The retail sector and the organisation in which this research will be conducted; a home and fashion retailer operates in an increasingly competitive environment.
With a growing interest in HRM practices that retain employees and motivate then to achieve organisational outcomes, many have shifted their focus to performance management practices.
The proposed research topic seeks to investigate Performance Management (PM) and employee engagement (EE) to see how/if they interrelate.
A search of ABI/Inform complete for peer reviewed journals from 2010 to present correlating the terms PM and EE resulted in 20,919 journals of the 219,405 PM journals suggesting that EE is overlooked in PM research. Initial review of the literature suggests there is more to be done to understand the relationship between PM and EE which has focused on outcomes and credibility of performance evaluation.
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The literature suggests that combining PM and EE can positively affect business outcomes. Aquinas et al., (2018 p. 1) suggests performance management “as a concept and practice has substantive potential to fulfil business demands of an organisation by integrating its growth with motivational needs of human resource”. Organisations manage employee performance to improve productivity, increase profits and reduce employee turnover. Increasingly, evidence shows that EE can influence these business outcomes. Antony (2018) suggests that there is an increasing interest in employee engagement and the role it plays in work performance and competitive advantage.
Therefore, expanding this knowledge further would enable HR practitioners to identify practices that produce a greater effect on EE; facilitating greater focus on practices that promote engagement and less on those that don’t. Albrecht et al., (2015 p. 20)proposed that a well-managed process can “have a positive and direct influence on employee engagement and downstream attitudinal, behavioural and organisational outcomes”. Saratun (2016) further suggests the importance of tailoring HRM practices to engage employees.
An alignment of PM and EE strategies ensures that the practices employed support business objectives. Additionally, management training of these practices can be better informed and demonstrate the value of Human resource practitioners within organisations. Practices derived from the performance management policy need to be considered in relation to how they fit within the overall strategy of an organisation and their support and reinforcement of the organisational objectives.
To date, existing research that considers the relationship between PM and EE includes those authors who considered how performance management can be conducted to achieve employee engagement. Notably, (Saratun, 2016) onthe importance ofeffective performance management in driving engagement; (Marrelli, 2011) onthe relationship between employee experiences of performance management and work engagement; and (Kotze et al., 2015 Aquinas, 2018) on the influence of PM system through work engagement on job performance.
Three pieces of existing literature that have informed the approach to this research proposal are; Malhotra, (2012); Mone et al., (2011) and Luong (2012).
Malhotra’s (2012)inductive research approach sought to understand whether there is a meaningful relationship between performance management and employee engagement from a subjective perspective. The research hypothesised that there would be either no significant relationship between the two variables or that there would be a significant relationship. A questionnaire was used on a convenient sample to support quantitative research. The collected data supported an exploratory analysis to investigate the relationship between performance management (independent variable) and employee engagement (dependent variable). Through use of Utrecht’s work engagement scale (Schaufeli et al., 2004) and the author’s own performance management scale, the compiled questionnaires and correlated results concluded that a relationship exists between the two variables.
Luong’s (2012)deductive, positivist researchapproachadapts Gruman and Saks’ (2011) engagement management model to examine the relationship between the factors that drive engagement and performance. Using a quantitative research strategy, engagement was hypothesised as a mediator in the relationship between drivers of engagement; goal setting, job resources, recognition, feedback and fairness as positively related to engagement and performance within the healthcare industry. The data collection approach was explanatory using an online survey, constructed to ask participants their opinion about the effectiveness of goal setting, job resources, recognition and reward, feedback and engagement. The perspective of the researcher was objective.
Mone et al., (2011 p. 6) inductive research approach posed the question “Is performance management truly at the wheel driving employee engagement in organisations?” Using descriptive research supporting prior research findings that performance management can be used to increase levels of engagement presents arguments using existing literature to present an expanded view of performance management and poses unanswered questions from current literature and offers future research areas of enquiry.
Mone et al., (2011) conceptualises performance management as five major activities; setting performance and development goals, providing ongoing feedback and recognition, managing employee development, conducting mid-year and end-year appraisals and building a climate of trust and empowerment. Similarly, Malhotra (2012) considers performance management to include elements such as goal setting, performance feedback and development opportunities. Conversely Malhotra (2012) includes mentoring and Luong (2012) utilising the Gruman and Saks (2011) model, suggests three components of performance agreement (expectation of goals and objectives for the employee), engagement facilitation (focuses on providing resources that facilitate engagement including job design leadership, coaching, support and training) and performance and engagement appraisal and feedback (focusing on perceptions of justice and trust as drivers of engagement).
Both Malhotra (2012) and Luong (2012) agree that organisations are prioritising performance management systems to respond to challenges in contemporary contexts. Mone et al., (2011) suggests that PM can be used to increase levels of employee engagement and Malhotra (2012) supports this view, finding that a significant relationship exists between PM and EE and Luong (2012) suggesting that organisations should redesign their PM systems to foster engagement so that it enhances engagement levels.
Further research was suggested by the authors; the extent that each performance activity explains a variation in employee engagement (Mone et al., 2011), and a variation across industries (Malhotra, 2012).
Aim of research proposal
The literature suggests there is more to be done to understand the relationship between performance management and employee engagement and raises the following research questions that form the basis of this research.
To what extent does performance management affect employee engagement; which activities account for a greater effect on employee engagement and why do some activities have a greater effect than others?
Through a semi-insider perspective, the research focuses on non-management employees from a convenient sample of Scottish stores in Organisation X, a homeware and fashion retailer. The research will be explanatory and consider the relationship between PM activities and resultant levels of EE. A deductive approach will be adopted where existing theory will be considered within a retail context and from an objective research perspective.
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A quantitative research strategy will be used in the form of an online survey with closed structured questions using SurveyMonkey tool, taking a positivism perspective. The survey questions will be adapted from existing set (Luong 2012) as these have be validated and are relevant to the current research. The purpose behind this adaptation is to ensure that participants recognise the activities about which they are being asked. Questions measuring levels of EE will be correlated with the PM activities of goal setting, job resources, recognition and feedback.
Participants must be non-management and have a minimum 1year service. Participants will be invited to take part in the research through an information sheet that help them decide whether to accept or decline the offer. Access to the survey will be via a link attached to an email sent to the store and access passwords will be given on the information sheet. The survey will remain open for a period providing an opportunity for respondents to consider their decision and complete later if preferred. In the introduction section of the survey, participants will confirm that they have understood the information they have received and that they wish to participate. They will then be able to complete the survey which should take 5 minutes responding to structured questions using a Likert scale.
The organisation has asked to remain anonymous and will be referred to as Organisation X. The researcher has signed a non- disclosure agreement. Participants will remain anonymous as responses may reflect their relationship with line management.
Each participant will receive an information sheet; introducing the researcher, the research topic and explaining what they are being asked to do, anonymity and data security. This will enable them to make an informed choice as to whether they wish to continue with the survey.
There will be a link to the survey should they wish complete it away from the work environment on their own device and the researcher’s contact number should they have any questions. Additionally, it will include a password to access the online survey.
Potential limitations (60)
The research data will be gathered from a small convenient sample within a medium sized company within one geographical area. Therefore, the results will not representative of the whole organisation or retail sector. Results could be influenced by individual store culture, management behaviours and attitudes to engagement.
Plan to achieve key milestones
The Gantt chart in Figure 1 below outlines the main activities, stages and deadlines of the research programme. The activities are shown in relative order with the expected duration for each. Special consideration has been given to activities where the researcher has less control.
Figure 1: Gantt chart
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- Mone, E., Eisinger, C., Guggenheim, K., Price, Bennett., and Stine, C. (2011) ‘Performance Management at the Wheel: Driving Employee Engagement in Organisations’, Journal of Business and Psychology, vol, 26, no, 2, pp. 205-212. [Online]. https://search-proquest-com.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/abicomplete/docview/867330233/41C2B36F70464072PQ/18?accountid=14697 (Accessed on 6 October 2018).
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- Schaufeli, W., and Bakker, A. (2004) ‘Utrecht Work Engagement’ Scale Preliminary Manual Version 1.1, [Online]. https://www.wilmarschaufeli.nl/publications/Schaufeli/Test%20Manuals/Test_manual_UWES_English.pdf (Accessed on 10 November 2018).
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