Work engagement and psychological capital in a South African platinum mining company
The business landscape is generally in a continuous state of flux thereby obliging organisations to constantly act swiftly and decisively to ensure their sustained competitive advantage. Patently, human capital is increasingly being viewed as a resource at the organisation’s disposal that could be leveraged to achieve desired organisational outcomes. It is however also true that a determined social climate needs to be cultivated in the work environment for individuals to be persuaded to devote themselves effectively to their tasks to achieve organisational objectives. Over the years, the mining industry has been viewed as a risky working environment engendered by the inherent nature of the job. There has also been lingering perceptions among individuals that mining is a dangerous occupation that is characterised by a lack of job resources highlighted by aspects such as poor job design, unpleasant working conditions, and lack of participative decision-making. Such perceptions have indirectly hampered persistent efforts to attract talented individuals in requisite numbers and stalled endeavours to retain highly sought after skills. Invariably, the recent historic and protracted industrial upheavals that beset the industry in the form of violent strikes that involved management, organised labour and government have further exacerbated the situation. In an attempt to curb operational costs and maintain some of their profitable operations, mining organisations have resorted to drastic organisational restructuring measures, which are often accompanied by downsizing of the workforce and closing down of ailing mine operations, measures which are ostensibly aimed at addressing short-term costs challenges. However, this approach seems not to be a sustainable panacea to the economic woes facing the mining industry as it largely ignores the socio-contextual factors in the environment, which could be the answer to these recurrent challenges. Therefore, these endeavours by management may in fact remain short-term economic interventions with negative long-term consequences. Given the key role played by this sector in the South African economy, this untenable situation does not auger well for the long-term future of mining organisations and should be addressed expeditiously to salvage the downward spiral in performance in this industry. It is thus against this background that this study was undertaken. The study aimed to investigate the relationship between perceived supervisor support, co-worker support, organisational support, job design, and task characteristics on the one hand, and psychological capital, work engagement, intention to leave, and job performance of employees in a platinum mining organisation in South Africa, on the other. A cross-sectional survey design was used to gather data regarding all these constructs as experienced by employees. A stratified random sample (n = 564) of employees from a platinum mining company took part in this study. The measuring instruments used were the adapted version of the Engagement Scale, Supervisory Support Scale, Job Diagnostic Survey, Psychological Capital Questionnaire, Job Performance Scale, Survey of Perceived Organisational Support, Turnover Intention Scale, and a biographical questionnaire. The statistical analyses were carried out using Mplus version 7.31. The results of the first study showed that task characteristics, perceived supervisor support, and co-worker support were positively related to work engagement. More specifically, the two dimensions of task characteristics (i.e. task identity and task significance) contributed mostly to work engagement relative to the relational context (i.e. perceived supervisor support for employee autonomy, competence and relatedness satisfaction, and co-worker support). Notwithstanding, the relational context is still crucial in the work environment, in particular among lower-level employees who value respect and civility in the workplace. These results accentuate the fact that when employees experience their work tasks to be imbued with significance and identity, they might feel obliged to reciprocate by showing higher levels of engagement. The results of the second study showed that supervisor support and employees’ level of psychological capital is positively related to employees’ job performance. Psychological capital also mediated the relationship between supervisor support (for employee autonomy, competence and relatedness satisfaction) and employees’ job performance. On its own, supervisor support showed a small direct effect on employees’ job performance. These results indicate that supervisor support is vital insofar as it enhances employees’ level of psychological capital (i.e. hope, optimism, resilience, and self-efficacy), and, in turn, improves their performance. The third study showed that organisational support had a strong positive impact on psychological capital (i.e. hope, optimism, resilience, and self-efficacy) and negative relations with intention to leave. Psychological capital played no mediating role in a relationship between organisational climate and intention to leave. Of significance in this study is that a positive social climate at work will likely encourage employees to stay on and it can even serve as an effective recruitment strategy to attract employees to the organisation.