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How Organizational Attitudes Can Predict Training Performance

Wednesday, March 2, 2016
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All employees have attitudes. Just hang around the workplace for a while and they are obvious. When employees enter a workplace training course, they bring those attitudes with them. For example, they bring their attitudes about their job, their career, or the specific topics covered by the training. Those who build and manage training courses would benefit greatly from anticipating how those attitudes could impact the employees’ performance during the training.

This was explored in a recent Korean study published in Human Resource Development Quarterly. Authors Sungjun Kim, Huh-Jung Hahn, and Jinkyu Lee focused on employee attitudes toward the organization, and whether those attitudes could predict training performance. A distinction was made between two employee attitudes:

Organizational commitment (OC). This is the employee’s psychological attachment to the organization that goes beyond passive loyalty to an organization into an active relationship. OC is concerned with the question, “How happy or satisfied am I with the organization?”

Organizational identification (OI). This is the employee’s perceived oneness with the organization and the extent to which the individual defines himself or herself in terms of a psychological integration of the self and organization. OI answers the question, “How do I perceive myself in relation to the organization?”

For this study, the authors made a distinction between two types of training:

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  1. Training where employees perceive that the benefits of the training are more directed toward themselves to enhance their job performance, increase the chance for promotion, or achieve career success.
  2. Training where employees perceive that the benefits are more directed toward the organization such as training on core organizational values, business ethics, and diversity.

The research study focused only on the second of these two types of training, where employees perceive that the benefits are more directed toward the organization. The setting was a mandatory interviewing skills course for managers in a major organization in Korea. Of 164 managers being trained, 149 participated in the study (all but four of them were men). The researchers used validated measures of organizational commitment and organizational identification, and then used observations of an interview simulation as a measure of training performance. None of the 149 managers had been previously trained in interviewing.
The results of the study showed that organizational identification and organizational commitment were both predictors of training performance. Of the two, organizational identification was the stronger predictor to the extent that it alone could predict training performance without the need for organizational commitment being considered.

This finding is helpful to learning professionals in two main ways:

  • Trainee selection. For training that targets benefiting the organization, the training will be most impactful for employees with a high level of organizational identification and organizational commitment.
  • Training design. Because the extent to which employees are willing to contribute to an organization is related to their performance in training, instructional design should emphasize employees’ positive attitudes toward the organization and attempt to strengthen those attitudes to enhance training performance.

Obviously, there are limitations to the study and more research is needed to test these findings in other settings. While that research is completed over the coming years, the current findings should prompt learning professionals to reflect on how organizational identification and commitment influence their trainee selection and training design for courses that target the overall benefit of the company rather than individual employees.
Reference Kim, S., Hahn, H.-J., & Lee, J. (2015), Organizational Attitudes as Precursors to Training Performance. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 26: 409–429. doi: 10.1002/hrdq.21218

Wiley is offering access to the article for free for a limited time.

Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series of articles highlighting research from the journals of the Academy of Human Resource Development (AHRD). In partnership with ATD, AHRD is committed to sharing useful research with the practitioner community.

About the Author
Darren Short is senior director of learning at GoDaddy, based in Arizona. He has worked in Learning & Development for 24 years, and was previously senior director of global learning and development at Avanade, a joint venture of Accenture and Microsoft. Darren has been on the Board of the Academy of Human Resource Development since 2006, and was president 2012-2014. He can be reached at darren@darrenshort.com. 
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