Over two decades, the topic of organizational sustainability has continuously and increasingly received considerable attention from both academia and business because it is relevant to not only organizational performance (e.g., high profitability and enhanced employee work-related attitude or behavior including work engagement, knowledge sharing, and innovative work behavior) [1
] but it is also crucial to long-term organizational success [1
]. It is empirically supported by the results of a survey conducted for three consecutive years from 2009 to 2011 with a sample of more than 2000 managers and executives from over 100 countries. The results revealed that there has been a dramatic increase (i.e., from 25% in 2009 to 68% in 2011) in managers’ commitment to organizational sustainability. In addition, the results of the survey in 2011 indicated that 67% of participants viewed sustainability as a vital issue for organizations’ competitive advantage in today’s market place [9
Sustainable organizations are thought to have the capability of simultaneously achieving good economic, environmental, and social (i.e., human) performance in a collective manner called the triple bottom line [8
]. Economic performance is related to financial performance and good products or services; environmental performance is related to environmental integrity and protection (e.g., protection from resource exploitation and environmental damage); while social performance is related to the well-being of organizational employees. Thus, if organizations want to achieve and maintain sustainable development, it is important to consider environmental, economic, and social (i.e., human) dimensions in a comprehensive and enduring way [1
However, among the three dimensions of organizational sustainability, the social dimension (i.e., human dimension) has received relatively less attention when compared to economic and environmental dimensions of sustainability [1
]. This shows that more attention should be paid to the human dimension of organizational sustainability. With regard to the human dimension, the existing literature claims that this dimension is related to the processes of generating social health and enhancing employee well-being (i.e., employee engagement at work) in organizations, and as such, employee work engagement could be a key component of the human dimension of organizational sustainability [1
Employee work engagement refers to “a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption” ([12
], p. 74). Scholars and practitioners in many fields—including psychology, business, organization development, human resource development and management—have paid considerable attention to employee work engagement because organizations desire engaged employees who are energetic, dedicated, and absorbed in their work. Employee work engagement makes a positive contribution to the fundamental line of any business and is echoed in services they provide to customers and clients [6
]. Specifically, employee work engagement leads to enhanced individual and/or group performance. In addition, engaged employees generate more customer loyalty. Consequently, engaged customers purchase more services and products from a company and recommend other potential customers to the same company, which ultimately helps to improve the company’s profitability and therefore lead to a more sustainable organizational environment [6
In addition to the link between employee work engagement and organizational sustainability, the extant literature indicates that organizational procedural justice, employee knowledge sharing, and employee innovative work behavior are relevant to organizational sustainability [5
]. Organizational justice consists of three components—procedural justice, distributive justice, and interactional justice—which positively influence employee’s psychological well-being, lowering employee stress levels and turnover by establishing a fair work environment [16
]. Procedural justice refers to the perceived fairness of the procedures used in decision-making; distributive justice refers to the perceived fairness of the outcomes that the individual employees receive; and interactional justice, as an extension of procedural justice, refers to the perceived fairness of interactional communication and treatment [16
]. Regarding the three components of organizational justice, Karkoulian et al. [16
] empirically found that procedural justice and interactional justice positively influenced organizational sustainability (i.e., they are strong predictors of organizational sustainability), whereas distributive justice did not. In addition, with regard to the relationship between procedural justice and interactional justice, procedural justice focuses on the exchange or relationship between employees and their organization, while interpersonal justice focuses on the exchange or relationship between employees and supervisors [20
]. Although procedural justice and interactional justice are relevant to organizations, this study intends to examine the effects of perceived fairness in the general context of the exchange between employees and their organization rather than the specific context of the exchange between supervisors and their subordinates. Based on the empirical and conceptual rationale mentioned earlier, this study focused on organizational procedural justice.
With regard to knowledge sharing and innovative work behavior, knowledge sharing refers to the process of exchanging task information, expert knowledge, and feedback regarding a procedure or product in order to create new knowledge or ideas, deal with issues, and achieve common goals [3
]. Since knowledge is an essential organizational resource offering a competitive advantage for organizational sustainability [3
], knowledge sharing is considered to be a fundamental means through which employees make positive contributions to knowledge application and innovation among individual employees and teams (e.g., by increasing firm innovation capabilities and reducing production costs), ultimately leading to the sustainable development of the organization [3
]. Innovative work behavior is defined as “the intentional creation, introduction and application of new ideas within a work role, group, or organization, in order to benefit role performance, the group, or the organization” ([26
], p. 288). Janssen also described innovative work behavior as being comprised of three different behavioral tasks: idea generation, idea promotion, and idea realization [5
]. Since innovation tends to rely greatly on employee behavior within organizations and is viewed as critical for organizational success and survival in this knowledge-based society, it is conceivable that innovative employee work behavior is pivotal to organizational sustainability [5
Organizational procedural justice, knowledge sharing, and/or innovative work behavior have also been examined in association with employee work engagement [24
]. The findings suggest that the serious efforts of organizations to be fair during the decision-making process (i.e., procedural justice) may positively influence employee work engagement. Engaged employees are more likely to have a strong intention to share their work-related knowledge and to put significant effort into innovative work behavior for their organizations. These behaviors ultimately and positively influence organizational sustainability.
Although the four research constructs (i.e., work engagement, organizational procedural justice, knowledge sharing, and innovative work behavior) are relevant to organizational sustainability and some previous research [27
] has partially examined the relationships among them, there seems to be a lack of research that comprehensively and simultaneously investigates the relationships between them [14
]. Therefore, the current study primarily aims to comprehensively examine employee work engagement and its structural relationships with organizational procedural justice, employee knowledge sharing, and employee innovative work behavior as they relate to the human dimension of organizational sustainability.
The main purpose of the current study was to examine the structural relationships among four research variables—organizational procedural justice, work engagement, knowledge sharing, and innovative work behavior—in a Korean organizational context. Given that the results of this study supported all proposed research hypotheses, the current research provides implications for researchers and practitioners.
5.1. Theoretical Implications
Firstly, the current study contributes to the existing literature by empirically investigating and validating relationships among four research constructs (i.e., organizational procedural justice, work engagement, knowledge sharing, and innovative work behavior). The results of the study demonstrate empirically that the direct and positive relationships among four research variables are all statistically significant. Among the direct relationships, it reveals that organizational procedural justice has a more powerful effect on employee work engagement when compared to its effect on knowledge sharing and innovative work behavior and that employee knowledge sharing and innovative work behavior are more strongly influenced by their work engagement. Furthermore, the results of the mediating effects among them show that employee work engagement has a strong indirect impact on the relationships among organizational procedural justice, knowledge sharing, and innovative work behavior. Based on the research findings, researchers could replicate the proposed research model in other settings and extend the results of this study by including other antecedent and consequent variables, which are related to organizational sustainability, in order to better comprehend and generalize the results of this study. Moreover, considering the significant mediating role of employee work engagement with support from extant literature [50
], researchers could focus on investigating roles of employee work engagement in various settings (e.g., individual/team/organizational level of work engagement, different level of positions, and crossover of engagement overtime) by employing a quantitative or qualitative approach.
Secondly, although it is important for organizations to consider the economic, environmental, and human (social) dimensions of organizational sustainability in balanced and enduring ways, the existing literature indicates that the human dimension has received relatively less attention [1
]. Given that the human dimension entails the processes of generating social health and improving employee well-being (i.e., employee engagement at work) within an organizational context, the current study attempts to investigate employee work engagement as a key component of the human dimension [1
] and its relationship with three organizational variables (i.e., organizational procedural justice, knowledge sharing, and innovative work behavior), which are assumed to be relevant both conceptually and empirically to work engagement and the human dimension of organizational sustainability. The results of the study show that all of the direct and indirect effects that exist among work engagement, organizational procedural justice, knowledge sharing, and innovative work behavior are statistically significant. Moreover, the results demonstrate that employee work engagement plays a central role among the various structural relationships in several ways. Firstly, organizational procedural justice has a stronger impact on work engagement and secondly, because the direct and indirect effects of work engagement on knowledge sharing and innovative work behavior are stronger than those of the other variables examined. It is implied that the proposed research model is a valid model, and it suggests a meaningful link to the human dimension of organizational sustainability. However, it should be noted that since the current study claims the link between the proposed research model and the human dimension of organizational sustainability from a more conceptual perspective, it might be limited in providing more in-depth implications for organizational sustainability. Thus, researchers could extend the research model by empirically linking the results to the human dimension of organizational sustainability based on a robust theoretical framework. Furthermore, researchers could consider the link between extended or modified research models and organizational sustainability not only in terms of the human dimension but also in terms of the economic and environmental dimensions of organizational sustainability, e.g., increased work engagement (human dimension) positively affects saving and creating organizational core resources (environmental dimension), which ultimately leads to increased revenues (economic dimension).
5.2. Practical Implications
Firstly, given the positive influence of organizational procedural justice on work engagement, knowledge sharing, and innovative work behavior, organizations should make significant efforts to improve and maintain the level of formal procedural justice within organizations by not only sharing relevant information and providing useful feedback about their decision-making processes in transparent and fair ways, but also by actively listening to employee opinions and involving employee groups that encompass various work positions and the job areas involved in the process of making decisions. In addition, the results of the study reveal that the effects of organizational procedural justice on employee innovative work behavior and knowledge sharing are stronger when they are mediated by employee work engagement. It implies that if organizations set up and implement transparent and fair procedures in decision-making, employees are more likely to repay them not only by being more engaged in their work but also by facilitating and encouraging knowledge sharing and innovative work behavior. Thus, it is noteworthy that organizational efforts regarding organizational procedural justice would be more effective and efficient when aligned with supporting work engagement.
Secondly, organizations should consider on- and off-line environments to facilitate, support, and share job-related tacit knowledge, as well as explicit knowledge among employees or teams/groups. It is important to reduce or remove organizational silos, catalyze the sharing of relevant knowledge or ideas to address work-related issues among engaged employees or teams/groups without any barriers, and systematically manage any kinds of knowledge created within an organization. For example, organizations could create a virtual collective intelligence platform where employees share knowledge, ideas, and opinions related to their projects and management challenges and collectively explore innovative ideas and problem-solving interventions, which, in turn, could lead to relevant value creation to organizational sustainability.
Thirdly, organizations need to pay continuous attention to maintaining and strengthening employee innovative work behavior, which is positively influenced by organizational and individual efforts (i.e., procedural justice, work engagement, and knowledge sharing). Specifically, Human Resources (HR) practitioners should consider either creating or modifying HR-related policies (e.g., creative culture, incentives for innovative work behavior) to link employee innovative behavior (i.e., human performance) to economic performance to create sustainable organizations. For instance, if employees have innovative and realistic ideas and high degree of enthusiasm for developing them into real services and products, organizations could consider providing employees with substantive opportunities so as to improve organizational performance levels (e.g., new patents and business projects).
6. Conclusions, Limitations, and Future Research
This research has made a significant effort to investigate employee work engagement and its relationship with organizational procedural justice, knowledge sharing, and innovative work behaviors in organizations in terms of the human dimension of organizational sustainability. The results of the study demonstrate that all of the direct and indirect relationships among work engagement, organizational procedural justice, knowledge sharing, and innovative work behavior are positively and statistically significant, supporting all proposed hypotheses. However, several limitations should be noted and considered when conducting future research.
Firstly, since this study used the self-reported survey approach to collect the data, response bias may exist, even though the CMB test was implemented through the single factor test and the single factor model. In order to deal with this potential issue and increase the objectivity of the data, using advanced measurements (e.g., cross-rating approach) or a longitudinal research design (e.g., latent growth model) with a multi-level or more complex model is recommended.
Secondly, the data were collected from organizations in South Korea through a convenience sampling approach, which may restrict the generalizability of the study results. Moreover, among the research sample, about 81% of the total sample were male, and 79% of the participants had a 4-year college degree or higher, which may limit the generalization of the results. To obtain more precise results and increase generalizability of the study findings, the stratified sampling (e.g., gender, age, industry, and/or job area) or the random sampling method is recommended. In addition, as this research was conducted in organizations within the Asian context, future research could be replicated to examine the current research model in various settings (e.g., Western or European countries) and explore any similarities and differences that may exist between the research findings from the current study and those from other settings.
Last, the current study focused on only the structural relationships that exist among four latent variables (i.e., organizational procedural justice, work engagement, knowledge sharing, and innovative work behavior) from the perspective of organizational sustainability. However, given that organizational sustainability was not directly measured and examined in this study, future studies should consider measuring the concept of organizational sustainability [16
] and investigate its relationship with the aforementioned four latent variables or other existing constructs that are related to organizational sustainability (e.g., organizational commitment and organizational support or objective tangible outcome variables) or the associated moderating variables (e.g., position, organization size, and gender).