Nursing profession in Africa: a study on work engagement and talent management practices in South Africa

Mpho Lerotholi, Adele Bezuidenhout

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Background: The global shortage of nurses, intensified by nurses migrating to richer countries, creates a health crisis in developing countries. This study investigates how strategic talent management practices can improve the work engagement of professional nurses in public hospitals in South Africa.

Methods: A cross-sectional, self-administered survey was conducted among professional nurses employed in three large public hospitals in the Gauteng Province of South Africa. We measured: (1) management commitment, (2) talent review, (3) workforce planning, (4) staffing, (5) talent acquisition, (6) talent development, (7) talent commitment and (8) talent retention. The sub-dimensions of work engagement that were measured included: (1) vigour, (2) absorption and (3) dedication. Descriptive and inferential (multiple regression) analyses were performed. The gap analysis calculated the difference between the current and desired status means talent management item.

Results: The gap analysis revealed the biggest discrepancies between the value nurses attach to and the current status of management commitment and the talent review and staffing processes. Multiple regression analyses confirmed that current status-rating talent acquisition impacts dedication and absorption combined (r = 0.112, p-value = 0.012 < 0.05) and management commitment impacts absorption and vigour combined (r = 0.26, p-value = 0.026 < 0.05). The importance-rating revealed talent development and commitment combined influences dedication and absorption combined (r = 0.092, p-value = 0.038 < 0.05), and talent review and planning impacts absorption and vigour combined (r = 0.115, p-value = 0.010 < 0.05). Age and job status had a significant effect on absorption–vigour.

Conclusion: Hospital managers can improve the engagement of nurses by demonstrating their commitment to talent development, offering a diverse variety of development opportunities and ensuring a pipeline of new nurses by improving the attractiveness of the profession. The study shows how strategic talent management practices can serve to improve work engagement in the healthcare sector.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere87
Number of pages10
JournalPublic Health Challenges
Issue number2
Early online date4 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2023


  • Africa
  • healthcare
  • nurses
  • positive psychology
  • public hospitals
  • social exchange theory
  • South Africa
  • talent management
  • work engagement

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