Newcomer Socialization: The Role of Job Standardization

By Hsiung, Tung Liang; Hsieh, An Tien | Public Personnel Management, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview
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Newcomer Socialization: The Role of Job Standardization


Hsiung, Tung Liang, Hsieh, An Tien, Public Personnel Management


Turnover rates for first-year employees are quite high. (1,2) Entering new jobs and organizations, new hires typically experience some degree of surprise and uncertainty as they face unfamiliar environments. (3) The uncertainty that newcomers feel can lead to anxiety and stress. (4) In consequence, several studies have demonstrated the importance of newcomer socialization programs, which contribute to better adjustment, higher job performance, and lower turnover intentions and stress. (5-11)

Organizational socialization is the process by which employees learn the values, norms, and required behaviors, which permit them to participate as members of an organization. (12) Wanous has argued that organizations should be devoted to helping newcomers cope with "entry stress." (13) There is evidence that organizations can, through various programs, assist newcomer transition. These programs include training programs, (14-19) mentoring programs, (20-25) and socialization tactics. (26-32) While these studies identified ways to help employees adjust to new organizations, they failed to take a close look at perspectives of the actual experience of newcomers in variously standardized working environments. The effects of variables related to the job itself have received rather limited attention, although Van Maanen claimed that the nature of specific task plays a crucial role in the organizational socialization process. (33)

Previous research indicates that the focus of a newcomer's initial learning is primarily on-the-job-related aspects. (34-36) By following standard operating procedures, new hires can shorten the time of task-related learning. Once they master their jobs, they will have time to develop non-task aspects of socialization. Thus, job standardization seems able to improve the potential for socialization. As there really has been no definite conclusion from any existing empirical research, the purpose of this study is to clarify the relationship between job standardization and organizational socialization.

Hypotheses

After reviewing research on newcomer socialization, Morrison suggested that the socialization process is comprised of four primary tasks. (37) These include (1) task mastery, (2) role clarity, (3) acculturation and (4) social integration. This study proposes that job standardization will be related to the effectiveness of these tasks.

Research on socialization highlights the important tasks faced by newcomers learning how to perform their new jobs, such as understanding task duties, assignments and priorities; how to use equipment; and how to handle routine problems. (38-43) When a job is standardized, it is first analyzed in depth in an attempt to determine exactly what it entails. On the basis of this analysis, it is then ascribed certain specific, ordered steps and procedures. Job standardization furnishes all the necessary information on "how best to do a job." Newcomers are then able to absorb the information that will help them to master their jobs more effectively. (44-46)

Hypothesis 1: The higher the degree of job standardization, the higher the level of task mastery.

A second task identified by socialization research is the importance of newcomers clarifying their roles in the organization. (47-50) The standardization of a job therefore also specifies the boundaries of authority and responsibility for every position. It comes up with information on "what to do." The challenge here is to ensure the new entrant that any possibility of role ambiguity and uncertainty can be kept to a bare minimum. (51,52)

Hypothesis 2: The higher the degree of job standardization, the deeper the perception of role clarity.

Two other socialization tasks emphasized in the literature are assimilating an organization's culture and becoming integrated into a work group. (53-57) The scope of organizational culture is broad, comprised as it is of policies, values, mission, leadership style, languages and more.

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