Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Tracking the Employee Satisfaction-Life Satisfaction Binary: The Case of South African Academics

Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Tracking the Employee Satisfaction-Life Satisfaction Binary: The Case of South African Academics

Article excerpt


The South African higher education landscape has experienced extensive transformation since the emergence of democracy in 1994. The creation of a three-tier university system consisting of traditional universities, new generation universities and universities of technology, the creation of new regulatory bodies, the changing nature of student and staff distribution, the changing models of instructional delivery and intensified research emphases are some of the hallmark undercurrents characterising these dynamics (Jansen, 2004). The transformations were intended to enable higher education institutions in the country to produce outcomes that are in line with the dynamic needs and demands of the contemporary society (Zohreh, Nadergholi & Alia, 2011). Be that as it may, the transformation process remains hamstrung by a cocktail of challenges, one of which is the shortage of academics at universities (Council on Higher Education, 2011). This shortage may be attributed, in part, to high attrition rates triggered by the failure to satisfy psychological contracts of such academics (Pienaar & Bester, 2006). High turnover of academics obviously has severe repercussions for the South African higher education sector, which is currently in its growth stage (Muller, 2013). To address this challenge, most academic institutions in South Africa have had to contend with the momentous task of recruiting and retaining their academics (Samuel & Chipunza, 2013). A possible solution to this challenge, though, could be to provide employment conditions that facilitate the satisfaction of the needs of university academics, with a view to retaining them.

The purpose of the current study is to investigate the relationship between employee satisfaction and life satisfaction amongst university academics in South Africa. To achieve this, the study measures the impact of five employee satisfaction factors, specifically workplace flexibility, skills utilisation, teamwork, remuneration and autonomy, which have been given emphasis in previous higher education research (e.g. Filiz, 2013; Ignat & Clipa, 2012; Jusoff, Hussein, Ju & Din, 2009), on life satisfaction amongst a cohort of South African university academics. There are several motivations for conducting this study. Firstly, although research interests focusing on the employee satisfaction of academics are evidently growing, they are dominated by evidence from either Western European or North American environments. Consequently, research is needed in order to understand how employee satisfaction relates to other factors in the context of academics in developing countries such as South Africa. Secondly, a number of previous studies that have examined the subject of satisfying the needs of academics in South Africa (e.g. Nieuwenhuizen, 2011: Rasool & Botha, 2011; Schulze, 2006) have excluded the dimensions that are examined in this study. As such, the conceptual framework that is put forward in this study is yet to be tested within the South African higher education environment. Thirdly, as suggested by Mokoditoa (2011), the attraction and retention of academics involves, amongst other things, paying particular attention to specific elements of organisational behaviour that are linked to employee motivation. Employee satisfaction and life satisfaction occupy an important niche in organisational behaviour. This presents a need to conduct research that generates knowledge on the behaviour of academics, with the aim of retaining them within the South African academic sector. In sum, it is necessary to continue generating new knowledge on any topic within any discipline of organisational behaviour, in order to update organisational theory (Taylor & Hansen, 2005).

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Research theory

There are three dominant theoretical explanations accounting for the relationship between employee satisfaction and life satisfaction. …

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