Exploring the Role of Learning Styles for Job Crafting and Work Performance in Quantity Surveyors from the United Kingdom
Dissertation overview by Matthew Nealon, University of Nottingham
This research was intended for the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology which aims to increase the understanding of people and organisations at work. The current research applies to this journal due to job crafting and learning styles of Quantity Surveyors (QS) exploring behavioural or cognitive aspects of work in relation to performance which would benefit the organisation. A frequently used employee-initiated approach is job crafting, which enables employees to shape their own work environment to fit their individual needs by adjusting the prevailing job demands and resources(1). Job crafting is normally spilt into three dimensions which are; task, relational and cognitive crafting. Kolbs learning styles (1984) are made up of the converging, accommodating assimilating and diverging learning style. A QS’s job role and work activities can be linked with key features of converging learning styles which involves abstract conceptualisation and active experimentation. Individuals with this learning style find practical uses for ideas and theories that they have learned, and their strengths include their ability to solve problems, set goals and make decisions(2).
With the QS playing a crucial role within the construction industry it is paramount for their job performance to meet satisfactory standards. Despite this, over the last decade there has been a recurring problem for the construction industry in attaining acceptable levels of quality and performance due to a variety of reasons. The inherent nature of time constrained deadline, project-based and people reliant culture in the construction industry can have a direct negative individual impact on QS’s performance(3). In relation to the current research job crafting and learning styles have been largely associated with positive and negative aspects of job performance. In respect to job crafting, recent literature has displayed that approach crafting is positive proactive ways an individual crafts their job and has been shown to have a positive relationship with job performance. In contrast avoidance crafting is techniques used to move away from negative end states and have been associated with reduced job performance. The converging learning style where an individual uses experience as a tool in work has been shown to increase the ability of a QS’s forecasting abilities. Both of these topics have been studied separately but not in conjunction in relation to performance for QS’s in the United Kingdom. This literature gap can aid the rationale for the study and support future bottom-up interventions implemented by organisations to improve QS’s job performance.
1. Tims, M., & Bakker, A. B. (2010). Job crafting: Towards a new model of individual job redesign. SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, 36(2), 1-9.
2. Turesky, E. F., & Gallagher, D. (2011). Know thyself: Coaching for leadership using Kolb’s experiential learning theory. The Coaching Psychologist, 7(1), 5-14.
3. Smithers, G. L., and Walker, D. H. T., (2010). The effect of the workplace on motivation and demotivation of construction professionals. Construction Management and Economics, 18:7, 833-841.
The study used a mixed methodology to explore and test the research question. Learning styles were tested through the Kolb Questionnaire (1984) with descriptive results quantitatively produced. Job crafting and learning styles in relation to performance were explored through qualitative interviews. The interview covered the following topics: background information on their job roles, changes they have been able to make in their job through tasks, relationships, and cognitive functions to help them, how aspects of their specific learning style aid in this process and how have these changes impacted their work performance.
The epistemological stance adopted by the research was a scientific realist framework which has been described as “soft” positivism. Participants were recruited by opportunistic sampling using a recruitment poster through LinkedIn. The participants included 10 QS’s ranging from twenty-three to forty-two (8 males) working in surveying companies from the United Kingdom. Scores from the Kolb Questionnaire were collected and analysed in excel to produce descriptive statistics. Interviews were analysed using framework and thematic analysis(4). Themes and codes were deductively formed. Descriptive statistics were then linked with narratives produced by QS’s.
The raw data scores from the questionnaire for the 4 different core aspects of Kolb’s experiential learning theory (1984) were as follows. The mean group scores for Active Experimentation were the highest (M = 30.80, SD = 5.87) whilst mean scores for Reflective Observation were the lowest (M = 19.80, SD = 2.94). The learning style preferences derived from combing 2 of the raw scores from the aspects of the experiential learning theory are also displayed. The mean group score for the Convergent learning style preference was the highest (M = 56.70, SD = 4.57) whilst the lowest group mean score was for the Divergent learning style preference (M = 43.30, SD = 4.06).
The qualitative results were spilt between sub themes of task crafting (adding tasking, redesigning tasks & reducing tasks), relational crafting (building relationships, alter relationships & reducing relationships), cognitive crafting (focusing perceptions, expanding perceptions & linking perceptions) and learning styles (goal setting, experience & problem solving). Due to the hybrid working structure of a QS which may involve working in the office or on construction site, there was many opportunities and narratives around task or relational crafting. Approach crafting was mainly referenced by QS’s in building relationships with colleagues and sub-contractors to help form a support network which would increase their performance. A contributing factor that helped them form relationships was the open organisational culture. Avoidance crafting was referenced in reducing tasks, motivated by trying to reduce the workload so that the QS can carry out more important tasks. Cognitively QS’s found expanding their perceptions and organising their multiple deadlines and projects through the use of a diary useful in not being overwhelmed by the work. High scores for the converging learning style were linked with experience showing that QS’s use previous costings and forecasting to help with their current project and achieve better performance.
4. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative research in psychology, 3(2), 77-101.
Job crafting was analysed through the lens of the QS’s motivation to craft, the contextual factors and the consequences. Chief motivational factors for QS’s were reaching deadlines, creating a mutual support system, the need for connection, control and a positive self-image. Contextual factors were the culture of the organisation, the personality and learning styles of the QS. This could lead to a variety of positive and negative associations with job performance and occupational identity.
The practical implications for this study are mainly relevant to leaders and Human Resources mangers who aim to implement bottom-up organisational change. As expressed in the narratives displayed by participants, organisational culture and social support can contribute significantly to the successful implementation of positive crafting techniques and transfer of learning styles. Organisations and leaders can support these factors at an individual level through participatory ergonomics by seeking out innovative and relevant solutions with employees. Future research can aim to use the most recent of Kolbs learning styles (KLSI version 4.0) which include nine styles; Initiating, Experiencing, Imagining, Reflecting, Analysing, Thinking, Deciding, Acting and Balancing. Furthermore in relation to job crafting future research an explore quantitatively the perceptions of supervisors and colleagues when QS’s display avoidance crafting and explore the diverse contexts in which crafting takes place.
This dissertation was conducted by Matthew Nealon, MBPsS in 2021 at the University of Nottingham.For further information contact Matthew Nealon on LinkedIn