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Research In Review 2009


Effects of trainer expressiveness, seductive details, and trainee goal orientation on training outcomes


Towler, A. (2009). Effects of trainer expressiveness, seductive details, and trainee goal orientation on training outcomes. Human Resource Development Quarterly. 20(1), 65-84.


This study focuses on trainer expressiveness and trainee mastery orientation within the context of the seductive details effect. The seductive details effect refers to inclusion of “highly interesting and entertaining information that is only tangentially related to the topic” (Harp & Mayer, 1998, p. 1). One hundred thirty-two participants listened to lectures that differed in seductive details and trainer expressiveness. Results indicated that participants had the highest problem-solving score after an expressive, seductive-details lecture. High-mastery participants in the nonseductive/expressive condition did best on recall.


Developing an OD-intervention metric system with the use of applied theory-building methodology: A work/life-intervention example


Morris, M.L., Storberg-Walker, J., & McMillan, H.  (2009). Developing an OD-intervention metric system with the use of applied theory-building methodology: A work/life-intervention example. Human Resource Development Quarterly. 20(4), 419-449.


This article presents a new model, generated through applied theory-building research methods, that helps human resource development (HRD) practitioners evaluate the return on investment (ROI) of organization development (OD) interventions. This model, called organization development human-capital accounting system (ODHCAS), identifies return-on-investment measures for each of the elements of the human-capital employment life cycle that are impacted by OD interventions. We illustrate an application of the new model by using work/life (w/l) interventions as a test of the model. The contribution of this new model is fourfold: 1. It fills a gap in the literature by suggesting a holistic ROI framework for typically nonfinancial OD-type interventions. 2. It is generated from an accepted applied theory-building methodology. 3. It offers decision makers methods to develop hard evidence on which to evaluate w/l interventions. 4. It has the future potential to be expanded and used to evaluate the ROI for multiple types of OD interventions.


Organizational socialization of volunteers: the effect on their intention to remain


Hidalgo, M. C. & Moreno, P.(2009). Organizational socialization of volunteers: the effect on their intention to remain. Journal of Community Psychology
37(5), 594-601


Identifying the factors affecting the retention of volunteers in their activities is one of the main objectives for researchers and volunteer managers. There have been many studies with this aim and many factors affecting sustained volunteerism have been identified. However, one of the limits of these models is the low percentage of explained variance, which indicates that there are other additional factors, yet unidentified, which may have an important influence in the prediction of durability as a volunteer. In our study, we intend to analyze the effect that some factors of organizational socialization of volunteers have on their intention to remain volunteers. In particular, we will focus on the level of integration in the organization, evaluated from five variables: social networks, training, understanding, social support inside the organization, and characteristics of the job they perform. The statistical analysis shows that social networks, organizational support, positive task, and formation are highly significant predictors of the intention to remain a volunteer. These four variables explain 29% of the variability of the dependent variable, while the variables understanding and social support of the volunteers were excluded from the regression equation


Information sharing and team performance: A meta-analysis


Mesmer-Magnus, J. & DeChurch, L. (2009). Information sharing and team performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, (2), 535-546.


Information sharing is a central process through which team members collectively utilize their available informational resources. The authors used meta-analysis to synthesize extant research on team information sharing. Meta-analytic results from 72 independent studies (total groups = 4,795; total N = 17,279) demonstrate the importance of information sharing to team performance, cohesion, decision satisfaction, and knowledge integration. Although moderators were identified, information sharing positively predicted team performance across all levels of moderators. The information sharing–team performance relationship was moderated by the representation of information sharing (as uniqueness or openness), performance criteria, task type, and discussion structure by uniqueness (a 3-way interaction). Three factors affecting team information processing were found to enhance team information sharing: task demonstrability, discussion structure, and cooperation. Three factors representing decreasing degrees of member redundancy were found to detract from team information sharing: information distribution, informational interdependence, and member heterogeneity.


Why is it so hard to do my work? The challenge of attention residue switching between work tasks


Leroy, S. (2009). Why is it so hard to do my work? The challenge of attention residue switching between work tasks. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. 109(2), 168-181.


In many jobs, employees must manage multiple projects or tasks at the same time. A typical workday often entails switching between several work activities, including projects, tasks, and meetings. This paper explores how such work design affects individual performance by focusing on the challenge of switching attention from one task to another. As revealed by two experiments, people need to stop thinking about one task in order to fully transition their attention and perform well on another. Yet, results indicate it is difficult for people to transition their attention away from an unfinished task and their subsequent task performance suffers. Being able to finish one task before switching to another is, however, not enough to enable effective task transitions. Time pressure while finishing a prior task is needed to disengage from the first task and thus move to the next task and it contributes to higher performance on the next task.


Reflection as a strategy to enhance task performance after feedback


Anseel, F., Lievens, F. & Schollaert, E. (2009). Reflection as a strategy to enhance task performance after feedback. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, 110(1), 23-35.        


An unanswered question in employee development is how reflection can be used for improving performance in organizations. Drawing from research and theory on dual-process models, we develop and test a reflection strategy to stimulate deeper learning after feedback. Results of two studies (N = 640 and N = 488) showed that reflection combined with feedback enhanced performance improvement on a web-based work simulation better than feedback alone. Reflection without feedback did not lead to performance improvement. Further analyses indicated that the proposed reflection strategy was less effective for individuals low in learning goal orientation, low in need for cognition, and low in personal importance as they engaged less in reflection. Together, these findings provide a theoretical basis for the future study of reflection in organizations and suggest a practical and cost-effective strategy for facilitating employee development after feedback in organizations.


Stimulating Strategically Aligned Behaviour Among Employees


van Riel, C., Berens, G. & Dijkstra, M. (2009). Stimulating Strategically Aligned Behaviour Among Employees. Journal of Management Studies. 46(7), 1197-1226.


Strategically aligned behaviour (SAB), i.e. employee action that is consistent with the company's strategy, is of vital importance to companies. This study provides insights into the way managers could promote such behaviour among employees (who can be managers as well) by stimulating employee motivation, by informing employees, and by stimulating the development of their capabilities. The results of surveys conducted in three organizations suggest that, first, perceived efforts by management aimed at motivating and informing employees (both managers and non-managers), and at developing their capabilities, each are related to SAB. Second, among the perceived efforts to stimulate motivation among employees, providing a rationale for the strategy and an open communication climate have a stronger relationship with SAB than participation in decision making and supportiveness. Third, the perceptions of the different types of managerial effort are related to each other. For this reason, the efforts have direct as well as indirect relationships to SAB. Fourth, each of the perceived efforts seems to be complementary to the others, in the sense that the relationship of one type of effort to SAB is stronger when other types of effort are perceived to be higher.


Understanding managerial development: Integrating developmental assignments, learning orientation, and access to developmental opportunities in predicting managerial competencies


Dragoni, L, Tesluk, P, Russell, J. (2009). Understanding managerial development: Integrating developmental assignments, learning orientation, and access to developmental opportunities in predicting managerial competencies. Academy of Management Journal, 52 (4), 731-743.


Integrating the work experience, leadership development, and learning literatures, we developed and tested a model of managerial development linking experience in highly developmental assignments, a learning goal orientation, and access to developmental assignments. Based on multisource data on early-career managers, our results demonstrate that the developmental quality of managerial assignments has a positive association with end-state competencies that exceeds the association explained by tenure. Furthermore, we found that managers with stronger learning orientations, especially those with access to growth assignments, were more likely to be in developmental assignments and achieve higher levels of competence based on those experiences.



Learning Styles: Concepts and evidence


Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2009). Learning Styles: Concepts and evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest. 9(3), 105-119.


The term ‘‘learning styles’’ refers to the concept that individuals differ in regard to what mode of instruction or study is most effective for them. Proponents of learning-style assessment contend that optimal instruction requires diagnosing individuals’ learning style and tailoring instruction accordingly. Assessments of learning style typically ask people to evaluate what sort of information presentation they prefer (e.g., words versus pictures versus speech) and/or what kind of mental activity they find most engaging or congenial (e.g., analysis versus listening), although assessment instruments are extremely diverse. The most common—but not the only—hypothesis about the instructional relevance of learning styles is the meshing hypothesis, according to which instruction is best provided in a format that matches the preferences of the learner (e.g., for a ‘‘visual learner,’’ emphasizing visual presentation of information).



Task assignment, incentives and technological factors


De Paola, M. & Scoppa, V. (2009) Task assignment, incentives and technological factors. Managerial and Decision Economics. 30 (1), 43-55        


In this paper, we examine the allocation of tasks between a principal and an agent considering their incentives to provide effort, their different abilities in handling tasks, and transmission costs. We focus our attention on two tasks: the first may be handled by the principal or by the agent, whereas the second is necessarily carried out by the agent. Under a fully decentralised organisation, the agent performs both tasks, whereas, under partial delegation, the principal handles the first task and transfers the outcome to the agent who handles the second task. Assuming technological complementarities, from our analysis it emerges that, if there is imperfect observability of effort, full delegation is better at eliciting effort by the agent in the second task, whereas, in comparison with partial delegation, it lowers effort in the first task. Although with contractible effort, the choice between the two organisational forms depends only on transmission costs and on the relative ability of its members, when moral hazard problems are taken into account, the organisational choice is related to the relative importance played by the two tasks in production. If the agent's task is relatively important in production, full delegation, encouraging a higher level of effort in this task, may be optimal, even if technological factors favour partial delegation.



Impact of guidance on the problem-solving efforts of instructional design novices


Ertmer, P., Stepich, D., Flanagan, S., Kocaman-Karoglu, A., Reiner C., Reyes, L., Santone, A., & Ushigusa, S. (2009). Impact of guidance on the problem-solving efforts of instructional design novices. Performance Improvement Quarterly.             21(4), 117 – 132.


This exploratory study examined differences in the problem representations of a case-based situation by expert and novice instructional designers. The experts and half of the novices (control group) received identical directions for case analysis, while the other novices (treatment group) received additional guidelines recommending analysis strategies that experts tend to use. After participants' case analyses were scored on four dimensions of problem representation, a Wilcoxon nonparametric test was performed. Significant differences were noted between experts and control novices on the total score and on two dimensions of problem representation. Treatment novices did not differ significantly from experts, while control and treatment novices differed significantly on one dimension. Implications for future research and practice are discussed.



The Impact of Ethical Climate on Project Status Misreporting


Smith, H.J., Thompson, R., & Iacovou, C. (2009). The Impact of Ethical Climate on Project Status Misreporting. Journal of Business Ethics. 90 (4), 577      -591


Without complete and accurate status information, a project manager's ability to monitor progress, allocate resources effectively, and detect and respond to problems is greatly diminished, and this can lead to impaired project performance. Many different factors can contribute to intentional misreporting of status information by project members to the project manager. In this study, the impact of organizational ethical climate was assessed through the analysis of responses from 228 project members drawn from a variety of ongoing information systems projects. Our results revealed that project members who perceived their organization to be one in which rules are followed strictly tended to misreport less, while those operating in an environment dominated by personal self-interest tended to misreport more. Somewhat surprisingly, the existence of a caring, team-spirited environment did not appear to have an impact on misreporting behaviors. Implications for researchers and project managers are discussed.


How 'Who You Know' Affects What You Decide


Cross, R., Thomas, R., & Light, D. (2009). How 'Who You Know' Affects What You Decide. MIT Sloan Management Review. 50 (2), 35-42.


Over the past several decades, research has shown how both cognitive biases and small group dynamics can undermine effective decision making in organizations. However, there has been little work on the ways that informal networks impact framing and execution of decisions. In this article, the authors examine the roles decision networks play, both within teams and throughout organizations, in the way decisions are framed and carried out. Although company leaders frequently recognize the importance of such decision networks, they fail to leverage their potential and focus instead on the organization's formal structure. The authors present two in-depth case studies to show how network analysis applied to decision-making interactions within organizations can help improve the effectiveness and efficiency of decision making. The first case demonstrates how a rapidly growing pharmaceuticals company used process mapping and network analysis to streamline decision-making interactions. A team found that decision-making inefficiencies permeated the organization. Decision rights were not clearly delineated or allocated, and even mundane approvals had high collaborative costs. The second case, based on a larger, more established company, shows how network analysis can improve top-team decision making and execution in organizations slowed by bureaucracy and a culture of consensus. The company had sought a technological fix in an effort to rescue itself from organizational gridlock, but the problems persisted. A network analysis helped senior managers identify the underlying network drivers of gridlock, thereby enabling them to take targeted steps to speed up and improve decision making. In both cases, the authors highlight the insights and performance impact that can result when decisions are viewed through a network perspective. Although it is still early, the benefits of understanding how decision-making networks affect the top team appear to be compelling. The number of collaborations required to execute decisions at key points in the network was significantly reduced. This had a positive effect on both company performance and morale.