An integrated framework for enhanced staff well-being at South African public higher education institutions
Van Straaten, Laurika
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This study entailed an inquiry into the well-being programmes applied by South African public higher education institutions. The existence and focus of these programmes were explored, as well as whether these programmes are offered in an integrated manner, as opposed to a fragmented manner. The aim was to identify the strengths and possible gaps related to South African public higher education institutions’ well-being programmes. The rationale for this study was a lack of the existence of an integrated employee well-being framework for South African public higher education institutions to guide their employee well-being programmes. South African public higher education institutions cannot afford to neglect their employees’ well-being, or to address it in a fragmented manner, as such negligence has severe implications for employees’ performance, as well as the financial sustainability of these institutions. The lack of integrated employee well-being programmes offered at these institutions was confirmed during both a pilot study and the empirical research conducted. This implied the need for a well-being framework, which could guide universities in approaching employee well-being in a more effective and integrated manner, geared to their enhanced well-being. This rationale ensued in the formulation of the primary research question and six secondary research questions, which guided the study. The primary research question was: How can employees of SA public HEIs’ well-being be enhanced by means of an integrated well-being framework, aimed at addressing their well-being holistically? An extensive literature review was conducted to address the purpose and objectives of the study. Furthermore, a document analysis was performed. A qualitative research approach was followed. The empirical study involved a survey conducted amongst eleven South African public higher education institutions. Seven components related to employees’ well-being (with several sub-components each), which are regarded as important for the enhancement of their well-being, emerged from the literature and during the empirical research. These relate to defining the concept of well-being; the nine dimensions of well-being (i.e. physical, emotional, psychological, social, financial, spiritual, environmental, intellectual and occupational well-being); and the importance of SA public HEIs having policies and procedures, strategies and programmes in place to guide and enhance their employees’ well-being. Another aspect addressed was the importance of establishing an institutional culture and values that create an enabling environment for employees to flourish; as well as having a clear understanding of the different role players in employee well-being, and more specifically, the role of South African public higher education institutions in this regard. These mentioned components of well-being were utilised to design an integrated employee well-being framework for these institutions, aimed at enhancing their employees’ well-being. This was accomplished by integrating relevant well-being theories and the research findings, that is, the results of the pilot study, literature review, document analysis and the empirical study. The proposed well-being framework was validated by a panel of experts in the disciplines of industrial and educational psychology, higher education, organizational development and employee well-being, by means of a semi-structured, open-ended questionnaire. First, a pilot validation was performed, followed by a validation by a panel of experts. The inputs of experts gained from both rounds of the validation were analysed and, where applicable and confirmed by the literature, incorporated into a final employee well-being framework for South African public higher education institutions. This integrated employee well-being framework will assist South African public higher education institutions in addressing their employees’ well-being holistically and in an integrated manner. Thus, the framework will benefit South African public higher education institutions and their employees, as it might positively impact employees’ well-being, and consequently, the financial sustainability of these institutions and the outputs produced by their employees. Nuanced guidelines for the implementation of the framework were designed as part of the integrated employee well-being framework.
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