Engagement Level of Migrants’ vs New Zealand Local Employees: A Comparative Study
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The management literature is replete with studies examining the antecedents and outcomes of work engagement. Despite this wide empirical evidence, we understand a little of how these factors work on work engagement with migrant employees. Many western economies have seen a rapid increase in migrants and New Zealand; the setting of the present study, is no different. This provides a useful context to understand whether factors predicting work engagement, or the influence of work engagement on outcomes, is similar or distinct for minority employees. Given the potential methodological issues around quantitative surveys, I conducted two studies to improve generalisability. Study one had a large sample of New Zealand employees (n=870) of which a good size (n=345) self-identified as migrants. Study two had time separated data (independent and dependent variables collected one month apart) and had a sample size of n=302, with n=122 being migrants. Study one focused on a wide range of antecedents (e.g., ethical leadership, organisation-based self-esteem, psychological contract breech, psychological contract violation, and work-life balance). It also focused on two well-being outcomes: anxiety and depression. Study two focused on fewer antecedents (e.g., perceived organisational support and work-life balance only) but more outcomes (e.g., turnover intentions, career satisfaction, positive affect, happiness, and job stress). Each study used migrant status as a moderator to explore potential differences between New Zealand born employees and migrants. The findings from study one showed overall solid support for antecedents of work engagement and subsequent consequences. Largely, these effects are similar for migrant workers at levels similar to New Zealand workers. However, some statistically significant differences were found. In study one, migrant status had no significant direct effects towards engagement. However, a number of significant two-way moderating effects were found from migrant status, often being beneficial at low levels of the predictors (e.g., ethical leadership, organisation-based self-esteem, psychological contract breach, and psychological contract violations), but being less beneficial at high levels. Significant moderated mediation effects showed that migrant status appears to be a worthwhile boundary condition to explore. Finally, only one two-way interaction effect was found between migrant status and dedication towards depression. Study two findings included not only migrant status but also migrant time in New Zealand, to see whether this had a distinct effect. Overall, neither migrant status nor the length of time in New Zealand had any interaction effects towards work engagement dimensions. Similarly, when it came to consequences, there were no significant moderating effects towards turnover intentions, indicating employees born in New Zealand or migrants had similar effects from work engagement. But there were a number of effects towards career satisfaction, indicating greater benefits from engagement for migrants than New Zealand locals. There were similar effects towards positive affect although not towards happiness or job stress. Overall, the two studies provided new insights essentially supporting that migrant workers may have different benefits and effects from work engagement. While antecedents seem to be largely disadvantageous in study one, the influence of engagement on outcomes were very positive and enhancing for migrants. Fundamentally, this supports the notion that migrants might report better consequences from engagement. The implications for human resources are discussed.