Exploring leadership factors creating employee engagement or disengagement across job grade categories at a public higher education institution in South Africa


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Ongoing difficulties in promoting employee commitment confront the domain of higher education, hence, the importance of staff to help achieve institutional goals grows. For this to happen, employee engagement is key. This paper examined the issues of engagement or disengagement amongst employees, including job grades and the factors influencing this, at Durban University of Technology, South Africa. It adopted a quantitative and qualitative method of inquiry. The quantitative data collection targeted 420 employees utilizing questionnaires and obtained a response rate of 312 (74%). The qualitative aspect involved interviewing 12 out of 18 leadership personnel, giving a response rate of 67%. Also, descriptive and inferential analysis was used. Internal employee engagement demonstrated a significant difference across job level categories, F (4, 307) = 4.012, p = 0.003. There is also a significant difference in agreement mean score, which is lower for lecturer grade level (M = 2.5257, SD = 1.08359) than middle manager grade level (M = 3.2909, SD = 0.82396), showing that lecturer grade level is more engaged as compared to the middle manager level reflecting that the this level is not as engaged as it should be. Obtained qualitative results showed that there was minimal employee engagement. Overall, there was more employee disengagement than engagement at the institution, leading to employee stress, increased employee turnover, and minimal employee productivity. This can, in turn, affect institutional productivity. However, leadership viewed employee engagement as important and something to be further developed.

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    • Table 1. Employee engagement items
    • Table 2. Pattern matrix for employee engagement constructs
    • Table 3. ANOVA results for two measures across job grade category
    • Conceptualization
      Anrusha Bhana, Sachin Suknunan
    • Formal Analysis
      Anrusha Bhana
    • Investigation
      Anrusha Bhana
    • Methodology
      Anrusha Bhana, Sachin Suknunan
    • Project administration
      Anrusha Bhana
    • Validation
      Anrusha Bhana, Sachin Suknunan
    • Visualization
      Anrusha Bhana, Sachin Suknunan
    • Writing – original draft
      Anrusha Bhana
    • Writing – review & editing
      Anrusha Bhana, Sachin Suknunan
    • Supervision
      Sachin Suknunan