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Line managers have a very big part to play in the wellness of staff.

University of Otago Business School Management lecturer Dr Fiona Edgar researches Human Resource Management (HRM) and employment relations.

wellbeingMany organisations assume their HRM policies work and deliver optimum staff performance and therefore productivity to their organisation. Dr Edgar has been exploring the so-called “black box” – the gap that exists between people management and staff performance in the workplace.

She has been researching links between specific HRM practices and performance, using an employee-based research design. Recent studies have focused on wellbeing, something that is becoming increasingly recognised as important to effective workplace functioning and performance.

There are many ideas of what wellbeing is and how to address it - there are a host of reports on employee wellbeing, a review of New Zealand legislation on workplace health and safety, as well as the work being done by within the HRM scholarly community.

However, the term wellbeing lacks clarity, leading Dr Edgar to consider what employee wellbeing is, how to best measure it, and the role it plays in the HRM-performance relationship.

She has drawn on the World Health Organisation's definition of wellbeing which sees it as embracing physical, emotional and social functions.

Her study of employees in New Zealand has highlighted that relationships are instrumental in fostering worker wellbeing.

In particular, she showed line managers have more influence on the wellbeing of their staff than did HRM practices alone. “The hard data verifies that a key factor in employee wellbeing, and therefore how they approach goals, tasks, and challenges, is how they feel they are treated by their immediate boss.”

It also indicates that many line managers may not be adequately skilled to manage their staff. “To effectively enact HRM policies, line managers may need to be better equipped with soft skills like communication as much as with their technical expertise. This should be an important part of manager selection criteria and development processes.”

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