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Analysing Management Style and Employee Engagement Based on a Case Study of
University of Nairobi
Management Style and Employee Engagement
1.0 Employee Engagement
Technology companies such as Lenovo are known world over to have very high employee
engagement due to the workplace enhancements that encourage creativity and employee
satisfaction (Glowik, 2016). However, one of the organization aspects that has been found to
be equally influential in ensuring that employees are highly engaged is the management style
applied at the workplace. The investigator found that poor employee engagement can result in
high turnover rate, organization criticism, a breakdown in communication, poor employee
development and resistance to feedback and change. It was therefore important to explore the
management influence on employee engagement at Lenovo, which is a technological company
based in China. China is considered to have a different management culture and style than what
is practiced in the western countries. However, Lenovo is a multinational company that needs
to operate in most countries in the world. It was therefore important to explore the management
style in Lenovo with regards to the employee engagement. Other aspects such as tools available
to management to enhance engagement were also analysed. The investigator analysed the
drivers of employee engagement and the impact engagement has on the organization
performance (Lenovo, 2020).
2.0 Management Style and Employee Engagement
Engagement has been defined by many studies as one level up from employee commitment
(Gruman and Saks, 2011). The investigator found that it is important for companies such as
Lenovo to ensure that their employees have high levels of satisfaction in order to keep
innovating and developing products that impact people’s way of life all over the world.
Generally, tech companies such as Lenovo have high employee engagement than companies
in other industries. In the research, the investigator did not find any one management style that
can solely build employee engagement due to the complex nature of the employee personalities
and the diversity of their needs. Instead, Lenovo adopted one style but borrowed dimensions
from other theories. The investigator found that this is supported by the social exchange
management theory in the literature that was reviewed. This theory presents that employees
learn by observing what management is doing. It also postulates that employees can be better
engaged through increasing the interaction amongst themselves and reducing negative aspects
of their interactions. These aspects are found across the different management styles and not in
any one particular one (Schoar and Zuo, 2017).
a. Management Style Changes at Lenovo
Lenovo has undergone some management style changes in the recent years in order to grow
into a multinational company and also encourage the development of cutting edge innovations
from its employees. The investigator found that a few years ago, Lenovo moved from a rather
autocratic management style where employees were required to be very aware of the hierarchy
in the organization. The management required that staff observe the rules and procedures in
the company very strictly. The employees would refer to the chief executive officer by the title
of “Chief Executive Officer Yang” under the previous management style. The investigator
found that this style of management was stifling innovation and integration with other
geographical regions in the world as the company was expanding globally and buying other
companies that were not based in China. As a result, the management of the company
considered adopting more open management styles in order to improve employee engagement.
The investigator found that Lenovo recognises that the management style can impact
employees’ engagement positively or negatively (Bhatti et al, 2012). The analysis is presented
b. Democratic and Laissez Faire management Style Impact on Employee Engagement
The investigator found that democratic and Laissez Faire management style are almost similar
on the impact they have on the employee engagement. Under the democratic management style,
the investigator found that the leaders in the organization delegate more readily hence involving
the employees in decision making. The leader is however still responsible for the final decision.
The employee involvement under the democratic management style has been found to increase
the employee engagement positively in other companies (Zhang et al, 2014). This however was
found to be a less than ideal style at Lenovo due to the fast paced nature of innovations required.
The Laissez Faire management style on the other hand is best for very technical staff who are
required to be very motivated since the management guides them lightly and leaves the
employees to make decisions on how to carry out their activities. There is less feedback offered
to employees under this management style and this style affects the staff when supervision is
required as would be the case at Lenovo. The Laissez Faire management style could work to
increase some aspects of employee engagement but could not work in some situations at
Lenovo (Mone et al, 2018).
c. Pacesetting and Affiliate Management Style Impact on Employee Engagement
The pacesetting style and the affiliative management styles were also analysed in relation to
employee engagement at Lenovo. The investigator found that the pacesetting management
style requires the manager to be a role model and set high standards of performance. In the case
of Lenovo, this would lead to employees who were overwhelmed by the fast pace set by some
of the managers since creativity and innovation are some of the characteristics that define
employees at Lenovo. On the other hand, under the affiliative management style, collaboration
is the most important aspect of the relationship between the employees and the leader.
Communication is used as the main tool that builds the team’s synergy to enhance engagement.
It was found that this management style is suited for organizations where there is broken trust
and ineffective communication channels. The organization weaknesses for this style to work
was not the case at Lenovo which needed a more globally integrated management style and
higher levels of innovation in the organization (Popli and Rizvi, 2016).
d. Visionary or Imaginative Management Style Impact on Employee Engagement
The investigator found that the visionary or imaginative management style which some studies
refer to as transformative management style was best suited to increase the employee
engagement at Lenovo. This management style encourages employee innovation and is suited
where an organization needs to take a different direction as Lenovo has been doing as it
expanded its operations to other locations in the world. It was found that this management style
has had positive impact on employee engagement at Lenovo since the leaders inspire the
employees and create a vision which make the changes and innovation focussed and
achievable. Under this management style, the leader is also expected to be the role model as
supported by the social exchange theory. Having a role model, employees can observe how
change can be implemented and this leads to higher job satisfaction since employees are
required to take more ownership of their work hence resulting in higher employee engagement
(Cheema et al, 2015).
One of the limitation of the transformative management style has been found to be that it is
highly conceptual in nature since it can adopt too vast a vision approach hence lacking the task
focus required by the employees. For this management style to be effective at Lenovo, it needs
to look at the operational aspects of the vision in order to offer more guidance to employees.
This style can also lead to the employee burnout since the employees can take the view that the
leaders’ presence is a source of pressure. Under this style, the leaders’ emphasis on authenticity
and employees are encouraged to live up to the vision. This can lead to reduced employee
motivation and burn out hence resulting in lower employee engagement. Lenovo would need
to borrow on some aspects of other management styles to enrich the transformative style
adopted to increase employee productivity (Othman et al, 2017).
3.0 Management Tools to Increase Employee Engagement
From the management styles analysed above, the investigator found that there are different
tools available to managers or leaders to enhance employee engagement. These tools are: open
communication, reliance on data rather than intuition, positive work environment and fostering
personal growth of employees as ways to increase the employee engagement (Zhang et al,
a. Communication to Increase Employee Engagement
The investigator found that the leaders at Lenovo increased employee engagement by ensuring
that employees knew and felt listened to and heard. Tech companies such as Lenovo rely
heavily on employee feedback since the environment that can lead to innovation requires that
all employees are creative and collaborative. The tech companies appreciate that good and new
ideas come from any of the employee in the company. This creates the need for open
communication in the company. The investigator also found that the culture of communication
and very close collaboration makes management pay attention to all the employees to ensure
that they are well engaged and highly committed to take advantage of synergies within the team
(Popli and Rizvi, 2016).
b. Reliance on Data Rather than Intuition to Increase Employee Engagement
The investigator found that at Lenovo, managers have a hands on approach in their supervision
of employees. Additionally, they collect data from diverse sources on employee engagement
to ensure that their commitment levels are high. The tools employed to gauge the employee
engagement can range from online surveys, emotion assessment apps and the use of focus
groups. This data is then collated and evaluated so as to determine the engagement levels within
a certain period. This is advantageous since small issues can be addressed before they become
any bigger. Big issues are well planned for in a collaborative environment between the
managers and staff to ensure that feasible solutions are arrived at. Collaboration in coming up
with the solutions to increase employee engagement also result in less resistance to change
where need be. Lenovo has taken a data approach to dealing with the people issues that it faces.
This takes intuition out of consideration in order for the management at Lenovo to make
smarter decisions about their employees. It was found that the employee engagement is seen
as a strategic priority at Lenovo (Soieb et al, 2015).
c. Creating a Positive Work Environment to Increase Employee Engagement
The investigator found out in the study that Lenovo encourages diversity amongst its
employees as it engages talent from all over the world. Additionally, the working environment
encourages inclusion as well as respect. The employees are encouraged to be entrepreneurial
as well as take ownership for their actions. The employees are challenged and rewarded for
their dedication and effort. These factors work together to increase the employee engagement
at Lenovo. Rather than the autocratic management style that focussed on hierarchies at Lenovo,
the investigator found that roles are loosely defined and employees feel like they are at an equal
playing field with their supervisors. This increases the employees’ perception of value and
limits barriers to innovation and creativity. This also encourages collaboration in the team work
One other way that the investigator found out was that Lenovo has increased employee
engagement through the work environment by creating a shorter distance between employee
and leadership. In most tech companies, the investigator observed that the managers drive the
innovation and change. They are inspiring and are a major reason why employees go to work.
The leadership at Lenovo have increased their presence in the company by socialising with
employees, ensuring two way communicating and by making sure that they connect often with
the employees. The management is also open to feedback from employees. The investigator
observed that the resultant work environment is one that has greatly increased the employee
engagement at Lenovo (Ahrens and Zhou, 2013)
d. Personal Development of Employees to Increase Engagement
In this study, the investigator found that employees have different aspirations and needs.
Employee ambitions are very important considerations in increasing their engagement. Most
employees want to grow in an organization and would like to know that their work effort is
contributing to their development. The investigator observed that in tech companies such as
Lenovo where creativity and innovation is key, employees are required to learn at a faster pace.
This creates a set of unique challenges to the employees. It was found that Lenovo ensures that
the employees’ professional interest are taken into account in the work assignments that are
allocated to each employees. The employees are also given project leadership roles to foster
their development. This opportunities to advance the employees careers at Lenovo have
resulted in higher employee engagement (Zhang et al, 2014).
4.0 Drivers of Employee Engagement
The investigator observed that many aspects of the employees’ work-life are linked to the level
of engagement that the organization can create for them. The investigator also found that the
biggest drivers of employee engagement is the sense of value created by management and their
involvement in the company. This has various components to it especially at Lenovo.
Employees like to feel involved in decision making. Employees also would like to have a work
environment that listens to their ideas, where management considers their views and their
contributions. Another key driver has been found to be the level of growth that the employees
can realise from the company. Employees want to be rewarded for their effort and to grow their
careers as well. The other driver identified that increase the employee engagement is the
organization’s ability to foster their health as well as their wellbeing. This is enhanced by the
work environment which has clear human resource practices as well as policies that guide the
action of all the employees in the organization (Popli and Rizvi, 2016)
Several factors were found to be pain points to employees and these resulted in lower employee
engagement. This included aspects such as technical issues with machinery and other tools
used by employees such as software. Disruptive office environment from noise and
unnecessary interruptions to works say by emails also negatively affected employees’
productivity. The investigator also found that lack of management training and information
that resulted in communication breakdown also affected employee commitment to the
organization. The investigator found that the productivity of employees was most affected in
organizations that had inefficient processes and procedures that resulted in time wastage.
Where employees were overworked due to the vision of the company, the employees’
engagement decreased dramatically resulting in lower productivity. Management at Lenovo
should continuously exercise a delicate balance with the drivers of employee engagement to
ensure that the employees are productive and committed (Cheema et al, 2015).
5.0 Employee Engagement and Impact on Organization Performance
The investigator found that there is a correlation between the level of employee engagement
and the organization performance. Lenovo has taken steps to utilise all the tools available to
management to increase employee engagement. Lenovo has been careful to move from the
autocratic management style that was not supporting the employee management. Additionally,
Lenovo has also adopted a transformative or visionary leadership which is best suited for the
fast paced tech environment that requires innovation and high levels of creativity. This
visionary management style has been found to be supportive to the employees and to guide the
employees beyond the shorter term objectives of the company to longer term and strategic
goals. Lenovo adopt additional measures such as training of management to ensure that they
all embrace the visionary style of management (Mone et al, 2018).
It was found that Lenovo has provided its management with all the strategies that provide the
leaders with the tools required to develop their skills to build the required trust with employees,
share their vision effectively as well as to enable them to create effective relationship between
the employees and the company. Managers also rely on these skills to ensure that they foster a
positive perception from the employees. As a result of these organizational and management
efforts, employees at Lenovo have increased their commitment level and their level of
productivity has also improved over time. Transformative leaders should know the effect they
have on the employee engagement and should have high confidence levels and a lot of selfefficacy as this contributes to employee commitment. Additionally, by creating a convincing
vision for the employees and showing how employees fit into the vision creates higher
employee commitment. However, the investigator recommends that the transformative leaders
should borrow dimensions of other styles such as the transactional one in order to have a
holistic effect on employees’ productivity (Lenovo, 2020).
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