Job insecurity and work engagement of staff in higher education: the role of job crafting
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Higher education institutions (HEIs) in South Africa are, to no small extent, driven by change and transformation. Change and transformation of HEIs in the country originate from the strategy to redress inequalities of the apartheid era and is the driving force of the country’s own development and transformation. University mergers that started in 2003 contributed to the 1994 democratic government’s transformation agenda of the South African society. In recent years, however, the challenges experienced by public higher education institutions in the country have led to debates around the crisis faced by South Africa’s universities. Those challenges facing higher education, including inadequate access, decolonisation of universities and poor finance strategies, add to the plight of higher education in the country. Despite some achievements in the higher education system, the insufficient progress of the transformation agenda of higher education in the country became apparent during the 2015 and 2016 student protests. These protests emerged as a demonstration of the frustrations with the country’s leaders to expose the shortcomings and failures of the transformation of South Africa’s higher education. Changes such as transformation, mergers and unrest in an organisation result in job insecurity. Job insecurity is a job stressor which results in significant adverse outcomes for employers and employees. One of the negative consequences of job insecurity is reduced work engagement, which in turn has an impact on well-being and performance. Thus, there is a need to find ways to improve the work engagement of employees. University staff needs ways of coping with the adverse effects that job insecurity has on work engagement. Job crafting could be a possible buffer to the impact that job insecurity has on the work engagement of staff members. The research followed a quantitative cross-sectional research design. A total of 857 questionnaires were completed from different public higher education institutions in South Africa. The Job Insecurity Scale, the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale UWES-3, and the Overarching Job Crafting Scale were administered. Descriptive statistics, reliability and correlation coefficients, measurement models, structural models, goodness-of-fit statistics and PROCESS macro were used to analyse the data. The results revealed that job insecurity had a negative relationship with work engagement. Qualitative job insecurity demonstrated a stronger relationship with reduced engagement than quantitative job insecurity. Furthermore, job crafting was found to buffer the association between qualitative job insecurity and work engagement. In the case of quantitative job insecurity, job crafting buffered the negative impact of job insecurity on work engagement at low and mean levels of job crafting. This buffer effect was however not statistically significant at high levels of job crafting. Overall, these findings indicate that the presence of job crafting decreases the negative consequences of job insecurity on work engagement. Organisations can, therefore, incorporate job crafting as a bottom-up strategy for employees to use as a buffer of the negative consequences of job insecurity on work engagement. Recommendations concerning future research were made.