Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

A Structural Model of Job Resources, Organisational and Individual Strengths Use and Work Engagement

Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

A Structural Model of Job Resources, Organisational and Individual Strengths Use and Work Engagement

Article excerpt


The most valuable asset of any organisation is its human capital (Shults, 2008). It is therefore of the utmost importance to develop employees in order to optimise performance towards a competitive advantage. However, in order to increase performance, many organisations are following a 'deficiency approach', that is developing their employees' weaknesses (Buckingham & Clifton, 2001). According to Clifton and Harter (2003), an organisation that follows a deficiency approach focuses on employees who do not function well by providing them with training around their weak points or areas of underdevelopment.

At the turn of the century, a paradigm shift occurred, and the science of positive psychology emerged (Kristjánsson, 2010; Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). This positive approach to psychology is concerned with the well-being and the optimal functioning of the individual (Duckworth, Steen & Seligman, 2005). The development of individuals' talents into strengths is at the forefront of the positive psychology movement (Jimerson, Sharkey, Nyborg & Furlong, 2004). The development of the positive psychology movement also gained popularity, with organisational researchers focusing on its implications in the work environment (Luthans & Youssef, 2007). In this respect, a number of domains and approaches have recently emerged (Luthans & Youssef, 2007). One of these new domains for application in the work context is called 'positive organisational behaviour' (Luthans, 2002a; Luthans & Youssef, 2007). According to Luthans (2002b, p. 59), positive organisational behaviour can be defined as 'the study and application of positively oriented human resource strengths and psychological capacities that can be measured, developed, and effectively managed for performance improvement in today's workplace'. Therefore, with reference to the definition of positive organisational behaviour and the basis of positive psychology, there seems to be a link between positive organisational behaviour and a focus on strengths.

Research has indicated that when people develop and use their strengths, it leads to positive psychological and behavioural outcomes (Biswas-Diener, Kashdan & Minhas, 2011; Linley, Nielsen, Wood, Gillett & Biswas-Diener, 2010). They are happier, have fewer feelings of depression (Seligman, Steen, Parks & Peterson, 2005) and are more productive (Clifton & Harter, 2003). These findings also correlate with the 'happy-productive' thesis, which indicates that happy employees are more productive (Zelenski, Murphy & Jenkins, 2008). Studies done by Govindji and Linley (2007), and Linley et al. (2010) have indicated that when applying their strengths, people have higher levels of energy and vitality. When employees indicated that they had the opportunity to develop and use their strengths, organisations demonstrated higher customer loyalty and lower employee turnover (Clifton & Harter, 2003).

The use of strengths is important both on an organisational and an individual level (Biswas-Diener et al., 2011; Els, Mostert, Van Woerkom, Rothmann & Bakker, in press). According to Linley and Harrington (2005, 2006), individuals have a natural tendency to grow and develop their potential and if they find themselves in an environment that supports their specific need for development, they will flourish. Research has indicated that when employees' strengths are implemented, it adds to their goal attainment, and enhances their self-esteem and well-being, which results in them feeling happier and more fulfilled (Govindji & Linley, 2007; Linley et al., 2010). These positive emotions result in their functioning at a higher level (Fredrickson, 2004), which, in the long term, contributes to the well-being of the organisation (Liehmann, 2009).

Strengths use can be instilled from an individual (employee) and an organisational perspective (Clifton & Harter, 2003). …

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