Seeking dialogic employee engagement: Employee understandings of engagement and dialogic communication

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http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-202109073641
Title: Seeking dialogic employee engagement: Employee understandings of engagement and dialogic communication
Author: Saarinen, Iina Johanna
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2021
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-202109073641
http://hdl.handle.net/10138/334087
Thesis level: master's thesis
Degree program: Globaalin politiikan ja kommunikaation maisteriohjelma
Master's Programme in Global Politics and Communication
Magisterprogrammet i global politik och kommunikation
Specialisation: Governance, Organizations and Communication
Governance, Organizations and Communication
Governance, Organizations and Communication
Abstract: This thesis examines employee perspectives about the concept of employee engagement and dialogical communication’s role in enacting it. It approaches simplistic and instrumentalist views with scrutiny and explores more complex and profound understandings of the definitions, value, outcomes, and antecedents of employee engagement. Employee voice has been largely absent in engagement discourse, and both engagement and communication research have overwhelmingly ignored communication’s role in enacting engagement. To expand these narrow views, the research questions in this thesis investigate how employees understand the concept of employee engagement, the tensions or problems it may entail, and the role of dialogic communication in enacting it. A case study in a Finnish energy company consisted of semi-structured, individual interviews with 10 employees from different units. Qualitative content analysis combining data-driven and concept-driven strategies functioned as the method of analysis for the interview data. The results of the analysis suggest that in addition to genuine opportunities to influence issues in a work community, employees appreciate transparency and open communication about how their voice had an effect. The interviewees considered features of dialogic communication as important antecedents of engagement, but other antecedents were meaningful as well, such as sufficient resources, clear structures and goals, and formal and informal meetings. In addition, the role of self-determination and autonomy were present in accounts of both the definitions and antecedents of employee engagement. The interviewees recognized both beneficial and adverse outcomes of engagement. Therefore, employee perspectives of engagement are more complex and versatile than suggested by previous research or hyperbolic discourses. However, the multiple meanings attached to the employee engagement concept sustains its previous problems of vagueness and indistinctiveness. The thesis highlights the need for expanding the previously narrow views of employee engagement. Demands for dialogic employee engagement challenges organizations to balance between different priorities, such as providing both agency and guidance, and encouraging diverse views while aiming for unity and shared culture.
Subject: employee engagement
dialogue
organizational communication


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