Original Research

Employee engagement at a private higher education institution during the COVID-19 pandemic

Nadeem Cassim, Christoffel J. Botha, Doret Botha, Christo Bisschoff
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 22 | a2300 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v22i0.2300 | © 2024 Nadeem Cassim, Christoffel J. Botha, Doret Botha, Christo Bisschoff | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 April 2023 | Published: 16 January 2024

About the author(s)

Nadeem Cassim, NWU Business School, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, North-West University, Portchefstroom, South Africa
Christoffel J. Botha, NWU Business School, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, North-West University, Portchefstroom, South Africa
Doret Botha, School of Social Sciences, Humanities, North-West University, Portchefstroom, South Africa
Christo Bisschoff, NWU Business School, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, North-West University, Portchefstroom, South Africa

Abstract

Orientation: During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, organisations, including higher education institutions, had to shift their thinking regarding traditional work models to new ones conducive to the lockdown.

Research purpose: This study investigated employees’ levels of engagement during work-from-home (WFH) within a private higher education institution in South Africa in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Motivation for the study: While some studies have looked at the effect of WFH on employee engagement, few studies could be located that look at this phenomenon within a private higher education setting.

Research approach/design and method: This study adopted the positivistic research paradigm using a quantitative research approach. The target population included 133 personnel. Total population sampling was used, and the data were collected by administering an online survey using the 17-item Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES). Descriptive statistics, confirmatory factor analysis (CFA), independent sample t-tests, analysis of variance (ANOVA) and effect sizes were used to analyse the data. A satisfactory response rate of 79% was realised.

Main findings: The study found that despite the difficulties and anxieties brought about by the radical shifts to WFH, the personnel could still thrive and show high levels of engagement. This was attributed to positive drivers of engagement such as autonomy, psychosocial safety, convenience, social union, and most importantly, organisational support.

Practical/managerial implications: Work-from-home is regarded as a viable work arrangement for the foreseeable future. Private higher education should take note of the suggestions put forward to improve, sustain and manage employee engagement successfully.

Contribution/value-add: This study contributes to the body of knowledge surrounding employee engagement in the WFH context within the private higher education sphere.


Keywords

COVID-19 pandemic; employee engagement; private higher education; South Africa; work-from-home.

JEL Codes

J50: General; M54: Labor Management

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth

Metrics

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