WORKWELL RESEARCH UNIT
Research within the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences
In 1996, the University decided to follow a more focused strategy with regard to research. Given the fact that we are not a large university, it was decided to focus research within specific "focus areas", where capacity already exists. In 1997, the focus area "Decision-making and Management for Economic Development" was born within the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences.
Already in 1998, the focus area was evaluated by an external committee, which recommended that the focus area be supported by means of the allocation of additional personnel and funds, and recognition is given for the clear and specified outcomes, quantitative indicators of achievement, well-planned management, promising national and international collaborations and the "youthful and enthusiastic team". The focus area receives an A rating from the panel of evaluators.
The strategy of the University appears to have been successful, and between 1998 and 2002, the research outputs within the Faculty is multiplied six-fold, seeing the publications within this period go up from only 5 in 1998, to 31 in 2002. At the same time, the number of post-graduate students rises, and the flow-through number of post-graduate students is one of the best within the University.
After four years, in 2002, recognition is also given with regard to progress made by the focus area, and the status of the focus area is upgraded to that of recognised "research unit", as acknowledgement of the creation of a critical, homogeneous mass of expertise. A highlight for 2002 came when the Research Unit hosts the first South African conference on Burnout (or Psychological Health) of individuals within the workplace. In 2003, the 15th conference of the South African Institute for Management Sciences is also presented on the Potchefstroom Campus, and the best paper at the conference is presented by one of the Unit's members of staff.
In 2003, the Unit undergoes a process of trademark development and strategic positioning, and so "WorkWell", the Research Unit for People, Policy and Performance is created. In 2004, we presented the second Work Wellness, and this was followed in 2006 by the first South African Conference for Positive Psychology, a collaborative effort between the Unit and the Department for Clinical and Educational Psychology and Social Work.
In the Unit's lifetime, it has received, through its researchers, research grants from, among others, the South African Netherland Programme on Alternatives in Development (SANPAD), the Trade and Industrial Policy Secretariat (TIPS), the World Bank, The ASRC in the United Kingdom, the World Institute for Development Economics Research (WIDER), the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), as well as the Volkswagen Stifftung in Germany.
In 2005, the Unit also created a commercial entity, named Afriforte (Pty) Ltd, which provides a service to industry for the assessment of employee well-being. Clients of the company include SASOL, Momentum, the Goldfields mining group, the Department of Public Service and Administration, and ESKOM. The company is going from strength to strength.
In 2006, the Unit has successes such as being awarded a niche area in eco-tourism research by the National Research Foundation, as well as the highest number of awards on the entire campus, for young, promising researchers under the National Research Foundations' "Thuthuka" programme. Members of the Unit serve on international and international bodies, such as the Board of Directors of the International Council for Small Business, The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants, the Economic Society of South Africa, the Institute of Management Sciences, the South African Board for Personnel Practice, and the Society for Industrial and Organisational Psychology of South Africa. The quality of post-graduate education is emphasised through the awarding of four ABSA Bronze medals to post-graduate students - 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2007.
With regard to quantitative outputs, the Unit progresses from only seven publications in the Faculty in 1994, to a record number of 50 in 2005. Currently, an average of 40 publications per annum is maintained. Our delivered master's students increased from a mere 15 in 1995, to a record number of 47 in 2007. For the same period, the number of PhDs awarded grew from 6 to 11.
In order to ensure the success of the research, there will have to be continuous support from four pillars, namely quality assurance and control, capacity building, the maintenance and development of networks, and intensive research. In order to promote quality, in 2006 an Ethics Committee was founded within the Faculty. Personnel's capacity for research is promoted by means of the development of a short course in research methodology. We are also improving the training provided to students by means of, for example training in statistical software packages like LISREL modelling, SPSS and STATA. With regard to networks, extraordinary professors have been appointed within the Faculty representing expertise from all over the world, e.g. Sweden and England. Lastly, personnel are encouraged to participate in international conferences and workshops, and receive allocations for research outputs from the Institutional Office for Research and Innovation.