Can we get more satisfaction? Improving quality of working life survey results in UK universities

Sumayha Qudah, Julie Davies, Ria Deakin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The quality of working life (QoWL) has preoccupied practitioners and management scholars since the 1960s [Grote, G., and D. Guest. 2017. “The Case for Reinvigorating Quality of Working Life Research.” Human Relations 70 (2): 149–167. doi:10.1177/0018726716654746], while satisfaction and occupational stress for professional and academic staff in universities are issues of growing concern amidst a context of poor student mental health literacy [Gorczynski, P., W. Sims-Schouten, D. Hill, and J. C. Wilson. 2017. “Examining Mental Health Literacy, Help Seeking Behaviours, and Mental Health Outcomes in UK University Students.” The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice 12 (2): 111–120]. The enhancement of QoWL appears increasingly difficult to achieve within the UK higher education (HE) sector, with constant external and internal reforms [Bessant, C., and S. Mavin. 2016. “Neglected on the Front Line: Tensions and Challenges for the First-Line ManagerAcademic Role in UK Business Schools.” Journal of Management Development 35 (7): 916–929. doi:10.1108/JMD-09-2014-0105], the “tyranny of metrics” [Muller, J. Z. 2018. The Tyranny of Metrics. Princeton: Princeton University Press], and the continuous decline in QoWL survey results, which became an issue for many UK universities [Denvir, A., J. Hillage, A. Cox, A. Sinclair, and D. Pearmain. 2008. “Quality of Working Life in the UK.” http://www.employmentstudies.co.uk/system/files/resources/files/452.pdf]. Furthermore, there is little understanding of how university HR departments enhance QoWL [Yeo, R. K., and J. Li. 2011. “Working Out the Quality of Work Life: A Career Development Perspective with Insights for Human
Resource Management.” Human Resource Management International Digest 19 (3): 39–45. doi:10.1108/09670731111125952]. This paper presents a new perspective by looking at the role of HR and management in achieving QoWL in the UK’s HE sector. The incongruity between strategic human resource management metrics in the HE sector to measure
employee well-being and self-reported employee satisfaction has a significant influence on student satisfaction, particularly in large units like business schools. Drawing on secondary data, we contribute to debates on current challenges faced by UK universities and offer practical suggestions to improve QoWL.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-47
Number of pages9
JournalPerspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education
Volume23
Issue number2-3
Early online date30 Oct 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2019

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