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Article
Publication date: 18 September 2023

Vindhya Weeratunga, Deborah Blackman, Fiona Buick and Anthony Cotton

The purpose of this paper is to improve the understanding of the applicability of employee engagement theories in a South Asian country, Sri Lanka, and determine whether…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to improve the understanding of the applicability of employee engagement theories in a South Asian country, Sri Lanka, and determine whether engagement theories are universally applicable beyond the Western countries in which they have been developed and tested.

Design/methodology/approach

A heterogeneous sample of 451 private-sector employees in Sri Lanka was used. A mixed-method design was adopted; quantitative findings were compared with previous studies conducted in Western countries, and qualitative findings enabled a more nuanced understanding of employee engagement in the Sri Lankan context.

Findings

Despite cultural differences between Sri Lanka and Western countries, the antecedents of engagement did not manifest differently in a consistent way. Combined results suggest that the different manifestations of engagement in Sri Lanka cannot be attributed solely to cultural variance.

Research limitations/implications

The authors used cross-sectional data and tested only four antecedents of engagement.

Practical implications

This study highlights the importance of multinational organisations' awareness of how employee engagement manifests across different contexts and going beyond cultural adaptation when developing context-specific engagement strategies.

Originality/value

This is among the first studies on an Asian country to examine whether cultural differences impact the antecedents of engagement to empirically test Kahn's (1990) theory of engagement and the motivational process of the job demands-resources theory in a single study and to use a heterogeneous sample and mixed-methods design. The authors challenge the centrality of national culture as a determinant of employee engagement and highlight the importance of considering other contextual factors when examining employee engagement in different countries.

Details

South Asian Journal of Business Studies, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2398-628X

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