Engagement in Worker Co-operatives: How Employee Engagement Manifests Differently with Worker Co-operatives

Paulina Wieczorek

Student thesis: Master thesis


The purpose of this study is to explore the co-operative structure with a specific focus on cooperative ownership and democratic control in relation to member engagement. The topic was found to be unmapped in the current literature, suggesting a research gap. The purpose of this thesis emerged from the decreasing number of engaged employees in hierarchical organisations, and the contribution engagement has on nurturing organisational performance that leads to various positive work outcomes. Therefore, there was compelling value to examining the potential of the most important elements of the co-operative structure in fostering high member engagement towards activities and organisations.
The study was organised as a qualitative inductive multi-case study of two cooperatives with a focus on a specific type -worker co-operatives. These businesses are embedded in two pivotal elements of the cooperative structure, worker-ownership and democratic control and fall within the parameters of the creative industries. The study was conducted based on seven participants across two different co-operatives, these participants simultaneously own and manage the businesses they work in (worker-owners). The data was collected from primary and secondary sources. The results were produced through the utilization of the thematic analysis as a fundamental method for the qualitative analysis. Hereby, the final themes that emerged were; self-direction, sense of belonging, supportive environment, the opportunity for advancement, transparency and personality traits. The findings were discussed in relation to cooperative ownership and democratic control. They were then cross examined to determine how they fulfil the three basic psychosocial needs; autonomy, competence and relatedness as an indication of high engagement. The findings corresponded with the situational factors that enhance engagement and were found to be firmly linked to cooperative ownership and democratic control creating a ‘climate for engagement’. The discussion answers the research question, that the elements of the co-operative structure appear to positively influence member’s engagement in work activities and organisations. This study provides recommendations on how to organise businesses to foster that engagement and highlight several important issues that must be recognized by both researchers and practitioners interested in further research.

EducationsMSocSc in Management of Creative Business Processes , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages89
SupervisorsEileen Murphy