Are We Teaching What Employers Want?

[We’re pleased to welcome author Ellen McArthur of Griffith University, who recently published an article in the Journal of Marketing Education entitled, “The Employers’ View of “Work-Ready” Graduates: A Study of Advertisements for Marketing Jobs in Australia.” The article is co-authored by Krzysztof Kubacki, Bo Pang, and Celeste Alcaraz, also of Griffith University. Below, McArthur discusses key findings of the study:]

Innovative research by Griffith University into graduate job advertisements in Australia shows employers value the personal traits of job candidates more highly than degree qualifications. The study, which is the largest of its kind into graduate jobs in marketing, raises questions about the purpose of a degree, and whether universities are preparing students to be “work-ready”.

While the study focussed on marketing jobs, the findings have relevance for all academic disciplines. The most frequently required attributes were “soft skills” that are not specific to marketing, including motivation, time management, attention to detail, and teamwork. Superior communication skill, particularly writing talent, was also highly demanded, and it was only after the calls for these generic abilities that occupation-specific skills began to rank.

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Among occupation-specific abilities, digital marketing was the most needed, including search engine optimisation, Google Analytics, AdWords, and creating and curating social media content for a range of platforms. Other demanded skills included project management, marketing communications, sales, and customer service and customer relationship management (CRM).

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Some 48.5% of ads called for applicants with experience. This significant figure suggests the need for far greater integration of undergraduate study with initiatives that deliver hands-on practice, including internships, work integrated learning, and practice-based assessments.

General IT skills and a high level of computer literacy are important pre-requisites for applying for marketing positions. Experience in MS Office, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, was specified in almost one in three ads, followed by Adobe Suite, InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop. Though students may use these programs ad hoc, such strong demand suggests the need to embed this software use into courses as explicit learning outcomes.

A marketing degree specifically was required in only half the sample of advertisements, with communication, psychology, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics also providing pathways into marketing roles. This reflects the cross-disciplinary nature of marketing careers in the twenty-first century.

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The Employers’ View of “Work-Ready” Graduates: A Study of Advertisements for Marketing Jobs in Australia’, content analysed 359 graduate advertisements (83,000 words) for careers in marketing posted on Australia’s top jobs website in a six-month period in 2016. Full time employment rates for Australian graduates have dropped to new lows, and the research aimed to identify the specific skills and attributes demanded by employers for graduate level jobs in marketing.

The study won a Best Paper Award at ANZMAC in 2016. Click here to read the full article for a limited time.

Griffith University is based in South-east Queensland, Australia, and ranks in the top 3% of universities globally, with more than 50,000 students across five campuses.

Dr. Ellen McArthur, who led the research project, said “large samples of job advertisements are perhaps the most valid way to study employers’ needs, but they are rarely used for employability research.”

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Lessons from history: What the Dutch East India Company can teach us about modern-day organizational slack

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Stoyan V Sgourev of ESSEC Business School, France and Wim van Lent of Montpellier Business School, France, who recently published the article When too many are not enough: Human resource slack and performance at the Dutch East India Company (1700‒1795) in Human Relations.] 
HUM 70_1_Cover_ONLINE1.inddIt is only recently that scholars started to inquire into whether it makes sense to employ more workers than needed to attend to routine operations but the question appears to be much older than recognized.

As a pioneer of intercontinental trade and the largest employer in the Dutch Republic, the Dutch East India Company (1602 ‒1795) needed a large workforce to maintain and develop its shipping network. The rapid expansion of its merchant fleet in the early 18th century exhausted the local labor supply, forcing the Company to hire unskilled foreign sailors. Our analysis of data from the Dutch East India Company archives confirms that skill shortage resulted in deteriorating operational and financial performance. We find that the Dutch East India Company’s directors addressed the problem by “overmanning” the ships (boarding more sailors than what is operationally required), when foreign sailors prevailed in the ranks. The analysis attests that the Dutch East India Company’s reliance on extra sailors involved a direct trade-off, as it enhanced operational reliability (by reducing the probability of losing the ship at sea), but reduced operational efficiency  (by prolonging the length of voyages, as the ships were heavier and the crews were less experienced).

In view of the underlying trade-off between speed and safety, the Dutch East India Company’s efforts to mitigate the negative effects of skill shortage were only partly successful. The use of extra sailors to offset the adverse effects of unskilled labor was a natural solution at a time when formal training was inadequate while cheap, unskilled labor was available. But the documented trade-off has contemporary resonance. Scholarship suggests that firms can balance between effectiveness and efficiency in reaching optimum performance, yet our analysis advises caution as to the extent to which organizational practices can be optimized. The Dutch East India Company directors faced the same need to balance competing pressures for efficiency and reliability as contemporary managers, and the same difficulty of identifying the coveted optimal point.

The findings also serve as a reminder that, even when overall successful, gradual adaptation may not be sufficient to resolve long-standing problems. The documented practice was an adaptive, stopgap measure that evolved from practical experience and that functioned well under the existing constraints. It alleviated the problem of skill shortage, but in the long run, it did not help resolve the structural problems that brought about the Dutch East India Company’s demise toward the end of the 18th century.

Two centuries later, the Dutch East India Company remains a source of insights into processes of adaptation and change. Similar to contemporary managers, the Dutch East India Company directors struggled to achieve a balance between operating efficiently and retaining surplus resources, necessary to address unexpected threats and opportunities. It was the first company to internationalize its workforce and confront the difficulties of operating in multiple locations, but not the last one to have found these difficulties more persistent than expected. In some respects, management practice has not changed much since the 18th century.

You can read  When too many are not enough: Human resource slack and performance at the Dutch East India Company (1700‒1795) from Human Relations free until the end of March by clicking here.

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How Great Leadership Communication Yields Positive Job Satisfaction Scores

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Julian Erben of the University of Koblenz-Landau and Frank Schneider of the University of Mannheim. Erben and Schneider recently published an article in the International Journal of Business Communication entitled “In the Ear of the Beholder: Self-Other Agreement in Leadership Communication and Its Relationship With Subordinates’ Job Satisfaction,” co-authored by Michaela Maier. From Erben and Schneider:]

There is no doubt that effective leadership communication is one of the key factors for an organization’s success. But how good is leadership communication in the reality of everyday business? To answer this question, it’s not enough to rely solely on leaders’ self-ratings. Armed with a new instrument to assess the perceived quality of a leaders’ communication from the leaders own perspective and the perspective of their respective subordinates, we 17124643767_c7e281926f_z.jpgwere curious to explore how the perception of leadership communication within a leader-subordinate dyad may differ, and how different perceptions are related to concrete organizational outcomes.

The findings in this study underline the importance of taking into consideration both leader and subordinate perceptions of leadership communication. Results show, that they may in fact differ, and whether they differ or not is substantially related to relevant outcomes. It particularly points out the desirability of congruent positive perceptions of leadership communication as it appears to be a clear indicator of high job satisfaction of subordinates.

This has practical implications for the teaching and training of leadership communication, especially the importance of developing supervisory training programs that enhance the communicative behaviors of leaders and at the same time make them more perceptive for how their subordinates see things.

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Image attributed to David Sanabria (CC)

Do Employers Forgive Applicants’ Bad Spelling in Resumes?

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Christelle Martin-Lacroux of the University of Grenoble and Alain Lacroux of the University of Toulon. They recently published an article in Business and Professional Communication Quarterly entitled “Do Employers Forgive Applicants’ Bad Spelling in Resumes?,”which is currently free to read through BCQ. From Martin-Lacroux and Lacroux:]

It is now well established that students’ spelling deficiencies are increasing and that this has become a growing concern for employers, whcorrecting-1870721_1280.jpgo now consider correct spelling and grammar as one of the most important skills needed by organizations. Despite the significant amount of time spent on writing at work and employers’ growing dissatisfaction with their employees’ spelling skills, little is known about recruiters’ attribution and decision making when they read application forms with spelling errors. Our paper in Business and Professional Communication Quarterly contributes to fill this gap by describing how spelling mistakes in application forms have a detrimental impact on applicants’ chance to be shortlisted. Our findings rely on an experiment on 536 professional recruiters who had to assess application forms varying in their form (presence or absence of spelling errors) and their content (high or low level of professional experience). We found that spelling errors and work experience have a strong impact on recruiters’ shortlisting decisions. All things being equal, the odds of rejecting an application form were 3.65 times higher when the form was error laden, whereas the odds of rejecting an application form were 2.7 times higher when the form indicated a low level of work experience. Not surprisingly, the recruiter’ spelling ability influence their decision to reject or not an application form from the selection process.  For example, the odds of rejecting an error-laden application form when assessed by a recruiter with weak spelling abilities were two times lower than the odds of rejecting this form when evaluated by a recruiter with strong spelling abilities. We made another interesting finding that applicants need to be aware of: the number of spelling errors did not influence the recruiters’ decision. Application forms can be rejected even with very few spelling errors.

In conclusion, applicants do need to be vigilant about the potential negative impression they make on recruiters with a faulty application form: few spelling errors can be as detrimental as a lack of professional experience!

Please find the full abstract to the article below:

Spelling deficiencies are becoming a growing concern among employers, but few studies have quantified this phenomenon and its impact on recruiters’ choice. This article aims to highlight the relative weight of the form (the spelling skills) in application forms, compared with the content (the level of work experience), in recruiters’ judgment during the selection process. The study asked 536 professional recruiters to evaluate different application forms. The results show that the presence of spelling errors has the same detrimental impact on the chances of being shortlisted as a lack of professional experience, and recruiters’ spelling skills also moderate their judgment.

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Photo under (CC) license. 

Organizational Demands on Productivity, Innovations, and Safety

[We’re pleased to welcome author Marianne Törner of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. She recently published an article in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science entitled “Coping With Paradoxical Demands Through an Organizational Climate of Perceived Organizational Support: An Empirical Study Among Workers in Construction and Mining Industry” co-authored by Anders Pousette, Pernilla Larsman, and Sven Hemlin. From Törner:]

Most organJABS_v50_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgizations must be able to combine efficiency, innovativeness, and safe and healthy working conditions, but these demands may appear paradoxical to the employees, and if not handled well by the organization, such paradoxes may create stressful goal conflicts. A large amount of research, not least organizational climate research, has focused on how organizations may promote each one of these goals, but we believe there is a need for research that may help organizations to effectively and simultaneously attain different goals. This was the starting point for this study where we investigated how organizations may support the employees’ ability to reconcile conflicting goals, and thereby promote organizational success as well as employee well-being and sense of worth.

The abstract to their article is below:

Organizational demands on productivity, innovations, and safety may seem paradoxical. How can the organization support employees to cope with such paradox? Based on organizational climate measures of safety, occupational health, innovativeness, and production effectiveness, we explored if a second-order organizational climate could be identified, that was associated with staff safety, health, innovations and team effectiveness, and if such a climate could be represented by an organizational climate of perceived organizational support (POS). Questionnaire data were collected from 137 workgroups in four Swedish companies in construction and mining. Analyses (structural equation modeling) were done at the workgroup level and a split sample technique used to investigate relations between climates and outcomes. A general second-order organizational climate was identified. Also, an organizational climate constructed by items selected to represent POS, was associated with team effectiveness, innovations, and safety. A POS-climate may facilitate employees’ coping with paradoxes, and provide a heuristic for managers in decision making.

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A Space for Place in Business Communication Research

As technology allows more employees to have a “mobile” workplace, what happens to effective business communication overall? Should more businesses adopt an open-concept floor-plan to foster better collaboration?

Author Deborah Andrews of the University of Delaware addresses the emerging millennial habits of group collaboration and workplace design in her recently published article in the International Journal of Business Communication entitled “A Space for Place in Business Communication Research.” From Andrews:

I’m inspired a lot by things, by objects and spaces and what they can make happen. For ye2392869301_65bb870ab9_m.jpgars, too, I have focused my research and teaching on business communication. So when my university started talking about the new “integrated science and engineering” laboratory it was building to fosterinnovation and creativity through collaboration, I wondered: can a building do this? Curious, I looked at some other campuses and, sure enough, many such buildings were being constructed and promoted with similar rhetoric. Because it’s essentially a matter of communication, I was particularly interested in the many occurrences of collaboration in these statements about how the building would deliver on its promise. I saw that term invoked as well in real estate columns, the marketing reports of design consultancies, and popular business articles about new offices being created, for example, by Google, Facebook, and Amazon. I knew then that I had an enticing research project: matching the rhetoric of these new laboratories and offices to results on the ground.

It’s becoming a commonplace of material culture studies that objects create subjects, the things we live with make us the people we are, maybe even more than the other way around. But I’ve been surprised about the extent to which academic administrators, corporate CEOs, and entrepreneurs believe that the right arrangement of plan and furnishings in an office can foster the achievement of organizational goals.

Examining that fit between the rhetoric of the office or lab as a transformative space and results on the ground is an inviting area for communications research. As one anthropologist notes, we often overlook the things in our environment because they are “blindingly obvious.” We take them for granted. My International Journal of Business Communication article aims to encourage researchers to take another look at the physical environment of a 21st Century workplace as it relates to the communication needed to get work done there. We know that the environment shapes us. But can it shape us in desired ways? And how can we tell?

 

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Office image attributed to Jesus Corrius (CC).

Organization OR Environment?

organization-enviroment[We’re pleased to welcome Jennifer Tosti-Kharas, Assistant Professor at Babson College in Organizational Behavior. Tosti-Kharas recently published an article in Organization & Environment entitled “Organization OR Environment? Disentangling Employees Rationales Behind Organizational Citizenship Behavior for the Environment.” From Tosti-Kharas:]

The origin of this paper came from bridging two different research projects. My co-authors, Tom Thomas and Eric Lamm of SFSU, published a theoretical paper regarding how individuals develop attitudes toward organizational sustainability. Meanwhile, Eric and I have performed research on what motivates employees to perform sustainable behaviors. We look at what we term organizational citizenship behaviors toward the environment ¬ OCB-Es for short ¬ which are voluntary actions at work that help conserve resources, things like recycling, printing double-sided, etc. This paper joined these two streams of inquiry to examine how the reasons why people think it is important to act sustainably at work relates to their performance of OCB-Es and we tested it empirically.

Most past research on this topic has used a measure of how important people think sustainability is in general, meaning for broad ecological reasons, but never contextualized within a work organization. In the paper we distinguish between believing sustainability is important in and of itself, what we term an ³eco-centric rationale,² and believing it is important as a means to an end, specifically a business end, which we term an ³organization-centric rationale.² We also differentiate employees¹ own rationales about why it is important for their companies to operate sustainably from their perceptions about why their organizations believe it is important. Perhaps the most surprising finding when we surveyed 489 working adults across a wide range of organizations and occupations was that people were more likely to perform OCB-Es when they believed their organizations valued sustainability, regardless of their own personal beliefs about the importance of sustainability. These findings held for both eco-centric and organization-centric rationales. This to us was surprising, as lots of research would lead us to predict that personal values would trump perceived organizational values. Yet, we find the opposite, which suggests that perhaps people perform voluntary sustainability behaviors at work not just because they think it¹s important, but because their company believes it is important. It is worth noting that we included in our OCB-E measure not only simple, everyday tasks, but also ³higher-level² behaviors, like collaborating with other employees or making suggestions to supervisors to increase organizational sustainability.

These findings raise several interesting and timely implications for organizational leaders looking to increase employee sustainability behaviors. Since employee perceptions of organizational rationales for sustainability were so important in motivating OCB-Es, we advise communicating corporate values around sustainability and resource conservation as clearly as possible. By contrast, trying to screen employees for pro-environmental values seemed to be less important in a company that clearly communicated these values, since even employees who didn’t buy in on their own behaved more sustainably when they believed their employers cared about the environment.

 

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