Are Public Sector Employees Less Likely to Change Sectors?

[We’re pleased to welcome author Jaclyn Piatak of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Piatak recently published a paper in Public Personnel Management entitled, “Sector Switching in Good Times and in Bad: Are Public Sector Employees Less Likely to Change Sectors?,” which is free to read for a limited time. Below, Piatak reflects on the motivation for pursuing this research:]

PPM_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgWhen working in the federal government (my first real job), I noticed the cubicle next to me was a revolving door of young people like me. I wondered what made people leave one federal agency for another, leave the federal government for a state or local government position, leave government work to work for a nonprofit organization (DC has many national headquarters), and above all leave public service to work in the for-profit sector.

As cliché as it may be, I entered public service to make a difference. This was my goal since being a political science undergrad through earning my graduate degrees to today, where I feel privileged as a professor to not only share my research and to serve the university and profession but also to train future government and nonprofit leaders.

I couldn’t help but wonder about people’s motivation for joining public service and how working in the government and nonprofit sectors affects them. This piece tackles one aspect, my original curiosity of the revolving cubicle: sector switching.

Were there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research? After earning my MPP, I entered the workforce in 2007 so I saw the influence of the Great Recession not only at the federal government level, but also across the state agencies we were responsible for overseeing. Building upon my motivation for this research, I wondered how the recession impacted people’s employment decisions and outcomes across job sectors.

Were there any surprising findings? Research often examines government employment as a whole with little attention paid to how employment and employee behavior may vary across levels of government—federal, state, and local. I found only federal government and nonprofit sector employees are more likely to move into the for-profit sector during times of economic instability. Considering the federal government finding, we should take a closer look at the government sector as there may be important differences across levels of government.

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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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When, and How, Should Firms Educate Their Customers?

[We’re pleased to welcome author Simon Bell of the University of Melbourne, Australia. Bell recently published an article in the Journal of Service Research entitled “Unraveling the Customer Education Paradox: When, and How, Should Firms Educate Their Customers?,” co-authored by Seigyoung Auh and Andreas B. Eisingerich. From Bell:]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

We have long been fascinated by service firms’ reluctance to let customers “into the kitchen”. Service firms have traditionally kept customers in the dark. The thinking is that giving cuJSR_16.2_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgstomers too much insight or access to how a firm operates places that firm’s ‘black box’ or proprietary methodologies at risk. Educating customers apparently provides them with the skills to shop around and potentially switch to a competitor. Yet we noticed in our consulting work that some service firms (and even some service employees) were challenging this thinking. They were proactively educating their customers and seeme
d to be the better for it. We were keen to discover what was going on.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

The results of our field study showed that firms were partly right. Increasing customer expertise through proactive efforts to educate their customers actually had an overall negative impact on loyalty. This was because customers build what we call “market-related” expertise – a general knowledge about how markets work – which provides customers with the confidence to shop around. But we also found that educating customers builds “firm-specific” expertise which ties a customer more closely to the firm. It’s just that this positive effect on loyalty did not outweigh the negative. Yet, when we conducted an experimental study we found that the customer loyalty effects of customer education were positive overall. We believe this has a lot to do with the context (i.e., firm and industry) in which customer education programs might be used. Our goal in this paper was to discover whether education did indeed have both positive and negative effects on loyalty, but clearly our next focus should be revealing the different contexts in which the positive effects outweigh the negative (and vice versa).

  • How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

We think our results have some very important implications for managers. We think that, in this “Google age”, customers are already taking responsibility for their own understanding of how services, firms, and markets work. Easily digestible information and knowledge is at everyone’s fingertips so we think it’s risky for firms to keep customers in the dark. Our findings suggest that firms should be proactive in educating customers and pay particular attention to educating them about how their firm operates. Firms need to let customers into the kitchen and provide a greater level of transparency. We showed that it’s impossible to disentangle the market-related education from the firm-specific, but it is perfectly reasonable for firms to craft educational programs around more firm-specific elements. Ultimately, customers that are more competent at consuming your services are better for your business.

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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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The Normalization of Corruption and Wells Fargo’s 2 Million False Accounts

14040090880_7ba42ec582_z[We’re pleased to welcome J.S. Nelson, Senior Fellow at the Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research at Wharton, and an Advisor in the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Nelson recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “The Normalization of Corruption.” From Nelson:]

My paper in the Journal of Management Inquiry’s upcoming special issue on corruption describes how corruption becomes a new norm across individuals, companies, and then industries. Entitled “The Normalization of Corruption,” the paper relies on findings from law, organizational behavior, and surveys of the workplace to describe the norm in terms of behavioral ethics, how it reproduces, and how it grows.

The discussion focuses on how the normalization of corruption is built by individuals, spreads to companies, and then to industries. It further describes how the very normalization of the corruption protects individuals singled out for their misconduct from punishment by the legal system.

The specific examples in the paper are taken from the financial industry and the 2015-16 Volkswagen emissions scandal. This week’s headlines about widespread fraud at Wells Fargo follow the same patterns: cheating became the norm at Wells Fargo because of intense pressure from top executives; those top executives deny personal responsibility; and the legal system gives us few options to prosecute them for behavior that is otherwise widespread. Systemic fraud ensues.  Wells Fargo created over 2 million unauthorized accounts for customers, charged at least $1.5 million in unwarranted fees for those sham accounts, and over 5,300 employees were involved.

Similar to the social pressures that fueled the 2007-08 financial crisis, managers inside Wells Fargo pushed their employees to lie, cheat, steal, and to bend the rules in any imaginable way to satisfy sales goals and make profit. Employees were told to sign up their mothers, siblings, and friends; instructed to hunt for sales at bus stops and retirement homes;and often targeted elderly clients and people who did not speak English well.When employees protested that “This doesn’t make sense” and “Where are you getting these sales goals?”managers would answer, “No, you can do it”or “You’re negative”or “Oh, you’re not a team player.”Ethical employees who reported to hotlines and through the chain of command were fired for insubordination. Wells Fargo human resources personnel admit that the bank had a playbook for watching any employees who reported and then finding ways to fire them for another reason.

Now the bank faces the growing threat of a private class action lawsuit by ethical employees who were fired, and two top executives will have parts of their pay clawed back by the company’s disgraced board. But the rest of the legal system appears paralyzed to effectively enforce consequences on key individuals.

How did we arrive at this point of broadly corrupt norms? And more importantly, how do we turn around a system that has normalized corruption? The “Normalization of Corruption” JMI paper delves into these questions with immediate application for today.

[Please look for the follow-up entry this week on the origin of the paper, “The Normalization of Corruption.”]

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*Wells Fargo Image attributed to Mike Mozart (CC).