Management & Economics Faculty Spotlight: Alan Saks

Congratulations to Alan Saks, 2022 recipient of the UTSC Principal’s Research Award.


How would you describe your research and its impact on business and/or society at large?

I am most excited about the topic of organizational care as it became an especially important factor during the pandemic. I believe that organizations have to begin to care more about their employees than ever before. The pandemic showed us that caring and not caring about your employees has much greater consequences than just job attitudes and job performance.
Organizational care has to do with the extent to which an organization values and cares about employees’ health and well-being and responds to employees’ concerns and needs. When employees feel that their organization cares about them they will return that care to the organization with higher levels of engagement and performance. Organizational socialization involves the various formal and informal programs that organizations use to help newcomers learn about their job, role, and the organization so that they will become adjusted and successful members of the organization. Employee engagement has to do with the extent to which employees are fully immersed in their roles and jobs. This means that they will employ and express themselves cognitively, physically, and emotionally. Thus, overall my research aims to have a positive impact on employees and organizations. 

What elements of your research most excite you right now?

I developed a theory with my colleague Jamie Gruman called Socialization Resources Theory. The basic idea is that organizations need to provide newcomers with a variety of resources at different times throughout the organizational entry and socialization process. A key question is what resources are most important and when should they be provided and who should be providing them. With respect to organizational care, a key question is what factors are most important for employees to experience care from the organization, and how do employees respond when they feel they are cared for by the organization and when they are not being cared for by the organization. For employee engagement, one of my main interests is the difference between job engagement and organization engagement. Most research on employee engagement has focused on work or job engagement. I developed a model that includes both job engagement and organization engagement and I found that while both are related to work outcomes, organization engagement is more strongly related to some outcomes than job engagement. Thus, some key research questions have to do with what factors are most important for job versus organization engagement, and when is job versus organization engagement most important.

Speaking of research, you were recently recognized as one of the top 2% most influential scientists in the business and management discipline. Can you tell us about this recognition?

Stanford University published a list of the top 2% of scientists in different disciplines several years ago. The list was sent to me and when I looked at it I was pleasantly surprised to see my name. I was ranked 116 on the list of business and management scientists.

Tell us what brought you to the University of Toronto. Why did you choose to join the Department of Management and Economics at U of T Scarborough?

When I joined UTSC in 2002 the Organizational Behaviour and Human Resources Management (OB/HRM) area was very small, with only two other faculty members at the time. As a result, there was a great deal of opportunity to grow the area and develop new programs and courses. We only had one introduction to HRM course so I was able to help develop specialized courses and to make HRM an important area for students to specialize in. Shortly after my arrival I developed courses in Training and Development and Human Resources Planning and Strategy and I still teach these courses today. Coming to U of T has not only given me an opportunity to work at a top research-oriented university, but it also allowed me to be part of a growing department which has become one of the best in the country. The Department of Management has many top scholars in various disciplines and the OB/HRM group is one of the best nationwide.

What’s been your proudest moment as a member of the Management faculty to date?

Receiving the UTSC Principal’s Research Award in 2022, my 20th year at U of T Scarborough. It is always nice to be recognized for your research and so this award was especially meaningful to receive.

Can you share any future research plans or business challenges you are trying to solve?

I have written two conceptual papers on caring in organizations and I plan to continue to focus on this area. I hope to test some of the propositions I have developed and to develop new models and theories of caring in organizations. There has not been very much research on caring in organizations so there is much to learn. I am especially interested in learning about the things that organizations can do so that they are providing care to employees and how employees respond to caring and the consequences of having caring and uncaring employees.