Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

Job Embeddedness, Work Engagement and Turnover Intention of Staff in a Higher Education Institution: An Exploratory Study

Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

Job Embeddedness, Work Engagement and Turnover Intention of Staff in a Higher Education Institution: An Exploratory Study

Article excerpt


Key focus of the study

As the global economy is increasingly knowledge driven, and with a global skills shortage, intellectual capital has become a source of competitive advantage for organisations (Halawi, Aronson & McCarthy, 2005; Powell & Snellman, 2004). Furthermore, more organisations are awakening to the need to grow the intellectual capital of their employees in order to compete successfully in an increasingly demanding global economy (Burke & El-Kot, 2010; Lawler, 2008). Retention of talent has, therefore, become more critical, both in South Africa and globally. (Macey & Schneider, 2008; Powell & Snellman, 2004; Ryder, 2010).

The present study seeks to contribute to the literature on staff retention by focusing on the relationship between the constructs of job embeddedness and work engagement, and the turnover intention of employees. These variables have been linked to staff retention in the research literature (Halbesleben & Wheeler, 2008) but their relationship has not been examined in the South African higher education context. This investigation seeks to contribute to the retention of staff in the higher education environment in South Africa by making recommendations for developing job embeddedness and work engagement, based on the findings of the study.

Potential value-add

This article contributes valuable new knowledge that could be used to inform retention strategies for employees in the higher education environment and may stimulate further research to promote a better understanding of the role of the three constructs described in retaining staff.

Background to the study

Higher education plays a critical role in the creation of knowledge for the cultivation of future talent and socio- economic development in South Africa (Van den Berg, Manias & Burger, 2008). Socio-economic and political strategies implemented by governments competing in the global economy are increasingly impacting negatively on the availability of talent in higher education (Makhanya, 2012). Furthermore, new labour market demographics, globalisation and competitive pressures have become essential for businesses to be effective (Marchington & Wilkinson, 2008). Academics are essential to societal life, because they are responsible for educating the leaders of society, as well as for conducting scientific research and furthering knowledge (Coetzee & Rothmann, 2004). However, higher education institutions in South Africa have become vulnerable to losing their highly qualified knowledge workers to well- paid offers from the private sector, and headhunting from other higher education institutions internationally (Ngobeni & Bezuidenhout, 2011). Martin and Roodt (2008) note in this regard the need for further studies to establish the turnover behaviour of academic staff in higher education institutions.

Institutional knowledge is a key component in the knowledge economy, (Powell & Snellman, 2004); managing knowledge through knowledge identification, acquisition, development, transfer and retention is, therefore, particularly important in higher education institutions (Probst, Raub & Romhardt, 2000). Moreover, these institutions not only produce highly skilled and enlightened intellectual capital for the social transformation and economic development of a nation (Shikha, 2012), but their core business activities, including research and development, require talented human capital to deliver quality learning experiences to students (Netswera, Rankumise & Mavundla, 2006).

Recognising the forces that keep employees in their current employment is critical in attracting and retaining talented staff in higher education institutions (Lawler & Finegold, 2000; Michaels, Handfield-Jones & Axelrod, 2001). Retention of talented staff promotes better decision-making capabilities, enhanced quality of curriculum programmes based on best practices, improved academic services and reduces turnover costs (Kidwell, Vander Linde & Johnson, 2000). …

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