The Role of Personal values in Shaping Leaders' Experiences with Employee Engagement: A Qualitative Phenomenological Study

The Role of Personal values in Shaping Leaders' Experiences with Employee Engagement: A Qualitative Phenomenological Study

Author: 
Mary Elizabeth Krause
Program of study: 
D.M.
Abstract: 
Organizational leaders worldwide have been plagued with consistently low and declining levels of employee engagement despite ongoing efforts to implement initiatives to retain talent through increased engagement. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore the perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs held by 14 leaders in Arizona and the role their values might play on their receptivity to and experiences with employee engagement. Data obtained from semi-structured interviews and previously completed Core Values Index (CVI) assessments revealed insights that may offer new approaches leaders might consider with regard to engagement initiatives. Results showed six major themes emerged including communication; culture; feeling valued; personal values such as work ethic, honesty, integrity, or trust; professional development; and empowerment. An individual’s position within the organization did not appear to influence his or her engagement preferences. Rather, participants ranked the six themes in different priority orders based on their core values, indicating they may prefer different approaches to engagement by their leaders. Notably, participants appeared to engage others according to the methods they, themselves, preferred rather than adapting to the methods that might work best for the employee. Based on these and other findings, recommendations for C-suite and other leaders include: increased, consistent communication with employees regarding strategy, initiatives, successes, challenges, and recognition; embracing and modeling of engagement practices by leaders at every level; integration of engagement practices throughout the talent management cycle; and updating policies and procedures to ensure accountability and recognition around engagement initiatives.
Dedication: 
I dedicate this dissertation to my best friend and true love, Derek. Your never-ending love, support, reassurance, and encouragement throughout this process bolstered me with additional determination, confidence, and endurance at times when I needed it most. You inspire me daily to be a better person, and I will forever be thankful that I had you by my side during this journey, cheering me on to the finish line. Looks like we made it! I also dedicate this work to my parents, Barbara and Richard, who have always supported me and celebrated my successes no matter how large or small. It is because of your modeling and the example you set that I have become a capable, compassionate individual who is proud of the values I uphold and of the way they show up in my life. You instilled in me a passion for education, hard work, and perseverance, and for that, I will always be thankful.
Acknowledgements: 
This dissertation could not have been possible without the assistance and support of many very special individuals. I wish to acknowledge and thank Dr. Joe Saxton, my chairperson, mentor, and friend. Dr. Joe, without your words of wisdom, advice, and brilliant coaching and mentorship, I am certain I might still be trying to envision that “perfect” topic. You understood just how to encourage and support me in the way I needed to hear it so I could continue on a path toward success. I will always be grateful our paths crossed and that I was fortunate enough to learn from you during such an important journey in my life. I also wish to thank my committee members, Dr. Victoria Jones and Dr. Rhonda Waters. I am fortunate, indeed, to receive coaching and guidance from individuals of your caliber. Both of you have demonstrated true dedication, passion, and commitment in your own work, and you are an inspiration to those who follow. I cannot thank you enough for your energy and enthusiasm while guiding me toward the finish line. I am thankful for your tutelage, friendship, and support. I wish to acknowledge another dear friend and mentor, Dr. Sandy Kolberg. I cannot even imagine where I would be without you. You devoted many hours to helping me become a stronger scholar over the years, and with your leadership, guidance, and feedback, I have grown immensely during my doctoral journey. Your passion regarding my research topic as well as your boundless assistance is appreciated more than you could ever know. I could not have achieved this important milestone without your support and encouragement. I also wish to thank those individuals to whom I am deeply indebted, for without their support this study would not have come to fruition. Lynn Taylor, thank you for supporting my research through the use of the Core Values Instrument data. To the executives and their organizational leaders who participated in my study, thank you for being willing to open your doors and share your experiences so together we may add to existing research on the topic of employee engagement and values. I wish I could acknowledge each of you by name, because it was my great pleasure and honor to spend time with each and every one of you. You know who you are, and I appreciate you all for your time, energy, and authenticity as you shared your experiences. Finally, a big thank you to my family, friends, University of Phoenix advisors, and members of my doctoral cohort. I appreciated your patience, support, laughter, and compassion that helped me along on my journey.