Research into how worker morale, engagement and feeling safe are linked

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A USC Business academic is about to begin research with a local civil engineering firm to investigate links between worker morale, employee engagement and feeling safe at work.

Lecturer in Human Resource Management Dr John Whiteoak will analyse Sunshine Coast based company Shadforth, which provides civil construction for major developers like Lend Lease and Stockland.

The project is one of five USC Industry Connect research partnerships, which are jointly funded by USC and the firms involved in the research.

Dr Whiteoak’s work with Shadforth will add to his previous studies over the past eight years involving companies across the mining, construction, manufacturing and road building industries.

Shadforth is a family-owned company and a significant employer in the area with more than 700 in-house staff. Its employees will be asked to complete a survey developed by Dr Whiteoak to gain an understanding of the factors impacting on staff wellbeing.

“The zone of engagement survey that I’ve developed measures elements of the workplace culture and the individual workers,” Dr Whiteoak said. “I’m interested in researching what the levers of morale are and how we can work with them.”

The USC academic will also conduct focus groups to consider some of the challenges facing staff, and work towards developing strategies to address challenges, improve employee engagement, and ensure a well-adjusted and safe workplace.

“Shadforth is being really cutting-edge by wanting me to work at a site that is already good to make it even better,” he said.

“They’re able to draw on evidence-based research and take a professional-based approach to create a better workplace, which will have positive impacts on the community.”

Shadforth Group Risk Manager Glen Panoho said the company was always looking for ways to stay ahead in the industry.

“We can use the science to improve our people and our business, and we can share any learnings with our industry partners,” he said.

Mr Panoho said Shadforth was happy to support the university’s research project as it complemented work undertaken with Dr Whiteoak in the company’s Future Leaders program.

“We were particularly excited with this area of learning after researching and inquiring about USC’s Executive MBA program,” he said.

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