NORMA eResearch @NCI Library

An exploratory investigation into Employee Engagement in the Non-profit Sector: Employees’ understanding of the meaning and antecedents of employee engagement in an Irish non-profit organisation

Whelan, Gemma (2020) An exploratory investigation into Employee Engagement in the Non-profit Sector: Employees’ understanding of the meaning and antecedents of employee engagement in an Irish non-profit organisation. Masters thesis, Dublin, National College of Ireland.

[thumbnail of Master of Arts]
PDF (Master of Arts)
Download (771kB) | Preview


Since its debut, employee engagement has been and continues to be considered one of the top drivers of organisational success. This is due to its association with advantageous outcomes rooted in procuring maximum efficiency from the largest overhead in most organisations; its staff. Despite its popularity in practice and ongoing literary attention, there remains considerable disparity surrounding the topic’s precise meaning and scope. This has led to the reporting of many different antecedents to employee engagement and therefore inconsistent advice on how to implement it in practice. Studies show a wide breadth of varying antecedents that can also be linked with other constructs and so are a cause for confusion over its distinction from other management practices for organisational success. Research advocates a necessity for engagement frameworks to be adapted for different purposes and contexts. The non-profit sector has been reported to have one of the lowest engagement rates compared to the private and public sectors, yet despite this and its unique context, has a lean literary focus.

This study aims to shed light on this gap in the literature by exploring the meaning and antecedents of engagement in the context of an Irish non-profit organisation.

Using an interpretive philosophy, a qualitative inductive approach was adopted to thematically analyse data collected through one-to-one interviews with 8 staff members across 4 departments in the Irish non-profit organisation being studied. These findings were analysed thematically and compared to theories and framework presented in the literature review. Practical implications drawn from these findings were then discussed and recommendations were made based on the analysis and discussion.

The key themes that emerged from the findings were:
• Theme 1 – Types of engagement
Employee engagement is an adaptive multi-faceted construct. It involves the relationship of employees with their individual work/job and with their organisation.
• Theme 2 – The spectrum of engagement
Engagement is transient and can be viewed as a spectrum which includes disengagement.
• Theme 3 – Antecedents for non-profit engagement in the chosen organisation
These were in support of Akingbola and Van Den Berg (2019)’s framework (with the addition of social involvement) which is significant in its’ application to an Irish context.

Four additional sub-themes emerged:
➢ The strength of value congruence differed between management and worker
➢ A balance of internal and external recognition
➢ Engagement management vs. disengagement management
➢ Social involvement as a significant antecedent for non-profit engagement

This study may be used as a practical tool in understanding the engagement of employees for the organisation being studied and may act as a guide for other non-profit organisations or researchers in the field.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management > Human Resource Management > Performance Management > Employee Engagement
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > Non Profit Organisations. Voluntary Sector.
Divisions: School of Business > Master of Arts in Human Resource Management
Depositing User: Dan English
Date Deposited: 03 Feb 2021 18:24
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2021 18:24

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item