I believe that employee engagement and motivation are crucial to any organization. You can change an organizational structure, your processes, your policies, you can talk about leadership as much as you want, you can increase salaries and benefits, if your employees are not engaged and motivated, your organization will never perform.
Dr. Isabelle Caron, Assistant Professor, School of Public Administration, Dalhousie University
Dr. Isabelle Caron, Assistant Professor, School of Public Administration has graciously shared her insights on research with our readers of CEGE Connection. Dr. Caron focuses on the exercise of administrative control and accountability in public institutions. The includes exploring diversity and inclusion in the public sector, including recruitment and retention of women in the armed forces.
Dr. Isabelle Caron:
Over the past two years at Dalhousie University, I have realized that my favourite research topic is employee engagement and motivation. I am interested to understand what affects employee engagement and motivation (impact of diversity climate, impact of red tape and control, impact of trust, impact of cooperation, etc.). I believe that employee engagement and motivation are crucial to any organization. You can change an organizational structure, your processes, your policies, you can talk about leadership as much as you want, you can increase salaries and benefits, if your employees are not engaged and motivated, your organization will never perform. If your employees don’t feel that they are important and that their work is meaningful and if they are not treated with respect (this includes respect of diversity), they will not be engaged and will never be productive.
My interest for this topic probably comes from my own experience as a former federal public servant. I have seen so many times a new leader coming to an organization and changing the organizational structures, the processes, the policies, delivering amazing speeches to employees while employees didn’t understand their role in the whole system, the purpose of their work and were not treated respectfully. At the end, employees don’t care anymore, do minimum work and are frequently absent. This can kill an organization (even a public organization!). I hope my research will contribute to a better understanding of the importance of employee motivation and the crucial role of managers.
My main projects for this year:
I was just awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Development Grant (SSHRC IDG) and Department of National Defence (DND) supplement to look at the retention of women in the Canadian Armed Forces. More specifically, it looks at how the perception that women have of the Canadian Armed Forces can be an obstacle to female retention. This project combines my interests for employee engagement and for diversity management as I will look at how the perception of the way diversity is being managed in this organization impacts women’s engagement and their decision to remain or to leave the organization.
I currently work on a joint research project entitled “Performance-Information Use in Switzerland, Germany and Canada: Do Organizational Climate and Cooperation Among Actors Matter” with a colleague from Switzerland and a colleague from Germany. This project examines the extent to which performance information use is developed and implemented in local governments (80 municipal governments in Canada). We are currently in Phase 1 of this project as we are developing the survey tool. I am in charge of the research done in Canada.
I am also part of a team who was awarded a grant from the Digital Ecosystem Research Awards entitled “The Attention Paid to Indigenous Issues in Twitter by Candidates in Federal Elections”. This project aims at understanding the determinants of Indigenous issues attention by election candidates on Twitter, with partisan affiliation and characteristics of local riding being the most salient hypotheses. As well, we will investigate if national advocacy groups representing Indigenous people and issues are able to set the agenda and compel political parties to position themselves on Indigenous issues, and if the overall priorities of Canadians are matching with the messages posted by candidates of the main political parties. My interest lies in the attention that will be given to Indigenous women on Twitter during the federal election campaign.
I also was just awarded a grant from the Government of Quebec to publish a book on the place of Francophonie in Canadian public policies. I will be the editor for this book. Nine authors located across Canada (including myself) have agreed to write a chapter. In addition, Graham Fraser, former Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada has agreed to write a preface for this book. The book should be released in June 2020.
I also collaborate with my colleagues from the faculty of management on a project that looks at the effects of household food culture and division of unpaid labour on Canadian women’s reliance on ultra-processed foods.
What are the broader implications of your research outside of academia?
My research contributes to understanding what factors impact performance and how managers and leaders can influence those factors. My main focus is on public organizations, although I believe it could easily apply to any type of organization.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself five years ago?
Don’t limit your collaborations to the people in your specific field of research, try to collaborate with people from very different fields. It opens your perspectives and pushes you to look at your research from a totally different angle. When I did my PhD, this is certainly not something I was encouraged to do. Faculty members always talk about the importance of multidisciplinary research, but I have realized over time that many of them are reluctant when comes the time to collaborate with people from different fields. Only few researchers are genuinely open to look at their research from a very different point of view.
If you had a magic wand, what would you do to support the research community in the Faculty of Management?
I would make a lot of money appear to support faculty members’ research! I would also get rid of the structural barriers to allow more genuine research collaborations between the different fields!
Tell us a few words about yourself not related to research.
I am the mother of three children! In my free time, I like to run with my daughter, I love travelling and I love food (not so much the cooking part but mostly the eating part, which is why I run!).