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I am a M.A. in industrial/organizational psychology. Most of my experience has been in human resources and change management. My passion lies in employee assessment, organizational development and employee opinions. Website: www.IanMondrow.com LinkedIn Profile: http://linkd.in/drBYoC

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Significance of Task Significance

Summary by: Ian B. Mondrow

Task significance is defined as the perception that one's job has a positive impact on other people. Research on task significance has been limited because many studies focuses on cross-sectional designs that were unsuccessful in proving task significance impacted job performance. Job performance is perceived effectiveness of one's behavior that work strive to achieve organization initiatives. In addition, there are limited studies that manipulate task significance with other job characteristics. Grant (2008) sets out to determine if relational mechanisms (specifically: perceived social impact & perceived social worth)  and boundary conditions (specifically: conscientiousness and pro-social values) mediates task significance using three experiments.

Grant (2008) utilized a university fundraising organization as his first sample. 33 callers were split into 3 conditions that include: (1)a task significant condition where participants read 2 stories on how their job can impact others, (2) a personal benefit condition where participants read 2 stories about how the job benefitted the individual and (3) a control group with no manipulation. The data that was collected was measured pre-intervention and post-intervention. The results were quite promising. Results found that callers in the task significant condition increased the amount of pledges earned significantly, t(11) = 4.60, p = .001. The control group and personal benefit group showed no significant improvement in the post-implementation. The  task significant group continued to shine as they showed an increase in the amount of money earned following the intervention, t(11) = 4.51, p =.001. Once again, no significant improvement was present for the control group and the personal benefit group. Grant's initial study was a success in proving that task significance may actually positively impact job performance.

The researcher and his assistants return to the same fundraising organization, which had already experienced a full turnover of all staff. Before the intervention, all participants completed a self-assessment measuring conscientiousness and prosocial values (one's value of protecting and promoting the welfare of others). In addition, data regarding job performance was collected.Participants were split into two groups: control and task significance. Upon intervention, participants in the control group were asked to read about the organization's policies, while the task significance group read two stories portraying how the job has helped other people. Results show that [once again] the task significance group obtained more pledges than the control group, t(32) = 2.03, p = .05.  A OLS regression indicated that individuals with high prosocial values had a strong effect when they encountered the task significance condition. Again, Grant (2008) has demonstrated that task significance can have a positive impact on job performance.

You may be thinking that this study is limited because it was conducted with the same organization. In fact, Grant (2008) conducted a similar study with lifeguards at public pools. In this study there was no control group, but a personal benefit group and task significance group. He found that lifeguards in the task significance group committed more hours to their job, were more likely to help, and experienced an increase in one's perceived social worth  and social impact. Therefore, this study can be applied to a diverse population.

This study can make valuable contributions to training managers for performance evaluations. HR professionals can coach managers on utilizing a task significant outlook when addressing areas for improvement (for an individual employee). According to this study, if a manager informs an employee how their improved performance could help others, the employee is likely to understand the value of the specific task. To be most effective, the manager must provide this logic for each individual task (instead of the overall position) that requires improvement.

As humans, we want to know that we are valuable. Therefore, by providing feedback based on task significance, one can see how their performance can positively impact the organization and its stakeholders.

Reference: Grant, A.M. (2008). The significance of task significance: Job performance effects, relational mechanisms and boundary conditions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93(1), 198-124.

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