Universal endorsement of values & impact on employee engagement.

AuthorGaan, Niharika

This paper examines the impact of cultural values on employee engagement and the interaction effects of the former on the latter. The study is based on a statistical analysis of survey data from India, USA, UK, Germany, Ecuador, Denmark, France, Switzerland, and China collected online via the web survey system. The findings reveal that power distance has a negative impact on employee engagement. On the contrary, values like collective individualism, in-group collectivism and assertiveness have a positive impact on employee engagement. The remaining five cultural dimensions showed an insignificant relationship towards employee engagement.


Turning people's energy and ambition into engagement and ultimately into significant performance improvement demands attention, focus and some very different behaviours from senior leaders. Thus, employee engagement has gained prominence in an environment of a competitive global market and stiff competition, and dwindling value of currency. Additionally, it is seen that organizational performance is supposedly achieved through positive emotions and positive behavioral concepts (Cameron et al., 2003; Seligman & Czikszentmihalyi, 2000) unlike what used to be in earlier years where job satisfaction, alienation, burnout and intention to quit were the main focus. This includes words like optimism, trust, and engagement. Further, authors like Markus and Kitayama (1991) have stated that different cultural values have an influence on an individual's cognitive, emotional, motivational and behavioral systems.

Towers and Perrin (2006) have made a worldwide comprehensive study which revealed that owing to the geographical differences engagement differs. Additionally, researchers have argued that employees' work attitudes and organizational behaviors are significantly affected by national culture because different countries encourage different cultural values (e.g. Bae & Chung, 1997; Glazer, Daniel & Short, 2004; Yao & Wang, 2006). However, there are studies of Katz and Darbishire (2000) which argued that values of the employees have been found to be similar across countries despite cultural differences in values within countries with respect to certain industries. Hence, industries have developed their own cultures, which have higher influence than the culture of the individual countries in which each branch of an organization is situated (Power et al., 2011).

Therefore, this study aims at investigating the relationship between crosscultural dimensions on employee engagement and the former's predictive value towards the latter. Secondly, it aims to find out the interaction effect among cross-cultural dimensions and its effect on employee engagement.

Literature Review

Extant literature has shown employee engagement construct to be involving a multi-dimensional state (May, Gilson & Harter, 2004; Schaufeli & Bakker, 2003; Kahn, 1990; Rothbard, 2001). However, the multidimensional nature of the employee engagement con struct suffered from methodical lacunae as in certain cases factors comprising the construct were scalable in single bipolar dimensions as proposed by Schaufeli and Bakker (2003) and Rothbard (2001) and in other cases like that proposed by Kahn (1990), the elements determining it can be interchangeably used. Although it has been commonly referred to as a psychological state constituting cognitive, emotional and physical involvement exhibited by an individual, the state preceding its behaviors was modeled as uni-dimensional (Thomas, 2007). The single factor employee engagement scale in the cross-cultural context has shown better fitness of the model as compared to the multidimensional one (Thomas, 2007; Schaufeli & Bakker, 2003). Therefore, with such valid statistical reason this study adopts second order one-dimensional employee engagement construct which has even been validated by Kumar and Gupta (2013) as well as Thomas (2007).

Employee Engagement as a Dependent Variable

There are evidences in the literature stating that construct of employee engagement is considered to be one of the positive employee attitudes (e.g. Harter et al., 2002; Towers Perrin, 2007). It is only this perspective which places employee engagement within the context of existing constructs used within organizational psychology (e.g. job satisfaction and commitment). The linkages between cultural values like collectivism and individualism have been clearly established with work attitudes like organizational commitment and employee behavior (Woo, 2009). It is also argued that one's national culture has a significant impact on one's attitudes and behavior at the workplace (e.g., Bae & Chung, 1997; Glazer, Daniel & Short, 2004; Hofstede, 1980; Yao & Wang, 2006). However, there is a scarcity of research studies in the cross-cultural context which has examined the association between cultural values and employee engagement.

An extensive study has been conducted by GLOBE Consulting Company (House et al., 2004) to overcome criticism raised towards Hofstede's (1980) work specially pertaining to methodology. The findings of the GLOBE study has evolved with nine cultural dimensions which are Performance Orientation, Future Orientation, Gender Egalitarianism, Assertiveness, Institutional Collectivism, In-Group Collectivism, Power Distance, Humane Orientation and Uncertainty Avoidance. The present study has applied the construct of cross-culture described by House et al. (2004) as the quartet's nature of multidimensional cross culture captured effectively the variance in dimensions due to cross country mobilization of workforce.

There are further insights from studies like James (1993) who has contended that power distance influences perceptions of fairness and tolerance to unfairness. Hence, varying dimensions of power distance might affect employee engagement at different levels. Yet, another study has argued that the changes in consideration, performance orientation, and employee development are more strongly related to changes in employee engagement than to satisfaction and intent (Atwater & Brett, 2006). Sanam and Yawson (2012) have posited that collectivistic values, as one of the main cultural constructs, affect significantly the perception of organizational fairness and in turn have an impact on organizational outcomes like employee engagement, absenteeism and so on (Fang & Lim, 2002). One of the earlier studies has already revealed that employee commitment in 15 European countries and Canadian affiliates of US multinationals is significantly negatively affected by individualism, whereas positively affected by dominant values like assertiveness (Palich et al., 1995). Cultural values like performance-orientation have shown greater acceptability to workplace bullying and other dimensions like future-orientation and humane-orientation showed less acceptability to the latter one (Power et al., 2011). However, in other studies the impending effects of bullying practices on organizational outcomes like employee engagement have been negatively related (Loh et al., 2010; Yeung & Griffin, 2008). In the study by Kaiser (2007) it is argued that the gender job satisfaction paradox does not exist anymore in the European context due to institutional labor market interventions and equality of opportunities available to both men and women. However, these studies if replicated in other continents the results might not be similar. Among all those cross-cultural dimensions mentioned by House et al. (2004,) individualism and collectivism values are found to share close proximity with work attitudes and organizational behaviors of employees (e.g. Lee & Gao, 2005; Murphy et al, 2006; Pines et al, 2002). Yet, the present study has even considered the impact...

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