Conceptualizing Employee Engagement in China: “It’s A State of Fit”

Hongmei Shen, Chunbo Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current public relations scholarship on engagement, particularly employee engagement, is inconsistent, overly quantitative, and U.S.-centered. A disengaged workforce costs American businesses up to $550 billion each year (Bolden-Barrett, 2017). Our study sought to advance theory and practice on employee engagement from a global and qualitative perspective, by examining narratives of employees working for both local and global public relations agencies in China via 24 in-depth interviews. Our main findings revealed a three-dimensional conceptualization of employee engagement (see Figure 1): engagement with work, employing organization, and people. The enactment process of employee engagement begins with their strong sense of job responsibility and work ethic, taking ownership and initiatives, and finding meaning, joy, and fulfillment in job tasks. Simultaneously, engaged employees also identify with their employing organizations’ culture, vision, mission, and values, actively participate in organizational activities, and feel a sense of belonging and mutual benefit. Lastly, an element of emotional bonding and interpersonal work relationships constitutes employee engagement. Cultural nuances regarding job engagement, the “happy marriage” metaphor, and engagement with people are also discussed. Our study contributed to theorizing of employee engagement in a non-Western context and presented cultural nuances of Chinese public relations employees’ perspectives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
JournalPublic Relations Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2022


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