A comprehensive model of the effects of training on learning and key outcomes

Lee, Kin Yi

Business
November 2018

Thesis or dissertation


Rights
© 2018 Kin Yi Lee. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.
Abstract

Over the past decades, substantial changes have taken place in the world of work such as fast changing (labour) market developments, new production concepts, new technology, and increased commercialization, to name but a few. These changes call for reconsidering the notion of careers, emphasizing the need for “sustainable careers” (Van der Heijden & De Vos, 2015). In so-called “new careers,” the promise of employment security has been replaced with the notion of employability (e.g., Fugate & Kinicki, 2008; Hallier, 2009; Inkson & King, 2010). To remain competitive and sustain long-term employment, there is an increased need for improved employability, which is defined as work-centred adaptability that enhances the individual’s capacity to find and use job and career opportunities inside or outside the current workplace (Bozionelos et al., 2016; Forrier & Sels, 2003; Van der Heijde & Van der Heijden, 2006). In the Handbook of Research on Sustainable Careers, De Vos and Van der Heijden (2015) argue that employability is the key factor for workers who need to protect their added value in the modern career era. Training plays a significant role in the career development because training facilitates learning, which is a critical mechanism in employability development (Froehlich, Beausaert, Segers, & Gerken, 2014; Van der Heijden, Gorgievski, & De Lange, 2016; Van der Heijden, Boon, Van der Klink, & Meijs, 2009a) and in sustainable careers (Anseel, 2017; Asuquo & Inaja, 2013).

Employability is advantageous for both the individual and the organisation. On the one hand, employability is important for sustainable careers, in that it gives individuals confidence to deal with volatile labor markets and job insecurity (Forrier & Sels, 2003; Vanhercke, De Cuyper, Peeters, & De Witte, 2014). On the other hand, an employable workforce is an asset for organisations since employers rely on their employees’ knowledge, skills, motivation and other capacities so as to ensure sustainable performance and thus, to survive and prosper in the long term (Van der Heijde & Van der Heijden, 2006). Hence, it seems it is in the interests of both individuals and organisations to invest in employees’ employability.

Given the new careers are characterised by self-steering, self-development, flexibility, proactivity and a continuous broadening of expertise of employees throughout their working life (e.g., Van der Heijde, 2014), individuals must now assume primary responsibility for managing their own careers to sustain their careers (Abele & Wiese, 2008; Sullivan & Baruch, 2009; Valcour, 2015; Van der Heijden & De Vos, 2015). Yet, the responsibility of employers and organisations should not be overlooked (De Prins, De Vos, Van Beirendonck, & Segers, 2015; Newman, 2011; Semeijn, Van Dam, Van Vuuren, & Van der Heijden, 2015). While employability has predominantly been seen from the viewpoint of the individual (e.g., De Cuyper, Van den Broeck, & De Witte, 2015; Smith, 2010), an exhaustive account of employability cannot exist outside the context in which careers take place (McQuaid & Lindsay, 2005). In the employability literature, there is currently shortage of research that addresses how individuals and organisations can actively stimulate employees’ employability development.

Social cognitive career theory focuses on the development of career interests, making career choices, and individual and contextual influences on career behavior (Lent & Brown, 1996; Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994). Based on social cognitive theory (Lent & Brown, 1996; Lent et al., 1994), this study aims to develop and test a learning-centred model that focuses on job performance and employability. The model includes personal factors, social contextual factors and organisational intervention, all of which are seen as contributing elements to employability (e.g. Ling, Qing, & Shen, 2014; Vanhercke et al., 2014; Veld, Semeijn, & Van Vuuren, 2015). It also includes learning, which takes place in a training context in the current study and is viewed as a critical mechanism in employability development (Manuti, Pastore, Scardigno, Giancaspro, & Morciano, 2015; Van der Heijden et al., 2009a) and in sustainable careers (Anseel, 2017; Asuquo & Inaja, 2013). Given that employability primarily interests the individual whereas job performance primarily interests the employer, it follows that job performance should also be taken into account along with employability when career sustainability is considered (Bozionelos et al., 2016; Semeijn et al., 2015).

The design is quasi-experimental, including multisource measurement (supervisors and employees) with four measurement points (Time 1: assessment one month prior to the training; Time 2: assessment just before the training; Time 3: assessment immediately after the training; Time 4: six months after the training). Participants number 334 (158 males, 176 females) sales representatives working for a large retail organisation and 265 insurance agents (150 males, 115 females) working for an insurance company in Hong Kong.

Structural equation modelling (SEM) is the main data analysis method. The results show that individual factors and social contextual factors influence employability through learning. In particular, motivation to learn is positively related to employee learning in both companies and supervisor support is positively related to motivation to learn and employee learning in both companies. Openness to experience is positively related to motivation to learn and learning in the retail organization. The result also pinpoints that learning affect employability directly but also has indirect influence on job performance through employability. The full mediating role of employability in linking learning to job performance indicates that employability is an important mechanism through which learning exerts influence on job performance.

The current study makes several important contributions. First, it shows that training is an important intervention to foster the development of employability and explains the important role of learning in the development of employability which are consistent with previous work (e.g., De Vos, De Hauw, & Van der Heijden, 2011; Froehlich et al., 2014; Groot & Maassen van den Brink, 2000; Van der Heijde & Van der Heijden, 2006; Van der Heijden et al., 2009a). Learning as a result of training enables employees to acquire skills, knowledge, behaviour or other capacities to ensure sustainable performance. In other words, learning leads to a win-win situation for employees and their organizations. The win for employees lies in the feelings of job or employment security and hope for the future (Ghoshal, Bartlett, & Moran, 1999), whereas there is a win for organization in the form of increased job performance. Such a “mutual gain” outcomes warrant organizational intervention in developing employee’s employability by providing training opportunites, although it does not imply that informal learning activities are perceived as less important. Organisations should re-focus their training interventions, aiming at not only job performance, but also employability.

The current study demonstrates that individual factors, supervisor support as well as organizational intervention in training stimulates learning and thereby enhance employability. Thus, it supports the notion in the current career literature that employability development should be the joint responsibility between employers and employees (Clarke, 2008; Orpen, 1994). Both individuals and organisations need to perform their respective career management roles in employability development (Ng, Eby, Sorensen & Feldman, 2005; Sturges, Guest, Conway & Davey, 2002). Employees are expected to participate in various career management behaviours such as training while employers are expected to provide career development opportunities such as training opportunities (Clarke, 2008; Eby, Allen, & Brinley, 2005).

Moreover, the current study confirms the role of individual agency together with social contextual factors and organizational support in stimulating learning that drives employability. This is in line with social cognitive career theory (Lent & Brown, 1996; Lent et al., 1994) which captures how individual characterisitcs and contextual factors affect work and career performance via learning process. This is also consistent with extant research which indicates that both individual and contextual factors have an influence on employability through learning (e.g., Van der Klink, Van der Heijden, Boon, & Van Rooij, 2014; Van der Heijden et al., 2009a). The current study demonstrates the important role individuals play in the employability development, implying that individuals have considerable control in employability development. Despite this, employability development cannot only rely on individual. Indeed, contextual factors can also play a significant role. In particular, agency-based intervention, such as training, remains a viable tool to foster emplolyability, undermining the significant role of employers in employees’ employability development. In fact, offering training opportunities and learning environment in which participation in training is supported by managers is simply not enough, employees must be more engaged in the learning activities. Organisations should also be aware of individual factors such as motivation to learn and openness to experience, which are significant antecedents to learning.

Finally, human resource practitioners should pay attention to cultural and institutional contexts when designing training intervention aimed at enhancing employability. The current study shows that supervisor support has important impacts on learning and employability development in Hong Kong organisations because of the impact of Chinese culture on employee’s attitude and behavior. It is particularly critical for human resource practitioners to create a learning environment in which learning is strongly encouraged and supported by managers. To a wider perspective, the current study has managerial implications for organisations operating in Chinese culture to develop employee’s employability.

Publisher
Business School, The University of Hull
Supervisor
Bozionelos, Nikos
Qualification level
Doctoral
Qualification name
PhD
Language
English
Extent
2 MB
Identifier
hull:17259
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