Performance evaluation, social influence and academics’ performance behaviours
The research detailed in this thesis analysed the performance evaluation (PE) of academics in eight New Zealand (NZ) universities. Academics are employees in these universities that are involved in teaching and research activities. Based on the interdisciplinary literature, this study conceptualised that PE can have at least four types of emphases. Firstly, the performance of academics in an NZ university can be evaluated on the basis of their adherence to set of principles, guidelines or procedures to perform their job; this was conceived as a process/procedure focused evaluation. Secondly, performance can be evaluated through social, collaborative or team mechanisms, which was conceptualised as a people focused evaluation. Thirdly, performance can be analysed on the basis of produced outputs, that is, an outcome focused evaluation. Finally, academics can be evaluated according to universities’ performance benchmarks through supervision and observation mechanisms, which was conceived as PE with a behavioural focus. The PE of an academic can focus on one or a combination of these approaches. Academics’ perceptions about their PE focus will influence their attitude, performance behaviours and thus performance. However, for such an assertion to be made, the need is first to explore academics’ perceptions about the focus of their PE. To measure such perceptions, this research employed a mixed methods approach; in particular, it employed an intra-method approach, which allowed the utilisation of quantitative and qualitative elements in the same instrument. To achieve its objectives, an online instrument was developed with 65 items which was rolled out to 7,637 academics in eight NZ universities. Responses from 1,083 academics highlighted that their PEs had procedural, outcome and people foci; that is, the NZ universities employed a combination of approaches in evaluating the teaching and research performance of their academics. According to social influence theory, an individual’s attitude is influenced by external or internal reasons, which are categorised as compliance and internalisation, respectively. Social influence theory also argues that compliance and internalisation based attitude will be underpinned by the perceptions of the influencing agent’s resource control and credibility. The influencing agent provides a model to an individual for the targeted behaviours. The individual complies with the demand of the behaviour due to external pressures because the individual perceives the influencing agent as the holder of resources which are instrumental in achieving the individual’s personal objectives. On the other hand, the individual accepts the presented behaviour due to its congruence with his/her value system. In this instance, the individual exhibits an internalised attitude because the individual perceives the influencing agent as credible. This study conceived that PE is an influencing agent and therefore can influence academics’ attitudes towards compliance or internalisation. In its second research objective, this study therefore set its objective to investigate whether academics’ perceptions of PE’s focus will influence their attitude to take the form of compliance or internalisation. To achieve the objective of RQ 2, this study divided this objective into 10 hypotheses. To address each of the 10 hypotheses, logistic regression, multinomial logistic regression, multilayer perceptron (MLP), contingency and various descriptive analyses were conducted. Data for teaching and research groups were subjected to these statistical analyses. The results from the teaching group showed that academics are 64% more likely to show an internalised attitude with a perceived people focus, while the probability of being internalised further increases 5% with each point increase in the perception of the people focus. These results were reaffirmed by a multinomial logistic regression, which highlighted an increased likelihood ratio of being internalised with each point increase of the 7-point internalisation scale. With such a predictive model, the study was successful in correctly predicting 64% respondents to be internalised, which were cross-validated through the results of the MLP. For the research group, the results highlighted a negative association of internalisation with a perceived outcome focus of PE. The logistic regression results highlighted that with each point increase in the perception of an outcome focus, respondents’ probability for being internalised further decreases by 6%, whereas the probability for being internalised increases with a decrease in an outcome focus. The multinomial results, however, highlighted a positive association of a perceived people focus with internalisation and a negative association with an outcome focus. The predictive model for the group was successful in correctly predicting 57% of respondents in the internalisation category, which was also substantiated by the MLP results. In achieving the objective of RQ 2, the regression analyses identified that for an academic to exhibit compliance or internalised based attitude, perceptions of resource control or credibility are not essential as argued by social influence theory. These results were corroborated with the qualitative findings, which supported the study’s assertion that PE processes utilising external pressures result in a compliance based attitude amongst NZ academics. An attitude based on internalisation results in enhanced organisational identification and organisational citizenship behaviours, thereby resulting in enhanced employee performance. Based on this premise, this study set its third research objective to examine a relationship between internalised academics and their research performance. Research performance was assessed as PBRF based categories of A, B and C. To achieve this objective, multinomial logistic regression and contingency analyses were conducted. The results highlighted a significant association between internalisation and an academic’s research performance. It was, however, dependent upon an academic’s service period; that is, internalisation along with a longer service period results in a higher research performance, at the A level. On the other hand, a compliance based attitude along with a longer service period did not achieve the A level of performance and reached the maximum level of B even in cases with greater than 20 years’ service. Academics are key performance units in universities’ productivity. This study provides empirical evidence from eight NZ universities that to improve the future performance of academics and subsequently of universities, there is a need for people focused PE processes, as the existing outcome based PEs are resulting in compliance and negatively influencing academics’ performance.
Advisor: Adler, Ralph; Edgar, Fiona; Stringer, Carolyn
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Accountancy and Finance
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Academics; Academics’ Performance Evaluation; Accountability; Attitude; Attitudinal Change; Compliance; Higher Education; Human Resource Management; Internalisation; Management Control; Mixed Methods; New Zealand; New Zealand Universities; Perceptions; Performance Appraisal; Performance Evaluation; Performance Evaluation Focus; Performance Management; Research Performance; Social Influence; Strategic Human Resource Management; Teaching Performance
Research Type: Thesis