Wiedemann: “Employee Engagement Simplified by Self-Determination Theory”

“Employee Engagement Simplified by Self-Determination Theory”

Thesis Proposal, Crystal Wiedemann

Committee: Dr. Fred Switzer (chair), Dr. Robert Sinclair, Dr. Patrick Raymark

Tuesday, Feb 25th at 2:00 pm, Brackett Rm. 121

Due to increasing economic pressures over the last decade, organizations have been forced to “do more with less.” In an effort to maintain performance, and in some cases gain strategic advantage, more and more companies are looking to derive all they can from their employees. A fully “engaged” workforce has steadily moved from a dream to a necessity in today’s fiercely competitive marketplace. Unfortunately, actually creating an engaged workforce has proven to be a difficult endeavor. Organizations that have been able to figure out the mystery of employee engagement tout increased employee loyalty, happier customers, and bigger profits (Harter, Schmidt, & Keyes, 2002). Despite the demand for scientific research on employee engagement from the business community, a large amount of ambiguity still surrounds the conceptualization of the construct in academic research. This paper will investigate Self-Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985) as a theoretical framework in which to root employee engagement as proposed by Meyer & Gagne (2008). We will examine whether satisfying the needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness through the work environment will result in increased autonomous work motivation, employee engagement, and well-being. If employee engagement turns out to be as directly related to Self-Determination Theory as hypothesized, it could simplify the course of action required to increase engagement in organizations.

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