Holistic model of employee engagement



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Developing a holistic model of employee engagement in the context of the MNCs in the Sultanate of Oman


  • Study background


Employee engagement serves as one of the major constructs of human capital (CIPD, 2017; Boon et al., 2018). The human capital theory was popularised by Jacob Mincer in 1958 through his work, “Investment in Human Capital and Personal Income Distribution.” Thomas et al. (2013, p.3) define HC as the ‘people, their performance and their potential in the organisation’. Another definition of HC is offered by Boxall and Purcell (2008, p.100), who define HC as the ‘the quality of the individual human talent recruited to a firm and retained in it’.


Definitions of employee engagement have taken many forms since Kahn’s seminal paper on engagement in 1990 (Bailey et al., 2017). Such definitions, however, have resulted in confusion as to the exact nature of employee engagement. Kahn (1990, 1992), for example, conceptualises employee engagement as the degree to which individuals invest personal energies in their work cognitively, emotionally and physically stressing personal role engagement. While Kahn (1990) essentially perceives engagement as a dynamic phenomenon, Schaufeli et al. (2002) refer to engagement as a persistent yet fulfilling work-based affective-cognitive state founded upon a high degree of vigour, dedication ad absorption. Saks (2006), on the other hand, builds on Kahn’s (1990) work proposing a three-dimensional definition comprising cognitive, emotional and behavioural components. The definition of Saks (2006) focuses on individual performance and distinguishes between job engagement and organisational engagement. In contrast, Selmer et al. (2013) contend that engagement can be measured at a group level.


There is clearly a proliferation of multifaceted definitions of engagement mostly contributing to the variability of its characteristics and functions. This has been complicated further by the use of a significant number of models attempting to explore engagement, often, also with regards to its antecedents and consequences or outcomes. Some of the more widely used models are the Jobs demands-resources (JD-R) model (Bakker and Demerouti, 2007, 2008), Social Exchange Theory (SET) (Cropanzano and Mitchell, 2005), and Conservation of Resources (COR) theory (Hobfoll et al., 2018).


The JD-R model proposes that resources perceived favourably would help employees become motivated and effectively respond to adverse job demands, eventually fostering engagement (Bakker & Demerouti, 2008). Due to the reciprocity norms in the Social Exchange Theory, employees may exhibit enhanced level of engagement in return for favourable treatment from their employers (Bailey et al., 2017). The Conservation of Resources (COR) theory is based on the premise that individuals intend and indeed, seek to obtain and preserve resources that they perceive as valuable.


The main issue with these and the other engagement models is that none is comprehensive enough to explain engagement adequately particularly with regards to its characteristics and functions as well as its antecedents and outcomes (Bakker and Demerouti, 2008; Schaufeli, 2012; Bailey et al., 2017). Besides, each model has its shortcomings and thus, critics. For example, for the JD-R model, there are disagreements amongst authors as to whether engagement is an antecedent or a consequence (Schaufeli and Bakker, 2004; Saks, 2006; Rayton and Yalabik, 2014). While Schaufeli and Bakker (2004) propose engagement as an antecedent to job satisfaction, the study of Rayton and Yalabik (2014) clearly finds that job satisfaction is an antecedent to employee engagement. Furthermore, one of the most widely used measures, namely, Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES) developed by Schaufeli et al. (2002) lacks discriminant validity compared with job satisfaction (Viljevac et al., 2012).


The discussions offered above clearly indicate that a holistic model combining the aforementioned models of engagement may actually offer a better understanding of the characteristics and functions of engagement. Such integration may also enable a sound determination of the antecedents and consequences of engagement contributing to both theory and to engagement as a management practice.


  • Research Aim


The aim of the study would be to develop a holistic model of engagement through the integration of the existing engagement models for a sound understanding of engagement, and its antecedents and outcomes.


The context would be the multinational companies (MNCs) operating in the Sultanate of Oman.



  • Research Objectives


The research objectives have been developed in the light of the research aim and are as follows:


  • Objective 1: To identify the antecedents to engagement as proposed in the engagement models including (JD-R) model, Social Exchange Theory (SET) and Conservation of Resources (COR) theory


  • Objective 2: To identify the outcomes of engagement as proposed in the engagement models including (JD-R) model, Social Exchange Theory (SET) and Conservation of Resources (COR) theory


  • Objective 3: To determine the nature and degree of relationships between engagement and its antecedents and outcome variables


  • Brief Research Significance


The study seeks to develop a holistic model of employee engagement in order to clearly explain its antecedents and outcomes.


The study would, hopefully, offer a better understanding of the characteristics and functions of engagement though the integration of a range of engagement models, which on their own fail to generate consensus within the research community with regards to their clarity, comprehensiveness and scope.


The integration of various models as proposed here, may, also enable the managers of the MNCs in Oman to not only identify the appropriate antecedents and consequences of engagement in an accurate manner but also to determine how to optimally implement such antecedents and outcomes leading to enhanced employee engagement practices at their respective organisations.


  • Summary of the Research methodology


The researcher would adopt a positivist approach. Collis & Hussey (2003, p.52) define the positivist philosophy as: Positivistic approaches are founded on a belief that the study of human behaviour should be conducted in the same way as studies conducted in the natural sciences.


The study would use a deductive approach (Saunders et al., 2009). This is an approach that aims to test a theory based on hypotheses generated from it; the causality between variables is critical here. A process of deduction would be appropriate to answer the research questions. Hence, the study would develop a range of hypotheses on the basis of the research questions. Such hypotheses would be tested using quantitative data collected through a questionnaire survey.


Clearly, the research design would be a survey design. More specifically, the study would use a survey design, where the data collection instrument would be a questionnaire.


The population in the current study would comprise all the MNCs operating in Oman at present. Saunders et al (2009) define population as the total number of cases or elements from which a sample of cases or elements is drawn. The unit of analysis would comprise the managers and employees working at the multinational companies (MNCs) currently operating in the Sultanate of Oman. Specific quantitative formula would be used to compute an appropriate sample size. A sample of respondents would be drawn using the simple random sampling strategy. A simple random sampling is a type of probability sampling technique where the cases or elements are chosen at random (Saunders et al., 2009).


The questionnaires used to collect data would be self-administered meaning the respondents would be requested to complete the questionnaires themselves. Hence, the respondents would be given a specific time period to complete the questionnaires and the researcher would collect the questionnaires upon completion from a specific contact within each organisation. The questionnaire would be divided in to two main parts. The first part would include questions on the demographic factors of the respondents. The second section of the questionnaire would include questions on the study variables. Hence, a five-point Likert rating scale would be used for each question.


The questionnaire validity would be tested via a pilot study. A reasonable sample would be used to test the reliability of the measurement scales. Each study construct would be measured based on a specific number of scale items. The scale items of the study constructs with regards to engagement and its antecedents and outcomes would be generated from the relevant literature. The study would validate the constructs through principal component analysis (PCA).

The data collected would be analysed using a range of quantitative data analysis techniques. The first set of analyses would include descriptive statistics and the frequency distribution mostly with regards to the demographic distribution of the respondents. Linear regression models would be used to explore the hypothesized relationships of the study. The goodness of model fit would be measured via the R square parameters and the hypothesized relationships would be evaluated on the basis of the regression coefficients and of course, the ‘p’ values in relation to alpha level of 0.05 since the confidence level would be at 95%.
























Bailey, C., Madden, A., Alfes, K. and Fletcher, L. 2017. The meaning, antecedents and outcomes of employee engagement: a narrative synthesis. International Journal of Management Reviews, 19 (1), pp.31-53.


Bakker, A. B. and Demerouti, E. 2008. Towards a model of work engagement. Career Development International, 13(3), pp.209-223.


Bakker, A.B. and Demerouti, E. 2007. The Job Demands-Resources model: State of the art. Journal of Managerial Psychology. 22, pp.309–328.


Boon, C., Eckardt, R., Lepak, D. P. and Boselie, P. 2018. Integrating strategic human capital and strategic human resource management. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 29(1), pp.34–67.


CIPD. 2017. Human capital theory: assessing the evidence for the value and importance of people to organisational success. [Online] Available at: https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/human-capital-theory-assessing-the-evidence_tcm18-22292.pdf [Accessed 03 August 2020].


Collis, J. and Hussey, R. 2013. Business research: A practical guide for undergraduate and postgraduate students. 3rd ed. UK: Macmillan International Higher Education.


Cropanzano, R. and Mitchell, M. S. 2005. Social Exchange Theory: An Interdisciplinary Review. Journal of Management, 31(6), pp.874–900.


Mincer, J. 1958. Investment in Human Capital and Personal Income Distribution. Journal of Political Economy, 66, pp.281-302.



Rayton, B. A. and Yalabik, Z. Y. 2014. Work engagement, psychological contract breach and job satisfaction. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 25(17), pp.1-19.


Saks, A.M. 2006. Antecedents and consequences of employee engagement. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 21(7), pp.600-619.


Saunders, M.N.K., Lewis, P. and Thornhill, A. 2009. Research Methods for Business Students. 5th Ed. London: Pearson.


Schaufeli, W. B., Salanova, M., González-Romá. V. and Bakker, A. B. 2002. The measurement of engagement and burnout: A two sample confirmatory factor analytic approach. Journal of Happiness Studies, 3, pp.71-92.


Schaufeli, W.B. and Bakker, A. B. 2004. Job demands, job resources, and their relationship with burnout and engagement: a multi-sample study. Journal of Organizational Behaviour, 25, pp.293–315.


Stevan E. H., Halbesleben, J. Neveu, J-P. and Westman, M. 2018. Conservation of Resources in the Organizational Context: The Reality of Resources and Their Consequences. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 5, pp.103–28.


Thomas, H., Smith, R.R. and Diez, F. 2013. Human capital and global business strategy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Viljevac, A., Cooper-Thomas, H.D. and Saks, A.M. 2012. An investigation into the validity of two measures of work engagement. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 23 (17), pp.3692-3709.


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