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DOCTORAL STUDENT WINS PRESTIGIOUS INTERNATIONAL AWARD

Prof Stella Nkomo, Prof Karen Luyt and Prof Karel Stanz.

A study on how managers in information technology (IT) companies in South Africa perceive and manage virtual workers, awarded Dr Karen Luyt the prestigious Emerald Best International Dissertation Award. Dr Karen Luyt received a PhD in Organisation Behaviour during the April graduation ceremonies of the University of Pretoria and was one of four finalists for the award.

The award is annually given by the International Theme Committee of the Academy of Management for the best doctoral dissertation/thesis with an international topic. This prestigious award is adjudicated by a panel of international scholars in the field. Prof Stella Nkomo, Deputy Dean: Research and Postgraduate Studies of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences was co-supervisor along with Prof Karel Stanz, former Head of the Department of Human Resource Management.

Dr Luyt’s thesis, entitled “A Managerial Framework for the Enablement of the Performance of Virtual Knowledge Workers” examined how managers in IT companies in South Africa perceive and manage virtual workers. Five cases were included, consisting of companies using information and communication technology (ICT) as part of their daily business or implementing such solutions, and employing knowledge workers to do so. Both fully-owned South African companies and companies with international parents in the United States and the Eurozone were included. Data for the study included interviews and questionnaires, after which within-case and cross-case analyses were performed to extract themes and to propose a conceptual framework for the enablement of the performance of virtual knowledge workers.

The research uncovered four key findings. The first finding was that the concept of “virtual” in the term “virtual worker” is often misunderstood. The definition should ideally be applied on a continuum of virtuality, leading to the concept of perceived and true virtuality. The second finding was that true virtuality influences how performance is perceived and how deliverables and metrics contribute to perceived, actual and true performance. The third finding was that parameters affecting virtual performance include organisational, contextual and customer factors, as well as the managerial approach itself. The manager needs to become the mediator for these parameters, thereby fulfilling the role of enabler of virtual performance. The fourth finding was that the visual or face-to-face element remains important when managing the performance of virtual knowledge workers.

The recommendations of the study have been grouped under the different levels included in the research, namely the organisational, managerial and individual levels. The one recommendation that applies to all levels is to make sure that the degree of virtuality of all individuals is understood, so that the relevant supporting and enabling activities can be put in place.

Please visit the UPeTD site to view the full study.

Article issued by University of Pretoria



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