Original Research

Enhancing the well-being of support services staff in higher education: The power of appreciation

Laurika van Straaten, Annelize du Plessis, S.P. Fanus van Tonder
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 42, No 1 | a1301 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v42i1.1301 | © 2016 Laurika van Straaten, Annelize du Plessis, S.P. Fanus van Tonder | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 August 2015 | Published: 28 July 2016

About the author(s)

Laurika van Straaten, School of Higher Education Studies, University of the Free State, South Africa
Annelize du Plessis, School of Higher Education Studies, University of the Free State, South Africa
S.P. Fanus van Tonder, School of Higher Education Studies, University of the Free State, South Africa


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Abstract

Orientation: A literature search for studies on the well-being of support staff of higher education institutions (HEIs) produced very little results. Appreciation was then used to identify elements that might enhance the well-being of a selected HEI’s support staff.

Research purpose: The aim was to explore the strengths of a selected HEI that might serve as driving forces for enhancing its support staff’s well-being.

Motivation for the study: The lack of research on the well-being of support staff motivated the study. A need was identified to explore driving forces that might enhance their well-being.

Research design, approach and method: A literature review guided by theoretical perspectives and theories on staff well-being was conducted. Subsequently, a qualitative action research design involving an Appreciative Inquiry (AI) workshop with support staff of an institution was followed.

Main findings: The following strengths that might serve as driving forces for enhancing the well-being of the institution’s support services staff were identified: hard-working and dedicated support staff, positive relations among colleagues, a willingness to adapt to change,good remuneration and benefits, job security and a supportive work environment. Appreciative Inquiry was found to be well suited for identifying such strengths, as opposed to methods that focus on identifying problems or weaknesses of an organisation. As a result of this study, the relevant institution might react and build on these identified strengths towards promoting the well-being of its support staff.

Practical/managerial implications: Institutions should make an effort to enhance staff well being. The results of the study could also be used to encourage HEIs to use AI to establish optimal staff well-being.

Contribution/value add: The study confirmed the power of appreciation to identify the strengths that might serve as driving forces for enhancing the well-being of support staff of an HEI.


Keywords

staff well-being; higher education; support staff; appreciative inquiry; organisational climate

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