The role of employee engagement in revitalizing creativity and innovation at the workplace: a survey of selected libraries in Meru County--Kenya.

Author:Maku Gichohi, Paul


The swiftly changing paradigms in information seeking behavior, escalating competition among information providers, changes in information packaging and modes of access, the far-reaching impacts of technology have all necessitated a greater need for continuous creativity and innovation in all library operations. This study was triggered by consideration of how libraries are expected to thrive in the aforementioned impetuous environment. Libraries are increasingly challenged to embrace creativity and innovation as a key driver to distinctive and sustainable competencies. This amplifies the need for development of thinking organizations and execution of deliberate measures of tapping people's creative and innovative capacities in order to remain relevant to library clients.

Despite the volatile operating environment and insufficient funding, libraries in Kenya envision facilitating effective access to information sources and services in support of mission of parent organizations. Since these libraries are not in profit making business, the information professionals are likely to be less bothered by the need for high sales volumes, high bottom-line; no worry for breakeven or no pressing need for hastening the payback period of investment done on library building and resources. This orientation poses numerous organizational effectiveness challenges hence libraries are increasingly receiving pressures to re-invent themselves by innovating their products and services.

Proponent of human resources argues that staffs are the main sources of creativity and innovation in organizations. However, creativity and innovation can neither be imposed nor can it be driven by disengaged employees. Surprisingly, a global research by Gallup (2005) reported that only 29% of company employees are engaged while others are either partially engaged or completely disengaged. Undoubtedly, disengaged employees are a liability to the organization and hardly challenge the status quo while engaged employees exhibit emotional job attachment, unreserved commitment, increased productivity, high job passion, and in most cases they go extra miles (Perrin, 2003; Shuck, Rocco & Albornoz, 2011; Abraham, 2012; Right Management, 2009 and Echols, 2005).

The study therefore aimed to establish the empirical evidence on whether staff engagement affects the level of creativity and innovation in libraries. The specific objectives were: to investigate effects of employee engagement on creativity and innovation, and to suggest an improved model. The study postulated that level of employee engagement spurs creativity and innovation in the library and hence the hypothesis:

[H.sub.1]: The level of employee engagement will be positively related to the level of staff creativity and innovation in the library.

It was guided by one research question:

RQ1: Are the constructs of employee engagement positively related to the constructs of staff creativity and innovation in the library?

The study is limited to the specific purpose of exploring whether drivers of employee engagement can influence employee creativity and innovation in the library. First, a contextual background and empirical literature on employee engagement is presented, followed by creativity and innovation at the workplace. A theoretical framework is also provided respectively. Second, methodology used and analysis techniques are described. Finally, a discussion of results, conclusion and recommendation bring this paper to close.

Literature and Empirical Review

The Meaning of Employee Engagement

The concept of employee engagement was developed by Kahn (1990) in his ethnographic work on summer camp employees and also employees at an architecture firm. Published literatures present several definitions of this term. Although each definition represents unique perspectives of the time, context and field, the disjointed approach to defining employee engagement has posed misinterpretation (Shuck and Wollard, 2010). However from a general view, employee engagement is defined as a distinct and unique construct that consists of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral components that are associated with individual role performance (Shuck, Rocco & Albornoz, 2011). Fleming and Asplund (2007, p. 2) describes employee engagement as, "the ability to capture the heads, hearts, and souls of your employees to instill an intrinsic desire and passion for excellence". McEwen (2011) present employee engagement as the affective and cognitive connection employees have for their organization that leads them to exert discretionary effort at work.

Abraham (2012) explain employee engagement as the degree to which workers feel job satisfaction and an emotional connection to the success of their organization while Kahn (1990), describe it as the harnessing of organization members selves to their work roles resulting to them being psychologically present when occupying and performing an organizational role. Harter, Schmidt and Hayes (2002) define it as the individual's involvement and satisfaction with as well as enthusiasm for work while Schaufeli et al. (2002; 2006) descried it as work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption. Sundaray (2011) emphasized the cognitive, emotional and behavioral elements associated with employee engagement. According to Sundaray, cognitive engagement is employees' beliefs about the company, its leaders and the workplace culture. The emotional aspect is how employees feel about their company, their leaders and their colleagues while the behavioral factor is the value added component reflected in the amount of effort employees put into their work (Lockwood, 2007).

The human resources practitioners have globally been vocal on the need for organizations to devise strategies of ensuring employees are engaged at the workplace for organizational performance excellence. Majority of corporate executives are increasingly treating an engaged workforce as an organizational priority (Shuck and Wollard, 2010). States (2008) in Shuck, Rocco & Albornoz (2011) gave the example of North Shore LIJ Health System that recently invested $10 million into training and development with determination to raise engagement levels within their organization.

Determinants of Employee Engagement

Employee engagement involves inter-linked aspects that move staff beyond satisfaction hence better understanding of employee engagement and practical strategies is critical for developing an engaging culture at the workplace. Right Management (2009) emphasized on the need for organization to understand the dynamics of employee engagement. According to McEwen (2011), engagement results from how employees perceive and evaluate their work experience, including their employer, its leaders, the work itself and the organization's environment. Bakker and Demerouti (2008) proved job resources, salience of job resources, and personal resources as key drivers of work engagement. Additionally, Anitha (2014) argued that employee engagement is determined by leadership, team, coworker relationship, training, career development and compensation. Other an indispensable attributes include, organizational policies, procedures, structures, systems, and workplace wellbeing. In a review paper, Echols (2005) advised that in order to impact employee engagement, managers should pay attention to staff skills, knowledge and talent. Echols argued that when employees' awareness of their strength is linked to their talent, it drives engagement level and hence high performance.

Rothmann and Storm (2003) propagated that work engagement is characterized by energy, satisfaction, involvement and efficacy. Swaminathan and Rajasekaran (2010) also agrees that engagement occurs when satisfaction, motivation and effectiveness intersect. Right Management (2009) conducted a global research of more than 28,800 employees in 15 countries on factors most closely associated with driving employee engagement. The study established inter-relation of an organization's culture, strategy execution, leadership ability, structure and processes with engagement levels. Also reported is how employee engagement influences customer satisfaction and overall organization effectiveness. The report further revealed that failure to create an organization that promote high levels of employee engagement, will result in failure to successfully execute strategic mission. Abraham (2012) investigated job satisfaction as a precursor to employee engagement while Shuck, Rocco & Albornoz (2011) examined an employee's unique experience of being engaged in their work. IPMA-HR (2010) provided recent suggestion on how companies can engage employees while Bakker and Demerouti (2008) provided a review towards a model of work engagement.

There are several actions that organizations can take to drive employee engagement which involves careful configuration of antecedents to employee engagement. Employees need the capacity to engage, reasons to engage and the feeling that they are free to engage mobilization and configuration capacities (SHRM, 2012). According to IPMA-HR (2010), the employee engagement needs of an organization can best be fulfilled through adoption of a holistic philosophy that demonstrates a framework or model of concern, appreciation, respect and encouragement for all employees. Saks (2006) was the first researcher to specifically conceptualize and test antecedents and consequences of employee engagement. Saks empirically linked engagement drivers to employee engagement and underlying consequences.

Outcome of Employee Engagement

There is substantial previous empirical studies and published literatures on employee engagement such as by, Echols (2005); Right Management (2009) and others which have successfully verified the significance of employee engagement on organizational performance excellence and success in different industries. Recent...

To continue reading