How can universitys staff development unit employ Psychological Contract Framework in managing their unique workforce?
IntroductionIndustrial and organisational psychology has been a study subject that has been by quite some researchers. Instead of extending those researches whose attention is paid to the general workplace, or a particular industry, I chose to execute the contemporary principles and findings in a single organisation in our academic world. The research at the beginning was originally aimed at exploring the practice of managing academic employees reaction, or at least, opinions to unmet expectations and how employers reputational and developmental activities (such as branding and inductions) might have impacted positively or negatively on those unfulfilled expectations. Having conducted relevant literature review, the interest of this research was further narrowed down to how universitys Human Resources (HR) and Staff Development Unit (SDU) can regularly employ Psychological Contract (PC) framework. This is to constantly revise and review their understanding of the organisations unique academic workforce which is constantly changing in the psychological nature.
The most captivating issue about academia is an observable convergence of British HE organisations. This is in terms of architectural and technological modernisation, employers branding, and expansion in faculty coverage (Bentley et al, 2013; McFarlane, 2005; Teichler et al, 2013). Education has been a greatly growing market in Britain since post World War II. The number of students (Undergraduate and Postgraduate Students) has risen from 50,000 in 1939-1940 to 2.34 million in 2012-2013, of which 18% were non-UK domicile (Robert, 2011; HESA, 2013). Globalisation means many universities aim at the World-Class level and a respectable position in research-based league tables and University association such as the Russell Group. Furthermore, to compete with nations whose education also appeals to many international students, Higher education sector also makes a crucial contribution to the macro-economy stability. This contribution amounts to 40 billion to the total UKs Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Those are sufficient reasons to support the adaptation of universities in techniques such as employer branding, rewards and professional development. The reason is that hiring, retaining and regenerating academics of the most suited quality are thought vital to the institutions survival (Coates et al, 2009 quoted in Bentley et al, 2013). Academics, on the other hand, are growingly required to keep up-to-date with curricular and policy imperatives, along with sustaining the acquisition of skills necessary to respond to students needs (Dorothy, 2010). Such requirements acknowledge academics needs such as receiving adequate professional training, IT support in different methods (Martin, Graham, 2010; David, 2006); adapt to and initiate innovative changes in organisational culture by developing leadership (Brunner, Tillett, 2005). Other needs are interpersonal relationships that foster constructive collegiality, psychological growth and satisfaction; and remain satisfied with their job (Rita et al, 2013). Nevertheless, it is not popularly known whether and which of the above necessities indeed belong to academics set of expectations, about what SDUs and the university as a whole should deliver; and what compositions of delivered obligations can guarantee high level of job satisfaction. Besides those needs, it has been claimed that the nature of universitys work conveys some of the most stressful and competitive environments to their academic employees (Bentley et al, 2013:225; Shen, 2010). Also, mismatch between academics and management in the desired allocation of time for autonomous and routine work exists (Barry et al, 2008; Joanna, 2011). In short, while universities are becoming increasingly commercialised, entrepreneurial changes in HEOs have overlooked the evolving nature and content of academics expectation (Bok, 2003; Clinton, 2009). In fact, UK academics satisfaction with their job is surprisingly low with only 45% describing their circumstances as highly or highly satisfactory (Bentley et al, 2013; University UK).
Given the interest to contribute to the literature of the reciprocal obligations between academics and their organisation, PC has been determined to be the fundamental theoretical framework of this project. The theory refers to an individuals beliefs regarding the reciprocal exchanges between them and the organisation (Rousseau, 1989 quoted by Locke and Coyle-Shapiro, 2013). The purpose of this project is to review the literature about PCs in an academic context and produce a methodological agenda that can be employed by universities HR practitioners. The benefits of applying PC framework in practice will benefit a university in two ways. First, by taking into account the contemporary nature of academia and academic professions as well as professoriate reactions to changes. Since academic workforce could differ in their views from one institution to another, an in-house perspective will produce the most cost-effective implications for their unique workforce. Secondly, by redefining the pattern of expectations and satisfaction, SDU not only updates the measures used in their annual employees satisfaction surveys but also confirm the necessary improvements in developmental activities.
A research design is logically more feasible if it is initially designed to be for adoption for one particular organisation (AHRC). Based on literature reviews and the discussions with managers at HR and SDU, we identified mutual interest in analysing the fulfillment of academics expectation before and after they enter university. We decided to design a Mixed Methods Approach that combines both qualitative and quantitative techniques, enabling us to gain both depth and breadth in gathering perspectives.
SDU is a first point of contact with professionals at the beginning of their employment. Not only do they deliver a fresh image of organisation to future incumbents, they also hold crucial position in ensuring that academic staff develop their professional capabilities, and well-being through various developmental programmes (such as Performance Development Review (PRD) or Induction) and advisory responsibilities.
Annually, employees opinions are surveyed using questionnaire designed by Capita Surveys & Research. In 2013, Research questionnaire received 1359 responses from a population of 2230 academics, which represented a response rate of 61% (Appendix 2). Collaboration with NU will thus increase the chance of gathering a large and statistically representative sample for our questionnaire design. Besides that, I was also permitted by NU to conduct in-depth interviews with HR advisors from 2 anonymous universities (Redbrick and Post-92), in order to identify relevant PC components and contrast these with findings from literature reviews.
In a nutshell, the agenda of this report is to review the literature on academics PCs and propose methodological approaches for NUs HR practitioners to research on the relevant psychology of their workforce. Review of literature will engage not only engage researches carried out with PC agenda but also, indispensable, the changing nature of the academic profession; and academics satisfaction studies. 3 approaches will be employed for research methods, which include a review of NUs Employees Opinion Survey 2013; in-depth semi-structured interviews with HR practitioners from different universities in order to define the theme of academics PC; and a questionnaire design that captures the most popular and recently emerging PCs elements. In the discussion chapter, we will summarise the findings anticipated and explain how this research design can be improved and adopted by HR practitioners in general.
There major methodological approaches will be used in collecting the relevant data and information for the project. These are:
Critical reviw of the Employees Opinion Survey of the Newcastle University of the year 2014.
Holding well-structured interviews with the various individuals in the Human Resources Development Department of the University and other institutions. This will provide a wider understanding of the issues and perspectives in the PC of academic institutions.
Using questionnaires to capture various elements of the Psychological Contract particularly the more recent and emerging elements in the field.
There are several defined foci for our research agenda. Firstly, the research participants are academic new starters (being with university less than one year who receive the most recent introductory programmes by SDU) based on UK campus. Secondly, the relationship between academics will be examined not only within a department but also those belonging to one single faculty or different departments/schools. Throughout the review of the literature, research methods adopted by previous PC researchers will be frequently discussed to justify our choices of research approaches.
Literature review2.1 Changing Nature of Academia in UK and Impact on the Academic Professions.Modern universities cited oftenly as the foundations of many economic and social innovations. Universities researching and teaching academics in a knowledge society, hold the central positions as producers of knowledge and educators of knowledge workers (Peter et al, quoted in Bentley et al, 2013:239). The nature of the academic profession has been evolving, adapting and responding to the external environment. Professoriates reflections on their situation over time (e.g. Wilson, 1980; Rice, 1986; Altbach, 1980, 1996, 1998), have agreed that the academic profession is distinct at any historical moment (Barbara, Ulr...
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