Frontline Service Employee Engagement PDF

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Frontline Service Employee Engagement, Creativity, and Job Performance
Frontline Service Employee Engagement, Creativity, and Job Performance
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Abstract
The purpose of this paper is to investigate how frontline service employee engagement is
related to creativity and job performance. Extending to the literature that examines employee
creativity, job performance, and engagement, this study assesses the simultaneous
relationships between the constructs in the service context. The current investigation also
examines how these associations are subject to the service levels (high- versus low-customer
contacts).
Key words:employee creativity, job performance, engagement, front line service
employees.
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Introduction
Today’s marketplace is immensely competitive. Many companies provide products
and services that offer solutions to customers’ specific problems (i.e., customer needs and
wants) and create value for their customers (Lovelock, Patterson, and Wirtz 2011). Employee
creativity significantly contributes to achieving organizational effectiveness, innovation, and
performance (Amabile et al. 1996). This is particularly true for front line employees, who are
required to demonstrate creativity to deliver excellent service and meet the expectations of
customers with different needs and wants (Wilder, Collier, and Barnes 2014). Accordingly,
service firms strive to enhance employee creativity to ensure sustainable growth in today’s
volatile, complex, competitive, and dynamic marketplace (Oldham and Cummings 1996).
Research has suggested that such growth is possible by fostering an environment
where both employee creativity and job engagement are stimulated and supported (Stanley
2016). Thus, in addition to employee creativity, job engagement is considered an important
element to drive firms’ long-term success (Lawler 1986; Lockwood 2007). Anecdotal
evidence shows that 32% of creatively engaged employees are more likely to increase job
performance through creative problem solving and high innovation (Taylore 2017).
Although the constructs of employee creativity, job engagement, and performance
have been extensively investigated in various disciplines, prior studies have examined how
employee creativity and engagement impacts job performance in non-service study contexts
(Amabile 1983, Stanley 2016; Shalley, Zhou, and Oldham 2004). Little is known about how
these two constructs together affect employee performance in the context of services. In this
sense, this investigation is timely and important for managers who strive to enhance frontline
employees’ job performance.
Therefore, this study illustrates how frontline service employees’ work engagement
relates to their creativity and job performance. Specifically, the present research tests the
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model highlighting the mediating role of employee creativity in the work engagement–
performance relationship. This research further examines whether the relationships of these
constructs are subject to job characteristics and nature (the levels of service encounter: high
versus low customer contacts, autonomy/empowerment, and service climate). Previous
researches have examined the simultaneous relationship between moderation and mediation
and how it affects each other at the same (Fairchild and MacKinnon, 2010). The conceptual
model in this paper is investigating the mediating and moderation effects together where the
mediation effect is assumed to be moderated by some variables called moderated mediation
effect (Edwards and Lambert, 2007). Likewise, this paper estimates the simultaneous
relationship between creativity as a mediator between engagement and performance and the
same time the effect of job characteristic and nature (service climate and empowerment) as
moderators which effects creativity, engagement, and performance.
Literature Review
Conceptual framework
Figure 1 illustrates the conceptual model of the current research. The model
underscores that frontline employees’ engagement relates to their job performance through
creativity. It also hypothesizes that job characteristics and nature (i.e., service levels,
autonomy/empowerment, and service climate) influence the associations between the
constructs of interest in this study.
The conceptual model of this study is understood as the componential theory of
creativity proposed by Amabile (1983). This theory is based on the premises that
organizations are motivated to innovate and have both the resources and management
practices to achieve such innovation. It underscores important social and psychological
domains that are essential for employees to solve business problems by generating new ideas
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that are feasible, correct, and valuable (Amabile 1988). According to Amabile (1988), the
creative process is an important element for individuals in the organization to solve the
problems, to deal more effectively and efficiently with work in order to avoid uncertainty,
and achieve excellent outcomes. In this sense, the componential theory of creativity explains
the hypothesized model that suggests the relationships of employee engagement, creativity,
and performance in the workplace. This research posits that an engaged frontline employee is
more likely to be creative in the service delivery process to meet organizational goals
effectively and efficiently by delighting customers.
The theory encompasses three domains: creativity-domain skills, social environments,
and creativity-relevant skills. Creativity-domain skills are related to an individual employee’s
knowledge and talent that enable him/her to perform the job. Surrounding social
environments extrinsically motivate and challenge individuals to innovate. Negative external
environmental factors include time pressure, political issues, and norms that criticize novel
ideas. Such negative external motivators undermine individuals’ intrinsic creativity and affect
the process of critical thinking (Amabile 2012). Individuals have different triggers to become
motivated and use their creativity; those triggers can be due to extrinsic or intrinsic
motivation. Thus, an individual’s degree of creativity is dependent on his/her motivations for
the specific tasks (Amabile 1988).
Creativity-relevant skills refer to proper cognitive styles and clear knowledge of the
heuristic for breeding novel ideas (Amabile 1988). Keeping options open, breaking existing
cognitive sets, exploring new cognitive pathways, suspending judgments, storing
information, and remembering accurately are some examples of cognitive perceptual styles
that allow individuals to challenge the status quo mentality set and understand the
complexities inherent in solving problems (Amabile 1983). In other words, individuals with
creativity-relevant skills are technically good, adequate, or acceptable, which enables them to
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perform their work in a creative manner (Amabile 1988). The ability to be creative increases
the chances of solving problems. Individuals who explore the possibilities of using these
responses and information can solve the problem and carry out their jobs effectively
(Amabile 1988). Various personality traits can influence creativity-relevant skills, such as
risk orientation, varied experiences, social skills, team qualities, special cognitive abilities,
and naiveté (Amabile, Hennessey, and Grossman 1986). This last domain is relevant to
understanding the study’s model positing the moderating roles of job characteristics and
nature.
Researchers have suggested that the characteristics of a job (e.g., task complexity)
affect the employee’s performance and creative relationship (Coelho and Augusto 2010).
Some job characteristics, such as clarity, variety, autonomy, and significance, can encourage
employees to become more creative and engaged with their jobs and achieve higher
performance (Coelho and Augusto 2010; Mugo, Wario, and Odhiambo 2014; Shalley Zhou,
and Oldham 2004).
Moreover, service climate in the organization has been shown to influence employee
creativity and performance. A work environment in which ideas can be exchanged, job
engagement is encouraged, and organizational resources are available can enhance
employees’ creativity (Hunter, Bedell, and Mumford 2007). Likewise, service
climate―characterized by supporting each other, sharing information, accepting and
respecting the shared values, norms, and beliefs, and empowering employees―facilitates
individuals to become more engaged with their work, thereby boosting their creativity and
performance (Stanley 2016).
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The conceptual model below explains the direct effect explaining that the effect
of engagement (x) is mediated by Creativity (m). This model explains the moderated
mediation effect which is introduced by James and Brett (1984) “moderated mediation”
for the condition where a moderator influences the mediational relationship. This study
explains that job characteristic and nature of an independent variable role as the
moderator affects the mediation relationship.
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In the given moderate mediation model the employee creativity has been taken
as the moderator which affects the employee engagement and overall relationship with
other factors such as performance, job characteristics and nature (Albrech, 2011).
Considering the following model, the job characteristics and the nature of the job such
as autonomy, and accountability and empowerment I (Schaufeli, & Salanova, 2007).
These job characteristics and nature such as work environment in terms of colleagues,
work pressure, attitude of people, climate, all these things have an impact on the
employee’s engagement in the company, for example, if an employee is not satisfied
with the work culture, or if in case he is not content with the work pressure, the
employee will experience his detachment from the company (Hui, et al. 2007).The
employee will be less engaged in social gatherings pertaining to business as well as will
not be able to engage himself within the work culture given his job characteristics.
Similarly, the employee engagement, then affects the overall employee performance
and employee creativity (Zhang, and Bartol, 2010).A less engaged employee will be
less bothered with the company policies and work culture. He will fail to bring his
creativity to surface which could help him come up with creative solutions and decision
making capabilities. The lost creativity will also eventually impact the performance
negatively. Therefore, with this model it can be understood that there is mediation
effect of creativity and job characteristics on employee performance and employee
engagement.
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