Date of Award

5-2-2021

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Executive Doctorate in Business (EDB)

Department

Business

First Advisor

Dr. Denish Shah

Second Advisor

Dr. Lars Mathiassen

Third Advisor

Dr. Ben Lawrence

Abstract

Research in the organizational behavior and identification domains includes numerous studies examining how employees identify and acculturate with their employing firm. However, a dearth of research exists examining the identification and acculturation process for firms that employ individuals who support a client firm full-time for an extended period. This case study seeks to discover the identification and acculturation process of a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) firm operating with this model. The research seeks to learn how the focal firm balances the tension of acculturating its employees while preparing and equipping them with the processes, procedures, and necessary cultural elements of the client firm they support to deliver the highest quality of service possible to the client. The research examines the actions taken by leadership to foster acculturation and the experiences and barriers of the focal firm employees which strengthen or weaken the process. Additionally, it considers the inputs of the client in the identification and acculturation process.

Through qualitative investigation, the research explores how focal firm leaders seek to acculturate employees and how and why employees embrace and embody the focal firm’s culture. Empirical evidence was gathered through semi-structured interviews conducted with tenured and new individuals, including senior leaders, middle-level leaders, and employees. This evidence was supplemented with secondary data sources to provide insight into the focal firm culture. Five themes emerged from the empirical evidence as significant: Firm Culture, Leader Characteristics, Leadership Actions, Employee Responses, and other Identification and Acculturation Factors, including Employee Barriers and Client Inputs. Findings showed that a strong firm culture and leadership buy-in was paramount to the identification and acculturation process, and five specific leadership actions drove employee identification and acculturation with the focal firm. Findings also showed that employee experiences and barriers and client inputs moderated the acculturation process. As a result of the findings, contributions have been made to both theory and practice. A contribution has been made to theory by offering a detailed empirical account of how a BPO firm acculturates employees with the focal firm while balancing the tensions of client culture. Empirical findings led to the development of propositions and a conceptual framework that added to the academic literature in the organizational identity and employee acculturation domains. Additionally, the findings contributed to the creation of a Firm Identity Continuum to gauge the state of employees. As a contribution to practice, the study offers recommendations for how practitioners can aid the identification and acculturation process by applying the conceptual framework and using the Firm Identity Continuum to evaluate employees who work for one firm but support another full-time. Guidance is offered for achieving the appropriate balance of identification and acculturation for the focal firm.

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