This service-learning project provided students an opportunity to practice consulting skills, including a structured face-to-face interview, job satisfaction surveys, and formal presentation of final results to small businesses in a suburban community in West Virginia. In this project designed as a quasi-experimental study in a repeated measure, an 18-item open-ended questionnaire served as the mechanism in structured interviews and the Job Descriptive Index (JDI) was used before and after the interview. As a result, 80 employees from four different small businesses: health insurance, janitorial work, home improvement, and assisted residence, completed this project. Students enrolled in "Industrial/Organizational Psychology" or "Seminar on Organizational Behaviors" gained a realistic consulting experience. Small businesses received a statistical analysis of employee' s job satisfaction.
Within Academia--In Industrial/Organizational Psychology both faculty and students receive a great deal of pressure and difficulty when they want to apply academic learning in reality. There are quite few organizations willing to offer opportunities to current students, either graduate or undergraduate level, for practicum or internship. Organizations simply assume current students are "inexperienced". Students in Industrial/Organizational Psychology can hardly get involved in real organizational problems before graduation. This deprives them of competency and makes them less competitive in the job market. When they are looking for employment, due to the lack of practical experience, they are continually treated as "inexperienced". The situation gets worse for faculty members at universities located in suburban communities in West Virginia when they attempt to outreach for the purpose of program development, because there are few middle or big organizations to be considered for students' practicum or internship.
Within Small Businesses--Practitioners and professionals in applied sciences have recognized that the growth of small businesses is a crucial determinant to the economy of the United States. However, scholars, organizational consultants, and publishers continually prefer to study organizational issues with middle or large size of organizations (May, 1997; Smith & Hoy, 1992), especially when testing is involved. Small businesses are categorized as organizations that have less than 100 employees (Heneman & Berkley, 1999). They are different from middle or large size of businesses not only due to the size but also due to their needs, management, and human resources strategies (Martin & Staines, 1994; Smith & Hoy, 1992). Due to the limited resources, small businesses rely on the interview for their personnel selection more heavily, and quite frequently solely, when dealing with recruitment, placement, performance evaluation, decision making, and problem solving (Heneman & Berkley, 1999). Eventually, their employees are exposed to different kinds of interviews at work. Small businesses were also reported to provide more frequent interpersonal contact with their workers, customers, and supervisors (Smith & Hoy, 2000), along with a high degree of job complexity and challenge. Unfortunately there always are problems and concerns in any organization. For small businesses, an organizational problem, when it occurs, is less likely to be tackled in a systematic, sophisticated, or timely manner due to their lack of resources, including manpower assistance, and the tight budgets (May, 1997; Martin & Staines, 1994). Procrastination is costly because employees' morale, work motivation, organizational commitment, productivity, and organizational growth suffer.
As defined by Bringle and Hatcher (1996) service learning is a process in which students are allowed to participate in organized service activities that meet identified community needs. …