The Impact of Training on Innovation

[We’re pleased to welcome author Benoit Dostie of HEC Montréal. Benoit recently published an article in the ILR Review entitled The Impact of Training on Innovation. Below, Benoit discusses the inspiration for this research, along with the applied methodology:]

The positive impact of firm-sponsored training on workers’ wages and productivity is well documented. At the same time, many studies are highlighting innovation as an important component of firms’ performance.

This paper ILR_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpglinks these two ideas and investigates whether firms who invest more in training their workers reap reward through better innovation performance. Bauernschuster, Falck, and Heblich (2009) argue that continuous training guarantees access to leading-edge knowledge and thus increase a firm’s propensity to innovate. In fact, lack of skill within the enterprise is one of the two most frequently reported obstacles to innovation amongst Canadian firms (Statistics Canada (2012)).

To do so, we use longitudinal Canadian linked employer-employee data from 1999-2006 and look at two types of human capital investments, the number of employees who received classroom and on-the-job training; and four measures of innovation: improved and new processes, improved and ne
w products.

Our results show that more training leads to more product and process innovation, with on-the-job training playing a role that is as important as classroom training. These results are important because many policies used by governments throughout the world to encourage firms to invest more in training put more weight toward more formal or structured forms of training like classroom training.

Stay up-to-date with the latest research and sign up for email alerts today.

Case in Point: Introducing the Performance Review System to Students

[The following post is re-blogged from SAGE Connection. Please click here to view the original article.]

In most companies, performance appraisals (PA) are a common practice used to evaluate overall employee performance while monitoring and fostering the success of both the employee and the company as a whole. This month’s installment of Case in Point, a blog series drawn from SAGE Business Cases and containing insights from thought leaders in business and management, explores a case study written by Dr. David Kimball that follows one human resource director’s journey to construct a valid PA and performance management system (PMS). The following is an interview with Dr. Kimball as he explains the benefits of teaching performance review systems to students in a classroom setting:

  1. The case you wrote describes the implementation of a performance appraisal system at a company that had never had one in place before. In your opinion, what are the top three takeaways from this case for those learning about implementing a performance review system for the first time?

The top takeaway is to consider performance appraisals from the ground up. The student is able to think of the true goals of the PA. What does the company really want to accomplish with the implementation of a PA process?

The second takeaway is for the student to consider what an employee can learn from the PA process. What areas of a job are reviewed in the performance review? In the case, students can assess the areas of work that are the human resource director’s strengths.  Where are  her weaknesses?

The third takeaway is for students to design and complete a PA Form. Students can either use the form in the case or practice designing their own form. Students can also complete the form for this particular director’s performance.

  1. What kind of information would you expect students to bring to this case study in order to accomplish the assignment?

Most students have not been in a management position where they administer a PA. So, the case allows the student to experience what this individual has to accomplish by creating and administering a performance appraisal system. The student in class is able to role play being the human resource director in a performance appraisal situation.

  1. How are problem-based case studies particularly helpful in teaching real-world management issues in the classroom?

Student engagement in class increases dramatically during case discussions.  This case is intentionally short to allow students to read the case in class, discuss it within teams during class, and present their findings in class. Students like to participate in Skill-Building cases that allow them to develop their own skills as managers.

Learn more by reading the full case study, Why Do We Conduct Performance Appraisals? Jennee LeBeau and the Case of the Missing Performance Appraisal System  from SAGE Business Cases, open to the public for a limited time. To learn more about SAGE Business Cases and to find out how to submit a case to the collection, please contact Rachel Taliaferro, Associate Editor:

Read last month’s case in point, A For-Profit Model for Social Entrepreneurship.

Dr. David Kimball, co-author of Sport Management: Principles, Applications and Skills and  Entrepreneurial New Venture Skills

Does Organizational Citizenship Behavior Increase Organizational Performance?

business-graphics-1428654-mIf an employee feels disempowered at work, they’ll soon find themselves struggling to stay motivated and productive. This disengagement is a lose-lose situation for everyone, causing unhappiness for employees and profit loss for companies. In the 1980’s, Edward E. Lawler III presented a possible solution to this problem by initiating a model which increased employee engagement and, as a result, organizational performance. But how well does this model hold up when put into practice and what behavioral components are needed for success? Mark A. Kizilos, Chailin Cummings, and Thomas G. Cummings explore this question on their article “How High-Involvement Work Processes Increase Organization Performance: The Role of Organizational Citizenship Behavior” from the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science.

The abstract:

Employee involvement is a popular approach to improve organization performance. It moves JABS_v50_72ppiRGB_powerpointdecision making downward in the organization so employees can make decisions and solve problems as quickly and close to their source as possible. One of the most developed and referenced approaches to involvement is Edward E. Lawler’s model of “high-involvement work processes” (HIWP). It describes organizational attributes that contribute to employee involvement and explains how they work together to increase organization performance. Although extensive attention has been paid to Lawler’s model in the literature, empirical tests of the model are still in a preliminary stage. Our study describes and tests a mechanism through which HIWP increases organization performance, organizational citizenship behavior. We find that organizational citizenship behavior mediates the relationship between HIWP and organization performance in a sample of 143 consumer-products organization units. Results also confirm that the HIWP attributes work together synergistically to create opportunities for employee involvement.

You can read “How High-Involvement Work Processes Increase Organization Performance: The Role of Organizational Citizenship Behavior” from the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science for free by clicking here. Want to know about all the latest research like this from the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

Ashly H. Pinnington on Competence Regimes in Professional Organizations

[We’re pleased to welcome Ashly H. Pinnington of the British University in Dubai. Dr. Pinnington and Jörgen Sandberg of UQ Business School at the University of Queensland recently published “Competence Regimes in Professional Service Firm Internationalization and Professional Careers” in Group and Organization Management.]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

I developed an interest in professional’s careers when studying different promotion systems in law firms (e.g., Morris & Pinnington, Human Relations, 1998). The GOM 39(6)_Covers.inddinterpretive approach adopted by my co-author, Jörgen Sandberg, examining the management of competence in Volvo (Sandberg, Academy of Management Journal, 2000), seemed promising for examining how professionals, such as lawyers, understand their professional work and their careers. Moving from living in the UK to Australia, I was struck by the very different ways that senior lawyers described their firms’ business plans and sense of commercial opportunities in relation to the internationalization of business. Therefore, I felt it would be interesting to examine a group of high performing lawyers’ understanding of their competence in their professional work and their views on how the firm manages them and seeks to gain their commitment to organizational strategies, particularly the internationalization of business.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

On reflection, I am surprised by the areas of commonality in the findings in this study and my co-author’s highly cited AMJ (2000) paper. The two studies both reveal a higher proportion of the longer tenured group of professional workers having more sophisticated and integrated approaches to competence. The findings in both studies reveal a hierarchy of competence, where the higher levels subsume the lower levels. I was also surprised that we could not identify more unique and distinctive approaches relating to business knowledge and skills in the area of international legal work. These commercial approaches appear to be directly associated with professional work identities.

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

I hope that our study encourages researchers to design research which successfully reveals more instances of discontinuity and dissimilarity in professional self-understanding and commercial competence. I anticipate that this study will contribute to others which theorize and evaluate ways that the professional institutes and associations have had a number of their roles in career induction, training and development supplanted by the global field of competing professional organizations. Also, it may encourage other researchers and practitioners to think more insightfully into ways that competing organizations contribute positively to the collective group of professionals and their competences.

You can read “Competence Regimes in Professional Service Firm Internationalization and Professional Careers” from Group and Organization Management for free by clicking here. Want to keep up on all the latest research from Group and Organization Management? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

ashlyAshly H. Pinnington is a Professor of Human Resource Management and Dean – Faculty of Business at the British University in Dubai. Pinnington received his PhD in Management from Brunel University in 1991. His current research interests include Professional Service Firms, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Ethics and HRM.

jorgen-sandbergJörgen Sandberg is Professor in Management and Organisation at UQ Business School, The University of Queensland, Australia. Sandberg received his PhD in 1994 from Gothenburg School of Economics, Sweden. His research interests include competence and learning in organizations, leadership, practice-based research, qualitative research methods and philosophy of science.

Designing a Course to Teach Social Media Communication

businessman-in-the-office-1-1287061-mMcKinsey Global Institute analyzed 4,200 companies in 2012 and found that by adopting social technologies internally, communication and collaboration could be improved thus increasing the productivity of interaction workers by 20 to 25 percent. As a result, business schools are beginning to offer courses on the use of social media outside of marketing. But how can the use of social media for internal communication in an organization be effectively taught to business students? Amy Young and Mary D. Hinesly discuss in their article “Social Media Use to Enhance Internal Communication: Course Design for Business Students” from Business and Professional Communication Quarterly.

Organizations are increasingly using social media to improve their internal communication. When BPCQ.inddsuccessfully implemented, such initiatives can have a dramatic impact on internal efficiency, team collaboration, innovation, organizational alignment, and cultural transformation. This article describes a course offered by the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, on the use of social media for internal business communication that can be modified for Bachelor of Business Administration or Master of Business Administration students. The authors describe the pedagogy behind the course design, provide a course description, and discuss social media/communication consulting projects conducted in the class.

Click here to read “Social Media Use to Enhance Internal Communication: Course Design for Business Students” from Business and Professional Communication Quarterly. Want to know about all the latest news and research from Business and Professional Communication Quarterly? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

The Hidden Costs of Working Sick

sneeze-894326-mWork doesn’t stop when we’re under the weather. But how does feeling bad affect how we perform our jobs? To address this question, Michael Christian, Noah Eisenkraft, and Chaitali Kapadia of the Kenan-Flager Business School at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill investigate how somatic complaints such as pain and illness affect how much people help their coworkers and expend less effort on their job. Tracking two samples of office workers over time, the researchers linked pain at work to ebbs and flows job performance via its effects on the worker’s energy.

Explaining their findings, the researchers argue that pain and illness consumes the same energy people use for motivation and direct towards performing work tasks. As a result, workers in pain are more ASQ_v59n3_Sept2014_cover.inddlikely to withdraw and narrow their focus to just the essential parts of their job role. People in pain, whether the pain is caused by a chronic condition or a fleeting headache, are less likely to help coworkers or make constructive suggestions for improvement at work. On the bright side, the study reported that these effects diminished over time. Long-term sufferers of chronic pain have an increased capacity for balancing daily job demands with pain.

The implications? Daily changes in physical health should be “legitimized” at work. Employees are often asked or obligated to work regardless of how poorly they feel. This is bad for business. Organizations that want the best performance from their employees should be proactive about employee health, developing and implementing effective treatments and symptom management strategies, especially for those employees who have chronic health conditions. Leaders who recognize that an employee’s physical health—rather than his or her commitment—can affect performance may reap long-term benefits by showing understanding to their workers. The study is published in Administrative Science Quarterly.

[The study is entitled “Dynamic Associations among Somatic Complaints, Human Energy, and Discretionary Behaviors: Experiences with Pain Fluctuations at Work” and can be read for free from Administrative Science Quarterly by clicking here.]

Improving Together: Action Learning in a Network

JABS_v50_72ppiRGB_powerpoint[We’re pleased to welcome comments from David Coghlan and Paul Coughlan, both of Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. Their paper “Effecting Change and Learning in Networks through Network Action Learning” was recently published in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science.]

  • Who is the target audience for this article?

Our article describes how a network in the transportation equipment industry engaged in collaborative improvement and transformed its way of working and the relationships among the participating organizations. Because we were working through the action learning approach we observed what took place in the real-live action of the network as it struggled with its challenges and problems.

There is not a single target audience for this article – if there is for any. We see three: fellow researchers in both of our domains; OD practitioners; and supply chain managers. Each will get something different from it. However, as audiences, they are not new to us. We have been writing with them, for them and about them for many years, based upon our collaborative research and action with them.

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

Our interest in this topic is long-standing and ever changing. We work in the area of action learning which guides and inspires our research and teaching. Action learning always begins with the task to be done and an associated problem where there is no single or technical solution. Most complex organizational change projects fall into the category of a problem, as there is no single solution while there are likely to be many opinions as to what the preferred course of action might be. The learning formula which underpins action learning is L=P+Q where learning is a function of current knowledge (P) exposed to critical and reflective questioning (Q) in the light of experience. The components of action learning are that a group forms, comprising members who care about the problem, know something about it and have the power to implement solutions. The members of the group engage in a questioning and reflective process whereby experience is generated and interrogated. The group members have a commitment to both taking action and to learning. These commitments are based on the premise that no real learning takes place unless and until action is taken as implementation, rather than recommendations to others. There is often a facilitator who can play a variety of roles for the group: coordinator, catalyst, observer, climate setter, communication enabler, learning coach among many.

While management research is often criticized for being too theoretical and removed from practice (either in its origins or applications), we enjoy the opportunity to enquire into practice, with practitioners in a way that contributes to practice, theory and methodology. In a way, our approach is to work towards a different definition of quality of research. One of us is from within the domain of Operations Management. In OM, quality is much more than a performance objective, it is a philosophy. What makes for quality in action learning is that there is an engagement with real-life issues, that it is collaborative, has a reflective character through being deliberatively subjective while at the name time being rigorously objective about the facts of the problem and its context, and that there are workable outcomes. Inspiration for our research and writing – this paragraph captures it.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

Traditional management research tends to be pre-occupied with findings. In contrast, action learning research generates data from which new insights emerge. So, in a sense, everything about the process and outcome of an action learning research initiative is surprising. The outcomes could not have been anticipated, even though the motivation, process, techniques and checks for relevance might be articulated and derived in a scholarly fashion and well executed.

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

Our article offers a contribution to networks and learning in networks theory. We bring network action learning, network types and collaborative strategic improvement together to understand the interactions that occur between organizations and demonstrate how the interactions between them may be seen as a path of transition through network types. Second, we propose a theory of researcher interaction that involves the researcher engaging with managers (or relevant practitioners) as co-researchers in addressing a real-life network problem through iterative cycles of action and reflection leading to practical outcomes and actionable knowledge.

We also offer a contribution to practice: for the supply chain managers who are responsible for the development of relationships with and among their suppliers, and the OD practitioners who work with managers to facilitate their improvement interventions. We invite supply chain managers to consider the usefulness and usability of action learning in identifying and addressing critical shared problems. We alert the OD practitioner to the particular sensitivities of managers to perceived interference with the workings of their firms and to the risk of commercial realities driving out learning.

Finally we offer a contribution to methodology. We show how action learning research has provided a basis for critical inquiry as it has generated insights into the process of effecting change and learning in a network. The actionable knowledge generated needs to meet the criteria of good research, namely was rigorous, reflective and relevant.We describe the process by which the data were gathered, generated and reflected upon. There was disciplined engagement in the interactions with the organizations and the gathering of the associated documents and records of conversation. Through collaborative engagement with the real-life issues of the network, it exposed to exploration the emergent (and latent) tensions, contradictions, emotions and power dynamics in and between the organizations. Throughout, the demands for rigour required the surfacing and exploration of the assumptions and interpretations of the data and events as they unfolded. The explication of the learning as it emerged was tested in action.

  • How does this study fit into your body of work/line of research?

Our collective body of work spans the domains of action learning, organizational learning, operations management and organization development. Our work/line of research frames how action learning constitutes an approach to collaborative management research. In our ground-breaking book, Collaborative Strategic Improvement through Network Action Learning (P. Coughlan & D. Coghlan. Edward Elgar. 2011) we framed action learning as such an approach. We explored and demonstrated how network action learning research provides a basis for critical inquiry in the fields of collaborative improvement and network learning. It generates insights into tensions, contradictions, emotions and power dynamics in and between organizations as they (and teams within them) work together to build their and to sustain an effective network.

Our article captures a locus and focus for our research which, currently, we are extending into the realm of traditional food producers. While the industry and associated dynamics differ from the transportation equipment industry focus of the article, the opportunities for actionable knowledge through engaging in action learning research remain. As noted earlier, our ambition for this research is, as always, to engage on a real life issue, collaboratively, reflectively, blending deliberate subjectivity with rigorous objectivity while aiming for robust theory and workable outcomes.

Click here to read “Effecting Change and Learning in Networks through Network Action Learning” from the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science for free! Want to be the first to know about all the latest research from the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

tcdadminDavid Coghlan is an action research scholar and an adjunct professor at the School of Business, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, and a Fellow Emeritus of the college. He specializes in organization development and action research and is active in both communities internationally. He has published over 80 articles and book chapters. Recent co-authored books include Organizational Change and Strategy (2006) and Collaborative Strategic Improvement Through Network Action Learning (2011). He is the co-editor of the four-volume set Fundamentals of Organization Development (Sage, 2010) and the proposed four-volume set Action Research in Business and Management (Sage, 2015). He has recently published the fourth edition of his internationally popular Doing Action Research in Your Own Organization (Sage, 2014).

paulcPaul Coughlan is Professor of Operations Management and Director of Research at the School of Business, Trinity College Dublin. On graduation, he joined the faculty of the London Business School. In addition to his research and teaching he has held senior School and College administrative positions, including MBA Director, Director of Postgraduate Teaching & Learning and Course Co-Director at the TCD-UCD Innovation Academy. Outside of Trinity College, he was President of the European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management (EIASM) from 2003-09. His research in product development and continuous improvement has encompassed an innovative action research dimension involving companies engaged in action learning. This work has led to continuing methodology development and to specialised doctoral training in action research and learning through the EIASM doctoral network.