Organizational socialization from a content perspective and its effect on the affective commitment of newly hired rehabilitation counselors
Jamie S. Mitus
Upholding high standards of quality is imperative to service delivery in rehabilitation counseling. Yet these standards may be compromised by low affective commitment in the field, in turn leading to high rates of turnover. According to Mann Layne, Hohenshil, & Singh (2004), “turnover is a detrimental problem in the field of rehabilitation (2004).” While little is known about affective commitment in the profession, there are reports showing high turnover rates ranging from 9.4% to 40.7% (Dew, Diller, & Peters, 2005; Galeotos & Dykeman, 2001; Vito & Pearson, 2003; Wisconsin Joint Legislative Audit Committee, 2000). A study by Barrett, Riggar, Flowers, Crimando, & Bailey (1997), reported that during the last decade, turnover in the field grew by 1%, albeit the increase was nonsignificant. Nevertheless, this finding suggests that turnover has not declined and remained at a high rate. Such alarming rates warrant concern that consumers may experience negative fallout from high turnover.
Factors such as layoffs, terminations, and retirement may explain some of the turnover (Bishop, 2001; Galeotos & Dykeman, 2001). For instance, in Region III, the State Vocational Rehabilitation system anticipates that in the next two years 46% of the vacancies will occur for the following reasons: retirement, termination, family needs, higher salary, death, reassignment, and other (Dew, Diller, and Peters, 2005). This finding, however, leaves 54% unaccounted for suggesting that other reasons related to a lack of commitment could contribute to departure from the agency. Several studies in other professions (e.g. hotel management, nursing, transportation, etc.) and a few studies in the human-service field have shown that the stronger an employee’s level of commitment, the less likely he/she is to leave the job (Allen & Meyer, 1996; Knudsen, Johnson, & Roman, 2003; Hart, 2000; Hackett, Bycio, & Hausdorf, 1994).
Within the rehabilitation field, only three studies have examined affective commitment, either as a predictor or criterion variable (Biggs, Flett, Voges, & Alpass, 1995, Mitus, 2005, Satcher & McGhee, 1996). As a predictor variable commitment negatively influenced the level of distress in turn affecting the employee’s turnover intentions (Biggs et al., 2005). As a criterion variable, Satcher and McGhee (1996) found counselor characteristics (i.e. age and education) to influence affective commitment such that counselors who were older and less educated were more likely to be committed to the agency. In a study by Mitus (2005) organizational factors were explored as a predictor of affective commitment. She found that rehabilitation counselors were more committed when they had more structured socialization experiences following initial entry into the agency. With the limited studies currently available in the rehabilitation literature, additional research is needed to address the multitude of factors that may influence commitment. Organizational factors may be especially important to study in comparison to counselor factors because implementing organizational change may be more feasible than changing characteristics of the counselor.
The purpose of this study was to further our understanding about affective commitment among newly hired rehabilitation counselors by examining whether organizational socialization predicts the degree to which counselors commit to their jobs. According to Chao, O’Leary-Kelly, Wolf, Klein, & Gardener (1994), organizational socialization refers to the type and extent of information that new employees learn when entering an organization. The information learned helps new employees to understand the nature of the organization and their specific work roles (Hart, 2000). With this information, the employee is able to make decisions about whether or not to form a connection to the organization. Results from this study may provide useful information about the degree to which rehabilitation counselors believe they are learning when entering a new agency and whether knowing certain types of information are more relevant towards increasing commitment to the agency.
Affective commitment has been recognized as an important construct because of its relationship with various work outcomes such as intentions to quit and voluntary turnover (Allen & Meyer, 1996; Kacmar, Carlson, & Brymer, 1999; Meyer, Stanley, Herscovitch, & Topolnytsky, 2002). According to Porter, Steers, Mowday, & Boulian, (1974), affective commitment is the degree to which an employee identifies with and becomes involved with the organization. The strength of the employee’s commitment is characterized by the extent to which the employee believes in and subscribes to the organization’s values and objectives, his/her eagerness to put forth effort for the organization, and his/her desire to stay with the organization as an active member (Allen & Meyer, 1996; Kacmar et al., 1999, & Porter et al., 1974).
In the rehabilitation literature, affective commitment has been studied as a predictor and a criterion variable. As a predictor, affective commitment has been positively linked to a rehabilitation counselor’s job satisfaction (Biggs et al., 1995). As a criterion variable, employee characteristics such as age, education, conscientiousness, and initiative seem to affect the level of commitment felt towards the agency (Satcher & McGhee, 1996). None of these studies, however, explored the role of organizational factors (e.g. socialization) as a predictor of affective commitment.
Organizational Socialization: A Socialization Content Model
Organizational socialization has historically been defined as, “the manner in which the experiences of people learning the ropes of a new organizational position, status, or role are structured for them by others within the organization” (VanMaanen, 1978, p. 19). Labeled as socialization tactics, this definition focuses exclusively on the type of experiences employees go through when starting a new job. If successful, these experiences may foster the new employee’s work identity and connection to the organization (Ashforth & Saks, 1996; Bauer, Wolfe-Morrison, & Roberts-Callister, 1998).
More recently some organizational theorists have argued that this definition is too narrow in scope; that the definition needs to be broadened to account for other aspects of organizational socialization. These theorists acknowledge the importance of socialization tactics but believe it is also essential to investigate the type and extent of information that new employees learn while being oriented to the organization (Chao et al., 1994; Feldman, 1981; Holton, 1996; Klein & Weaver, 2000). Labeled as socialization content, new employees acquire a variety of information about the organization which may influence whether or not they decide to commit.
Most organizational researchers have identified similar types of socialization content that new employees learn upon entry into the organization (Anakwe & Greenhaus, 1999; Holton, 1996; Ostroff & Kozlowski, 1992; Taormina, 1994). Presently, Chao et al. (1994) have the most widely established and empirically supported Socialization Content Model (Hart, 2000; Klein & Weaver, 2000; Saks & Ashforth, 1997). In their efforts to create a solid construct, Chao, et al. created and factor analyzed a socialization content measure, finding favorable support for six types of content that new employees learn. The content areas as outlined below cover a spectrum of organizational-level and job-specific information but are not considered to be inclusive of all possible content areas (Chao, et al, 1994; Hart, 2000).
The first content area, performance proficiency, entails the degree to which the new employee learns the tasks, skills, and abilities required for the job The socialization process can directly influence how well a new employee recognizes what needs to be learned and develops a level of mastery in the job. People, the second content area, involves knowing who the key organizational members are that will assist the new employee in learning about the organization, work group, and the job. This knowledge includes understanding how to establish successful and satisfying relationships with various organizational members during the socialization process, in order to facilitate an acceptance by other organizational members and success in the job (Chao et al., 1994). As the third content area, politics refers to the knowledge acquired by the new employee about the formal and informal networks as well as the power structures that exist within the organization. The new employee learns which members have more knowledge and power over other organizational members and can use this information to his/her advantage while adjusting into the job. Language, the fourth content area, pertains to the new employee’s knowledge about the language, jargon, and acronyms specific to the organization as well as the profession’s technical language that is used within the organization (Chao et al., 1994).
The fifth content area is organizational goals and values which involves an understanding about both formal and informal organizational values and goals. A new employee learns about the types of rules and/or principles the organization subscribes to that are considered important to its integrity. As the last content area, history includes information about the organization’s traditions, customs, myths, and rituals used to foster a certain culture in the work environment. Understanding of the culture helps the new employee to know what types of behaviors are considered acceptable or unacceptable in the organization (Chao et al., 1994).
A major premise of this model is that new employees vary in the extent to which they learn about the overall organization such that some will know more about their organization than others. In addition, new employees may differ in the degree to which they learn certain types of information including the norms, goals and values, history, politics, language, and interpersonal relationships necessary to function successfully in the organization (Hart, 2000). For example some employees may learn more about the organization’s politics while those in another organization may learn more about its history. The variation in degree of knowledge may create fluctuation in the level of commitment seen across new employees. Those who learn more are believed to experience greater success because they are cultivated to assume work roles, attitudes, behaviors, and knowledge considered important for organizational participation and successful adjustment (Bauer, Morrison, & Callister, 1998). More knowledgeable employees may also feel their employer has more of a vested interest in them. Consequently, they reciprocate by becoming loyal to the organization.
This study examined three questions and two hypotheses. Questions one and two were designed to understand perceptions about the type of information rehabilitation counselors learn and how knowledgeable they feel while going through the socialization process. As a framework of agency knowledge, the Socialization Content Model was used to answer these questions.
Q1: How much do newly hired rehabilitation counselors know while being socialized into the agency?
Q2: What type of information are rehabilitation counselors more likely to learn about when starting a new job?
Question three assessed for differences in the amount of information learned across agency setting specific to the public, private nonprofit, and private-for-profit sectors. Although the research is limited in this area, it is possible that the organizational makeup of these three sectors influences the kind and extent of information communicated so that newly hired rehabilitation counselors in one sector feel more knowledgeable about their employer in certain areas than those in another sector.
In a national study by Leahy, Chan, and Saunders, (2003) participants were asked to rate the importance of six professional knowledge domains in their role as a rehabilitation counselor. A significant difference across agency setting including the nonprofit, public, and for-profit sectors was found suggesting that the type of professional knowledge deemed important depends on where the counselor is working (Leahy et al., 2003). This study supports the idea that agencies may emphasize the importance of different knowledge domains as a product of the sector in which they operate. In a similar way, what rehabilitation counselors actually learn about the agency may vary. With this in mind, the third question asked:
Q3: In what way will perceptions about agency knowledge vary among newly hired rehabilitation counselors working in different sectors?
The two hypotheses were designed to evaluate the predictive nature of the Socialization Content Model. The first hypothesis examined the extent to which the Socialization Content Model significantly predicts affective commitment among newly hired rehabilitation counselors. While other studies have shown support for such a relationship, these studies have primarily examined professionals working in large hospitality or educational settings (Hart, 2000; Klein & Weaver, 2000). There are no studies accounting for rehabilitation counselors, who typically work in small to midsize agencies within the social service industry. Differences in these organizational settings may affect the type and extent of learning that takes place in the workplace. For example, in large hospitality or educational settings, it may be more feasible than in most rehabilitation settings to offer a formal orientation program where new employees are given significant exposure to various aspects of the organization. Those with less formal experiences may learn more on their own, thus limiting their access to information needed to learn about the organization. Consequently, these individuals may lack clarity about their job role and develop ambiguous feelings about the organization. Nevertheless, the basic premise of the Socialization Content Model is expected to hold for rehabilitation counselors even if their experiences are different from those in other professions. The first hypothesis proposed that:
H1: The Socialization Content Model will function as a significant predictor of affective commitment among newly hired rehabilitation counselors.
Using the Socialization Content Model, the second hypothesis examined whether knowledge in specific content areas vary in their ability to predict affective commitment among newly hired rehabilitation counselors. To date few studies exist that examine whether one content area functions as a better predictor over another area. Yet it seems feasible to assume that content related to people may be a stronger predictor than any of the other content areas since it specifically involves knowledge about forming meaningful work relationships that foster success on the job. Some employees may form stronger working relationships than others, furthering their work-role identity and sense of connection to those they work with. With this in mind, the second hypothesis proposed that:
H2: Perceptions about knowledge related to people will serve as a stronger predictor of affective commitment among newly hired rehabilitation counselors than other content areas.
Eligibility. One thousand certified rehabilitation counselors who passed the national exam for the first time between April 2001 and October 2002 were recruited for this study. All counselors were required to be working for at least six months and at most 24 months in their current job. By targeting newly certified rehabilitation counselors, the odds of identifying newly employed rehabilitation counselors were thought to be greater.
The six to 24-month criterion was selected based on the literature suggesting that the socialization period varies in length from initial entry up to two years (Cable & Parson, 2001; Stringer, Gustav, & Friedrich, 1998). Participants had to be employed for at least six months in order to allow time for employees to develop commitment to the agency. Other criteria to participate included: (1) working in rehabilitation counseling or a closely related field, (2) working within any sector of rehabilitation counseling, (3) working within any size agency, and (4) working for an agency versus being self-employed. Since the socialization experience is based on the idea that a new employee will, “learn the ropes” of the organization, this precluded anyone who was self-employed from participating (Van Maanen, 1978, p. 19).
Sample characteristics. One hundred and sixty eight newly certified rehabilitation counselors participated in the study with 82.7% being female and 17.3% being male. The mean age for the sample was 35.2 years (SD = 10.6 years). In regards to education, 99.0% of the participants had a Masters degree and 1.0% had a Doctorate degree. The ethnic background for the group was 81.0 % Caucasian, 10.0% African American, 4.2% Hispanic, 2.4% American Indian, 1.8% Asian/Pacific Islander, and .6% other. While all of the counselors were nationally certified, 16.7% were licensed as professional counselors. Additional demographics are outlined in Table 1.
The Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC) was contacted to obtain a national mailing list of newly certified rehabilitation counselors as specified in the criteria. From a pool of 2000 newly certified rehabilitation counselors, 1000 counselors were randomly selected through CRCC’s computer-generated random sampling process and mailed recruitment letters. Those interested and who qualified were asked to return the enclosed response card. A total of 268 rehabilitation counselors expressed an interest to participate and were mailed a survey packet including a consent form. To maintain anonymity, participants kept the consent form, only returning the survey as proof of their consent to participate. Follow-up letters were mailed to anyone who failed to return a survey.
A total of 206 surveys were returned, producing a response rate of 21% based on the initial 1000 recruitment letters that were mailed. Thirty-six of the surveys were not usable because the participants did not meet the 6th to 24th-month criterion. An additional, two surveys were dropped from the analysis due to extensive missing data, leaving the final sample size at 168 rehabilitation counselors.
Agency setting was measured by the sector in which the agency operates. Three sectors were identified for this study including: public, nonprofit, and for profit. Socialization period was measured by dividing participants into three categorical groups depending on their length (i.e. number of months) of agency tenure. The groups included early socialization from 6 to 12 months, mid-socialization from 13 to 18 months, and late socialization from 19 to 24 months. Socialization content was assessed as a continuous variable by Chao’s et al. (1994) 34-item Socialization Content Scale on a 5-point Likert scale. This scale measures what new employees believe they learn when socialized into the organization. There are six dimensions of content including performance proficiency, history, politics, language, people, and organizational goals and values. Subscale scores were calculated for the six dimensions in an additive manner. A composite score was then computed by adding the six subscale scores together. Reports of the reliability coefficient (Cronbach’s alpha) range between .63 and .86 across the six dimensions (Chao et al. 1994; Klein & Weaver, 2000). The Cronbach’s coefficient alpha for the composite score in this study was .91.
Affective commitment was measured as a continuous variable using an alternate version of Allen & Meyer’s Affective Organizational Commitment Scale (1996). This version of the scale modifies the wording to, “reflect an agency rather than a business orientation” (Satcher & McGhee, 1996, p. 219). Using a 7-point Likert scale, this measure assesses the degree to which employees identify with, are involved in, and feel emotionally attached to the organization (Allen & Meyer, 1996). One total score was calculated by adding together the eight items. The reliability coefficient (Cronbach’s alpha) for the scale is reported as being around .85 with test-retest reliability falling within an acceptable range (Allen & Meyer, 1996). The Cronbach’s coefficient alpha for this study was .83.
To measure agency tenure participants were asked to identify how long they had been working for their current employer. Using the eligibility criteria for this study, agency tenured ranged from 6 to 24 months on the job. Since a range of months was used to define the socialization period, it was thought that agency tenure might correlate with affective commitment and socialization content, thus confounding the analysis. Those further versus earlier in the socialization period, might be more committed and feel they know more about their new jobs.
Descriptive statistics were calculated for research question one. With overall possible scores ranging from 34 to 238 on the Socialization Content Scale, the majority of newly hired rehabilitation counselors in this study felt they were moderately knowledgeable about their agencies (M = 133.56, SD = 16.65).
To explore this further, a one-way ANOVA was used to determine if participants at different socialization periods (i.e. early, mid, or late socialization) would significantly differ in their beliefs about what they know about the agency. Prior to the analysis the Levene’s statistic was used to assess for homogeneity of variance since the three groups were uneven in sample size. A nonsignificant result was found, indicating that the variances across the groups are equal. Proceeding with the analysis produced a significant result [F (2,163 = 4.22, p = .016] with an effect size of .049 which is considered to be relatively small (Newton & Rudestam, 1999). Tukey’s follow up tests were conducted to evaluate pairwise differences among the three groups. As indicated in table two, one significant difference was found between rehabilitation counselors in the early versus late socialization period.
Results for question two including the means and standard deviations for each socialization content area are displayed in Table 3. Newly hired rehabilitation counselors in this study reported knowing the most about the agency’s language and performance proficiency and the least about the agency’s history and politics.
Research question three was analyzed using a one-way multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA). Prior to the analysis the homogeneity of variance was checked since the three groups (i.e. nonprofit, for profit, and public sectors) were uneven in sample size. Using the Levene statistic, a nonsignificant result was found, indicating that the variances are equal. Proceeding with the analysis, no significant differences were found among the three sectors on any of the dependent measures [Wilks’ [LAMBDA] = .92, F (12, 320) = 1.18, p < .29]. The analysis generated a small effect size of .05. Due to the lack of significance, no follow up tests were performed. A power analysis, however was conducted to determine the likelihood of detecting differences across the three groups with a small effect size. With an alpha level and an effect size of .05, the power calculated was only. 17.
Prior to analyzing the two hypotheses, agency tenure was tested as a covariate to see if it would correlate with both affective commitment and socialization content. Using a two-tailed Pearson-product moment correlation coefficient, a significant relationship was found with socialization content ([r.bar] = .20; [p.bar] = .01) but not with affective commitment ([r.bar] = .03; [p.bar] = .71). Since agency tenure only correlated significantly with one of the variables, statistical control was not necessary for hypothesis testing.
To determine whether the Socialization Content Model would function as a significant predictor of affective commitment, a bivariate linear regression analysis was conducted for hypothesis one. The results show that the model is a significant predictor such that as socialization content increases, the overall level of affective commitment increases. The correlation between the two variables was .45, [t.bar] (166) = 6.43, [p.bar] = .000. According to Cohen Guidelines (Newton & Rudestam, 1999), this correlation falls towards a large effect size, therefore increasing the confidence that a true relationship was found. Approximately 20% of the variance of affective commitment was accounted for by its linear relationship to socialization content.
To test the second hypothesis, a hierarchal multiple regression using six blocks was conducted. By separating each socialization content area into a distinct block, the unique contribution of each area to the prediction of affective commitment could be evaluated. The content areas were entered into separate blocks in the following order: performance proficiency, politics, language, goals and values, history, and people. Content related to people was entered last since it was hypothesized that people would be a stronger predictor than the other content areas.
Results of the analysis found partial support for the hypothesis with the overall model being significant [[[R.bar].sup.2]] = .47, adjusted [[[R.bar].sup.2]] = .45, [F.bar] (6,161) = 23.89, [p.bar] = .000]. According to Cohen Guidelines (Newton & Rudestam, 1999), the [[R.bar].sup.2] leans towards a large effect size, therefore increasing the confidence that the significant result is in fact true. Four of the content areas, as outlined in Table 4, significantly contributed to the prediction of affective commitment. As hypothesized, people [[[R.bar].sup.2] change = .06, [F.bar] (1,161) = 16.77, [p.bar] = .000] was a stronger predictor than performance proficiency, language, and history. In contrast to the hypothesis, however, politics [[[R.bar].sup.2] change = .06, [F.bar] (1,165) 9.95 = .002] was an equivalent predictor and goals and values [[[R.bar].sup.2] change = .32, [F.bar] (1,163) = 87.76, [p.bar] = .000] was a much stronger predictor than people.
The purpose of this study was to explore organizational socialization from a content perspective and to evaluate its influence on affective commitment among newly hired rehabilitation counselors. Based on the results from this study, rehabilitation counselors seem to believe they are learning a moderate level of information when starting a new job. The level of knowledge seems to increase significantly between those early versus later in the socialization process. This finding may suggest that rehabilitation agencies are providing some of the tools necessary to learn. In addition, rehabilitation counselors may be looking for opportunities to ensure their learning increases overtime.
While the mean scores between counselors early versus later in the socialization process were significantly different, the effect size was quite small suggesting that the difference between the two groups may be relatively minor. It may be that more learning takes place early in the socialization process and then tapers off by the 24th month on the job. In other words rehabilitation counselors may learn the most during the initial 12 months on the job with some continual learning on a much smaller scale thereafter. It was thought that those later in the socialization process would feel quite knowledgeable in their jobs. Yet on average they only felt moderately knowledgeable. Consequently, it may be helpful to explore ways to enhance the rehabilitation counselor’s overall learning experience throughout the entire socialization period by examining the administrative practices used by rehabilitation agencies as well as the proactive role counselors take to learn about the agency.
Specific areas of knowledge were explored to see if rehabilitation counselors think they know more content in some areas over others. Results from this study show that rehabilitation counselors think they know more about the agency’s language and performance proficiency in contrast to other content areas like history and politics. In terms of language, many of the counselors in this study were starting a new job with previous work experience. Despite the agency, some acronyms and jargon (e.g. SSDI, SSI) are common across the rehabilitation profession. Therefore counselors may be walking into a new job already feeling some competence about their knowledge of the language.
With respect to performance proficiency, perhaps more tools are provided to newly hired rehabilitation counselors to help them learn content in this area while fewer tools are given to facilitate learning about other content areas. According to Hart (2000), some areas of knowledge are learned through formal methods while others are learned through informal methods. Performance proficiency is one area of knowledge commonly learned through formal methods (e.g. orientation and training) making the information more accessible to new employees. In turn this creates greater clarity about how to perform effectively. In contrast, information about history and politics may often come through informal channels like storytelling or gossip (Hart, 2000). These methods are more ambiguous and generally take longer to tap into thus delaying the acquisition of knowledge. Information through these channels is usually unveiled in small segments as the employee becomes integrated into the work setting.
Group comparisons were made across agency sector with respect to socialization content but no significant differences were found. It was thought that the organizational makeup of these three sectors might influence how information is relayed when new counselors are socialized into the agency. Therefore, rehabilitation counselors in one sector may feel more knowledgeable than counselors in another sector. The results suggested otherwise showing that newly hired rehabilitation counselors in all three sectors felt equally knowledgeable about their agency. Even if the three sectors have different organizational makeup, this didn’t seem to weigh in on how knowledgeable they felt about the job.
Perhaps agencies utilize similar training methods despite their organizational makeup thus leading to equivalent levels of knowledge. Or if different methods are used, they may be equally effective in training rehabilitation counselors to learn about the agency. Another consideration for the lack of a significant result may relate to power. Although the variance was equivalent across the three groups, the sample size of each group was quite different. Conducting a power analysis revealed relatively low power meaning that differences may have existed but were not detected because the groups were uneven and too small.
Socialization content was examined as a predictor of affective commitment. As hypothesized, the results from the study found rehabilitation counselors to be more committed when they felt like they knew more about the agency. Rehabilitation counselors, who know more about the agency, are able to utilize this information to make a decision about whether or not to commit and develop a strong identity to the agency. As indicated by Porter, Steers, Mowday, & Boulian, (1974) affective commitment entails one’s ability to form an identity to the organization. They may also feel their employer has vested more in their learning and overall adjustment to the agency which in turn creates a feeling of reciprocity displayed through loyalty and commitment. Those who know less about the agency may feel more ambiguous about what they are committing to and therefore refrain from doing so. The positive relationship found between affective commitment and socialization content contributes to an increasing body of literature supporting this relationship and shows that the model can be generalized to the rehabilitation counseling profession Bauer et al., 1998).
This study also examined the predictive nature of the six content areas in the Socialization Content Model. As hypothesized, content related to people was a stronger predictor than performance proficiency, language, and history. But content related to politics was equally strong as a predictor. Politics like people is another content area in the model that accounts for knowledge about work relationships. In contrast, however, it specifically pertains to knowledge about power structures and work relationships between others in the organization. Understanding which colleagues hold informal and formal power may be as important because it tells the new employee how to interact with those individuals in order to make a smooth transition into the agency. Those who do not learn how to interact from a political sense may experience more difficulty with certain colleagues in turn creating frustration towards the agency for the new employee.
In contrast to the hypothesis, knowledge about goals and values provided a significantly larger contribution to the overall prediction of affective commitment than people. Rehabilitation counselors appear to put much more stock on what they know about the agency’s goals and values than about people when deciding to commit to the agency. Perhaps this is because the new employee is making a comparison of his/her own goals and values to those of the agency in order to determine if there is a good fit between the two. This finding may speak to the vast amount of literature on the person-organization fit which supports the congruency between the values and goals of the employee and the organization (Cable & Parson, 2001). In terms of commitment, rehabilitation counselors may feel that developing and understanding work relationships is somewhat important. But if an agency doesn’t hold the same values or isn’t striving for the same things as the employee, then feeling committed is going to be significantly more difficult.
Implications for the Rehabilitation Profession
Organizational socialization from a content perspective appears to be an important indicator of affective commitment among newly hired rehabilitation counselors such that commitment is likely to increase when the counselor feels more knowledgeable about the agency. This in turn may help to increase the quality of work performance and lower the potential for turnover in the agency. Both administrators and counselors can take an active role in order to enhance learning during the socialization period.
Rehabilitation administrators may need to evaluate their new counselors more closely during the socialization period in order to ascertain their development into full organizational members. This involves evaluating more than just performance proficiency. They should pay especially close attention to what their employees learn about the agency’s goals and values, politics, people, and history. Maintaining scheduled meetings during this time can allow administrators to assess how well their new counselors are learning and if they are forming an attachment to the agency. Any potential problems or issues of ambiguity can be more easily addressed and strategies implemented that enhance overall learning about the agency. For example, an administrator may feel the agency’s mission statement is well communicated to new counselors. Yet, it may be unclear exactly how the mission is carried out in the day-to-day practices of the agency. By meeting more frequently with new employees, this type of ambiguity could be clarified.
It may also be useful for agencies to evaluate their current socialization practices in order to determine how effective they are in socializing newly hired rehabilitation counselors into the agency. For example are employees first expected to read through an agency manual followed by working on their own or are they sent to formal two-day training? Some of these practices over others may foster more learning among their new employees. Rehabilitation administrators may wish to seek out feedback from their current employees about the practices they find most useful when learning about the agency. When evaluating current practices, rehabilitation administrators should also look at ways to enhance learning throughout out the entire socialization period so that those later in the socialization period feel more competent in what they know about the agency.
Rehabilitation counselors can also take an active role while learning about the agency during the socialization period. According to Morrison, (1993) those who are more proactive in learning about the organization during the socialization process typically have a better adjustment (e.g. affective commitment, job satisfaction) because it reduces ambiguity about the job/agency. Taking initiative to learn the agency can occur in a number of ways. For instance, some agencies may offer formal orientation, where rehabilitation counselors acquire a significant amount of knowledge. Counselors should utilize this opportunity to inquire about the agency and other opportunities to expand his/her knowledge.
Rehabilitation counselors can also acquire a significant amount of information through the informal learning process (Hart, 2000). During this process, rehabilitation counselors could become more proactive in getting the information they need by seeking out key people who are experts on various aspects of the agency. Meeting with these individuals will help them to gain an understanding about different facets of the agency. Rehabilitation counselors may also wish to identify mentors on their own who could help them to learn about the agency. Some researchers have also discussed the role of monitoring where it can be helpful for new employees to become more attuned to the events taking place in their work environment (Bauer et al., 1998). For example employees may attend to informal conversations where gossip and storytelling occur. Through observation and participation in these conversations, the new employee can pick up on important information not offered through formal training methods.
This study made an initial attempt to examine how organizational socialization from a content perspective influences the affective commitment of newly hired rehabilitation counselors. However, a significant amount of work is still needed to better understand this relationship. First more replication studies with rehabilitation counselors are needed to validate the relationship between organizational socialization and affective commitment among rehabilitation counselors. Second, Mitus (2005) examined organizational socialization from an experience perspective as opposed to a content perspective. Her study found that those with more structured socialization experiences felt more committed to their agency. It may be helpful to examine the interactive effects of both aspects of organizational socialization concurrently as the relationship between socialization content and commitment could be tempered by socialization experiences. This would further our understanding about the nature of the relationship. Third, as indicated earlier Morrison (1993) discusses the role of proactivity when learning a new job where some individuals are more likely to seek out information over others. Examining proactivity among rehabilitation counselors may further our understanding about other factors that influence the counselor’s willingness to commit to the agency.
While this study showed some promising results from which future research can expand upon, there were some limitations that should be considered. The first limitation pertains to the design of the study. A non-experimental design was used creating concerns about the internal validity. Without experimental control, it is more dirt]cult to infer causality (Kerlinger, 1986). Therefore, interpreting the results of this study should be done with some caution.
Secondly, a difference was found between those who participated in the study and those who did not participate with respect to their location of residence in the United States. This comparison showed that there may have been an under representation of newly hired rehabilitation counselors living in the West as opposed to those living in the North or East. Therefore, when interpreting the results, it is important to know that the findings may not be entirely representative of those living on the West coast.
Another issue to consider is self-selection. Although random sampling was used to identity potential participants, rehabilitation counselors still could choose to participate in the study. This may have lowered the response rate, which tell slightly below the typical rate of 25% to 40% for a mail survey (Newton & Rudestam, 1999). Attempts were made to determine whether the sample in this study was similar to samples of other newly hired rehabilitation counselors. No other studies of newly hired rehabilitation counselors could be found. Comparisons could only be made with two national samples of rehabilitation counselors where some slight differences were noted. The sample in this study was slightly younger with shorter-job tenure. This difference is not surprising considering that the sample in this study included newly hired rehabilitation counselors who were in their jobs for less than two years.
Although there were some limitations, this study contributed to the field in several ways. We now have some indication about what rehabilitation counselors believe they know as they are going through the socialization period. Effort needs to be made to increase their learning so that they feel highly knowledgeable about the agency by the end of their socialization period. There is also strong evidence showing a positive relationship between socialization content and affective commitment. Therefore the rehabilitation profession should look at ways to enhance the newly hired rehabilitation counselor’s overall learning about the agency. It also appears that several content areas in the Socialization Content Model influence affective commitment but that content related to the agency’s goals and values seems to be most important. While it may be useful to identify ways to increase overall knowledge about the agency, special attention may need to be directed towards knowledge about the agency’s goals and values, people, politics, and history.
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Jamie S. Mitus
Jamie S. Mitus, Ph.D., CRC, LCPC, Hofstra University, 149 Hagedorn Hall, Hempstead, NY 11549. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Demographics of Newly Hired Rehabilitation Counselors (N = 168)
Demographic variable Categories Percentage M SD
Sector employed Private-for-profit 14.3 — —
Private nonprofit 29.7 — —
Public 56.0 — —
Employment location Urban 51.8 — —
Suburban 23.8 — —
Rural 21.4 — —
Rural & Urban 3.0 — —
Job tenure (a) — 15.0 6.3
Primary disability Psychiatric 32.7 — —
group (b) Physical 24.4 — —
Cognitive 22.0 — —
Sensory 4.8 — —
Other 16.1 — —
Caseload size (c)
— 79.0 75.3
Note. (a) Number of months on the job. (b) Primary disability group
served by counselor. (c) Number of clients on the counselor’s
Differences among Socialization Period Groups on Perceptions of
Socialization Period M SD Early Mid
Early Socialization (6 to 12 months) 129.63 17.14
Mid-Socialization (13 to 18 months) 136.74 15.30 NS
Late Socialization (19 to 24 months) 137.27 15.63 * NS
Note: NS = nonsignificant difference between pair means; asterisk
(*) = significance at the .05 level.
Means and Standard Deviations for Content Areas of the
Socialization Content Model
Content Area M SD
Language 4.11 .67
Performance Proficiency 4.06 .76
People 3.95 .70
Goals & Values 3.91 .59
Politics 3.84 .60
History 3.72 .79
Note: The means reflect the mean item scores.
Hierarchical Regression Analysis for Predictors of Affective
Block Factor [R.sup.2] F p
1 Performance Proficiency .02 3.01 .09
2 Politics .06 9.95 .00 *
3 Language .00 .47 .49
4 Goals & Values .32 87.76 .00 *
5 History .02 4.52 .04 *
6 People .06 16.77 .00 *
Note: Asterisk (*) indicates significance at the .05 level.
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