the organization, and relation with management as being strong antecedents of OID. OID has been found to be related to external perceptions like perceived organizational prestige and attractiveness of construed external image (Bhattacharya, Rao & Glynn, 1995; Bergami & Bagozzi, 2000); perceived company characteristics (Bhattacharya et al., 2005) and organizational distinctiveness; organizational values, and attractiveness of perceived organizational identity (Reade, 2001; Raghuram, 2011; Jones &Volpe, 2011). The most referenced outcomes of OID were cooperation, effort, participation, turn-over intention (Cole & Bruch, 2006); extra role behaviors and cooperative behaviors (Dutton et al, 1994). In summary, closer examination of extant literature suggested that the most commonly referenced antecedents of OID were construed external image, perceived company characteristics, organization prestige and distinctiveness, and the commonly studied outcomes associated with OID were employee retention, discretionary and supportive behaviors

Need for the Study

A survey of the literature also showed that that most research conducted in the area of OID was in the Western context. There were very few studies in the non-Western context, particularly in the area of knowledge workers. Moreover, there is reason to believe that OID amongst knowledge workers in non Western countries could be different in terms of conceptualization (Maneerat, Hale & Singhal, 2005) as well as its relationships with other variables (Yan, 2014). Since previous literature showed that studies of knowledge workers and their organizational identification (OID) in India remain limited (Raghuram, 2011), a need was felt to develop a substantive theory (Foley, Ngo & Loi, 2006; Ahlstrom, 2011) in this context.

The research objective for this study was to address the question "what are the variables associated with OID in the context of knowledge workers in the Indian IT Industry"?

Grounded Theory

The primary reason for qualitative research lies in the nature of the inquiry (Strauss &Corbin, 1990). Grounded theory approach was adopted in this study, given the paucity of research in OID amongst knowledge workers in India and the felt need to develop substantive theory in this area. Substantive theory might help explain the uniqueness of the phenomenon of OID in the context of knowledge workers in non-Western contexts. The techniques and framework of grounded theory approach using the tenets articulated by Strauss and Corbin (1990) will be woven from the beginning to the conclusion of the grounded theory approach.

Data Gathering

In-depth interview is a preferred method in this approach and can be seen adopted in several studies (Bansal & Agarwal, 2017). In-depth interviews were conducted for the study and each of these interviews was held face to face. All respondents were knowledge workers in the Indian IT industry in India. They were from across IT companies in Bangalore. All of them were professionals, with experience ranging from early to mid careers. The sample comprised 30% females and 70% males. Their tenures at their respective firms varied from six years to over fifteen years (6-15 years). Their roles ranged from Technical Architect (responsible for product architecture) to Accounts Manager and Account Lead (responsible for customer relationships). All interviews were conducted in the office locations, discussion rooms, meeting rooms and in the cubicles.

Interview duration for each of the in-depth interviews lasted from 60-90 minutes. Immediately after the interview, each interview was transcribed. The nature of the interviews was both structured and unstructured. Each interviewee was asked to narrate and describe their experience of belongingness to the firm. The questions asked were: "What according to you fosters belongingness to your firm"? "What does this sense of attachment to the firm look like for you?" "Can you tell me more about what helped you feel connected with the firm?" "Can you share some anecdotes and examples and tell me more"? Using the constant comparison method, each interview was analyzed and questions were drawn out for the subsequent interviews rather than leaving the analysis to the end. Participants of the study voluntarily agreed to participate and were ensured confidentiality. All the interviews were conducted till theoretical saturation was attained (theoretical saturation refers to the stage in the interview process when no new information is attained or generated). The total number of interviews to reach theoretical...

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