THE LEARNING COUPON: THE EFFECT OF PEER AND SUPERVISORS' PARTICIPATION ON INDIVIDUAL PARTICIPATION IN AN EMPLOYER-SPONSORED PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE.
Robinson, Jill D.
Kivlighan Jr., Dennis M.
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ABSTRACT Title of Document: THE LEARNING COUPON: THE EFFECT OF PEER AND SUPERVISORS' PARTICIPATION ON INDIVIDUAL PARTICIPATION IN AN EMPLOYER-SPONSORED PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE. Jill Dornetta Robinson, Doctor of Philosophy, 2014 Directed By: Dennis M. Kivlighan Jr.,Doctor of Philosophy Department of Counseling and Personnel Psychology The learning coupon program was initiated by Federal Student Aid (FSA), a sub-agency of the U.S. Department of Education (ED), to promote employee participation in lifelong learning and career development. The initiative was introduced in 2002 in response to Executive Order No. 13,111 (1999) issued by former President Bill Clinton, which called for agencies to use technology to expand training opportunities for federal employees. The initiative has been operational since 2002 until present, however, leaders at FSA are troubled that employee participation has consistently remained at or below 50%. Researchers theorize using human capital theory that individuals calculate the costs and benefits of training opportunities to determine whether participation in training is worthwhile. This framework effectively explains participation in terms of employees' intrinsic characteristics, such as personal motivation and outcome expectations. However, research indicates that the perceived value of training opportunities can be "relative to one's standing with similar or referent others" (Bamberger & Biron, 2007, p. 179) and that individual perceptions of the worth of rewards can be influenced by interaction and interdependent behavior with others (Friedland & Nadler, 1999). For example, researchers have hypothesized that, within interdependent social contexts, information about the other person's potential reward or outcome can affect individual tendencies to participate, cooperate, or compete with one another (Friedland & Nadler, 1999). Thus, researchers believe that employee participation and the perceptions of the utility of a training opportunity have to be analyzed within the structure of the social context in which the interactions unfold. In this study, I hypothesized that--based on social learning theory--regarding interdependent behavior with others, namely peers and supervisors--individual employee participation in the learning coupon would influence individuals' decisions to participate in the learning coupon. Prior to the selection of research methods, I reviewed the relevant literature to identify the determinants of training participation and then used this information to construct the model and conceptual framework for this study. Data on employee gender, supervisor, business unit, and status of participation from the year 2007-2008 represents the highest level of participation (49%) in the learning coupon initiative. Status of participation was coded as a yes-no variable to indicate whether or not each employee and each supervisor participated in training during the 2007-2008 calendar year. Employee data was linked to supervisor data, which allowed me to identify the employees who shared a common supervisor. Based on this data, I created the "other participation" variable which was defined as the percentage of employees who share the same supervisor as the target employee who participated in the learning coupon. The study revealed that other participation had a significant negative effect on individual participation. I also found that group size had a significant negative effect on individual participation. As the group size increased, the likelihood of individual participation decreased. Our model demonstrated that size mitigated the negative effect of other participation on individual participation. As group size increased from low to high, the negative effect of other participation decreased. Finally, the results indicated that supervisors' participation did not have a statistically significant influence on individual decisions to participate in the learning coupon.