Employee Engagement, Demographic Characteristics and Performance of State Research and Training Corporations in Kenya

By Cheche, Stephen G.; Muathe, Stephen M. A. et al. | IUP Journal of Organizational Behavior, January 2019 | Go to article overview

Employee Engagement, Demographic Characteristics and Performance of State Research and Training Corporations in Kenya


Cheche, Stephen G., Muathe, Stephen M. A., Maina, Samuel M., IUP Journal of Organizational Behavior


Introduction

Investment in research and higher education has been cited as major determinants in disparities in economic growth among and between countries (Sterlacchini, 2008). Consequently, adoption of knowledge-based economy is seen as a cure to under development in Third World countries. In Kenya, the critical role that research, technology and innovation are expected to play in moving the country from underdeveloped to a middle income status has been aptly captured in the country's economic blue print, Vision 2030 (Republic of Kenya (RoK), 2007). The Government of Kenya implements its research and training agenda through specialized state agencies. However, the performance of the public service has been a matter of great concern to the government and the general public (RoK, 2013 and 2017). With a rapidly growing population against non-increasing and at times diminishing resources, the pressure to improve the performance of the public service in general and that of state corporations in particular continues to dominate public debate.

Over the last three decades, the public service has undergone many reform initiatives. However, past efforts have focused on institutional and structural reforms with scanty attention on employees themselves, even though there is overwhelming empirical evidence that issues such as fairness, work environment, relationship with supervisor and workmates have considerable influence on organizational outcomes (Smith and Markwick, 2009; and Albrecht et al., 2015). The influences are however moderated by other variables such as employees' demographic characteristics and hence the focus of this study.

Objective

The paper attempts to investigate the moderating influence of demographic characteristics on the performance of research and training state corporations in Kenya.

Literature Review

The Social Exchange Theory (SET) is among the most influential conceptual paradigms for understanding work place behavior (Croponzano and Mitchell, 2005) and has its roots in the anthropological works by Malinowski. It was, however, Blaus who differentiated between economic and social exchange and is therefore credited as the founder of SET (Robbins, 1991).

According to Blaus (1964), individuals voluntarily exhibit certain behavior or may do certain things because of motivation of expectation for positive reciprocal behavior from others. Social exchange requires trusting others to reciprocate. Employees who are accorded advantageous treatment by the employer feel obligated to repay this by improving their performance (Eisenberger et al., 2001). Greater justice perception is related to employees performing effectively and contributing to organizational success (Cropnzano and Mitchell, 2005).

Critics of SET have argued that it assumes that people are rational and will always act in rational ways, while in reality, people sometimes act in irrational ways. However, the theory is a useful model in advancing studies on employee engagement due to its focus on reciprocal relationship between employer and employees as a major driver of organizational performance.

Employee Engagement

Employee engagement has attracted considerable interest from researchers and practitioners in the last two decades. However, there is no agreement as to what it entails and the factors that result in highly engaged employees (Kular et al., 2008; and Shuch and Wollard, 2010). The terms personal engagement and personal disengagement are associated with Khan (1990) who posited that engaged employees immerse themselves physically and emotionally in work, while disengaged employees are psychologically absent while performing their work. Further, Marcey and Scheineider (2008) conceptualized employee engagement as composed of three categories; traits engagement (positive view of life and work), state engagement (feeling of energy and absorption) and behavioral engagement (extra role behavior). …

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