Employment conditions in higher education are changing with an increasing reliance on casual and contract staff for academic, administrative and research-focused areas. The current study explored how personal and workplace resources of staff without permanent, on-going appointments could mitigate the effects of inherent insecurity of such jobs at a regional university. It was hypothesised that staff with more resources would be less affected by worries about job insecurity. Volunteers (N=130, 21.7% response) from casual and contract staff completed an online survey about their workplace conditions (e.g., job autonomy, fairness), personal resources (e.g., self-efficacy, optimism), factors of job security, and the outcomes of job satisfaction, organisational commitment, burnout, and turnover intentions, and work’s most challenging and rewarding aspects. Participants (75% female) were aged 19 to 73 years and in academic (n=57), administrative (n=60), and research-focused (n=13) roles. Most participants (n=103) had university qualifications. Hierarchical multiple regressions entered personal resources, workplace resources, and job security factors for each outcome. Perceived fairness was the strongest predictor of job satisfaction, organisational commitment, emotional exhaustion and cynicism, with optimism and self-efficacy also significant predictors of these outcomes. Turnover intentions were predicted by lack of employment prospects and skill discretion, rather than personal or workplace resources. Qualitative comments indicated the absence of fairness made work challenging (e.g., inadequate preparation and/or supervision of work, uncertain future), whilst rewards were from positive interactions with students and colleagues. Rather than job insecurity per se being problematic, where staff felt that they were fairly treated by management, they remained satisfied and committed to their work and avoided burnout. Fairness implies a just process of knowing when work will be available, and how that work will be done. Combined with self-efficacy and optimism, and good employment prospects, university management can address these areas to maintain a valuable part of their workforce.
2015 University Research Conference: Integrate, Innovate, Inspire, Sunshine Coast, Australia 13-16 July 2015