Predictors of work engagement among Australian non-government drug and alcohol employees: Implications for policy and practice
To date there has been limited research on factors that impact worker engagement in the AOD sector even though the sector faces numerous challenges such as stigma, limited resources, ideological conflicts and complex demands. Now more than ever there is an imperative to strengthen workforce capacity and stability and support the health and wellbeing of the AOD workforce.
This study examined a range of potential predictors of work engagement among Australian AOD non-government workers. These predictors included resilience, social support, leadership quality, role clarity, cohesion, growth, autonomy, communication and staffing.
An online, cross-sectional survey measuring demographic, work-related psychosocial, and health and wellbeing variables was made available to non-government AOD workers in New South Wales. The survey was administered jointly by NCETA and the Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies (NADA). Multiple hierarchical linear regressions were conducted to identify significant predictors of worker engagement.
A total of 294 non-government AOD workers completed the survey most of whom were female (66.4%) with a mean age of 43.4 years (SD = 11.8). A third (34.4%) were aged 50 years or over, a quarter each were aged between 40–49 years (26.4%) and 30–39 years (23.6%), and 16% were under 30 years.
The majority of respondents demonstrated high levels of work engagement, suggesting that most were dedicated and motivated in their jobs. The levels of engagement were similar to the engagement scores of healthcare workers in Canadian and American nurses. This finding suggests that workers in the AOD and the health sectors were nevertheless engaged in their work despite the challenges they face.
Significant predictors of engagement were increased age, good leadership quality, greater role clarity, strong social support, opportunity for professional growth, and high resilience. Hence, these workers were likely to be more energised, enthusiastic and dedicated in their jobs.
Workers with high levels of engagement were more likely remain in their AOD roles over longer periods of time, acquire more skills and experience, and be better equipped to address complex demands.
This preliminary study was an important first step in assessing AOD workers’ engagement and identifying the factors that influence it. Organisational- and individual-directed policies, strategies and interventions that include a clear delineation of job roles, development of effective leadership, provision of consistent and continuous support, opportunities for professional development, growth and increasing resilience, especially for younger, less experienced workers were identified as essential strategies to promote engagement among AOD workers.