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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Ability - Learning and Ability

Biographic Characteristics

Finding and analyzing the variables that have an impact on employee productivity, absence, turnover, and satisfaction is often complicated. Many of the concepts motivation, or power, politics or organizational culture – are hard to assess. There exists a relationship between an individual background, the biographical characteristics and employee productivity, absenteeism, turnover and job satisfaction. The various biographical characteristics are:

1. Gender
2. Age
3. Marital status
4. Tenure.

1. Gender
Men and women exhibit no consistent differences in their problem-solving abilities, analytical skills, competitive drive, motivation, learning ability, or sociability. However, women are reported to be more conforming and to have lower expectations of success than men do. And, women‟s absenteeism rates tend to be higher than those of men.

2. Age
The research findings concerning age are important given the aging of the workforce. People 50 years old and older account for 85 percent of the projected labor force growth between 1990 and 2005 (American Association of Retired Persons, 1995). Older workers are susceptible to being stereotyped as inflexible and undesirable in other ways. In some cases, workers as young as age forty are considered to be “old” and complain that their experience and skills are no longer valued. On the other hand, small businesses in particular, tend to value older workers for their experience, stability and low turnover. Research is consistent with these preferences and also shows lower avoidable absences (Mayrand, 1992).

3. Marital Status
There are not enough studies to draw any conclusions about the effect of marital status on job productivity. Research consistently indicates that married employees have fewer absences, undergo less turnover, and are more satisfied with their jobs than are their unmarried coworkers (Garrison & Muchinsky, 1977). Further research needs to be conducted on the other statuses, besides, single or married, such as, divorce, domestic partnering, etc.

4. Tenure
The issue of the impact of job seniority on job performance has been subject of misconceptions and speculations. Extensive reviews of the seniority-productivity relationship have been conducted (Gordon & Fitzgibbons, 1982):

1. There is a positive relationship between tenure and job productivity.
2. There is a negative relationship between tenure to absence.
3. Tenure is also a potent variable in explaining turnover.
4. Tenure has consistently been found to be negatively related to turnover and has been suggested as one of the single best predictors of turnover.
5. The evidence indicates that tenure and satisfaction are positively related


Individuals overall abilities are made up of two sets of factors: intellectual and physical.

Intellectual Abilities

Intellectual abilities are those required to perform mental activities.
IQ tests are designed to ascertain one‟s general intellectual abilities. Examples of such tests are popular college admission tests such as, the SAT, GMAT, and LSAT. The seven most commonly cited dimensions making up intellectual abilities are: number aptitude, verbal comprehension, perceptual speed, inductive reasoning, deductive reasoning, spatial visualization, and memory (Dunnette, 1976).

The abilities are categorized in the following table:

Intellectual Ability

Job Example
Number aptitude
Ability to do speedy and accurate arithmetic
Verbal Communication
Read write speaking ability
Senior managers
Perceptual Speed
Identify similarities and differences quickly and accurately
Inductive reasoning
Logical sequence drawing
Market Researcher
Deductive reasoning
Ability to use logic and assess the implications of the argument
Spatial Visualization
Ability to imagine
Interior decorator

Ability to retain and recall past experience
Sales person-Remembering customer‟s name

Jobs differ in the demands they place on incumbents to use their intellectual abilities. A review of the evidence demonstrates that tests that assess verbal, numerical, spatial, and perceptual abilities are valid predictors of job proficiency at all levels of jobs.

In this regard, the theory of multiple intelligences was developed by Gardner (1983, 1993). This theory suggests eight different intelligences to account for a broader range of human potential in children and adults. It has been claimed that our intelligence or ability to understand the world around us is complex. Some people are better at understanding some things than others. For some, it is relatively easy to understand how an automobile works, but it is immensely difficult for some to understand and use a musical instrument. For others music might be easy but playing football is difficult. The several different intelligences are listed below:

1. Linguistic intelligence ("word smart"):
2. Logical-mathematical intelligence ("number/reasoning smart")
3. Spatial intelligence ("picture smart")
4. Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence ("body smart")
5. Musical intelligence ("music smart")
6. Interpersonal intelligence ("people smart")
7. Intrapersonal intelligence ("self smart")
8. Naturalist intelligence ("nature smart")


Ø  Highly reliable.
Ø  Verbal reasoning and numerical tests have shown high validity for a wide range of jobs.
Ø  The validity rises with increasing complexity of the job.
Ø  Combinations of aptitude tests have higher validities than individual tests alone.
Ø  May be administered in group settings where many applicants can be tested at the same time.
Ø  Scoring of the tests may be completed by computer scanning equipment.
Ø  Lower cost than personality tests.

Physical Abilities

Specific physical abilities gain importance in doing less skilled and more standardized jobs. Research has identified nine basic abilities involved in the performance of physical tasks. Individuals differ in the extent to which they have each of these abilities. High employee performance is likely to be achieved when management matches the extent to which a job requires each of the nine abilities and the employees‟ abilities.

Nine Basic Physical Abilities proposed by Fleishman (1979)

Strength Factors

Dynamic strength
Ability to exert muscular force repeatedly or continuously over time
Trunk strength
Ability to exert muscular strength using the trunk (particularly abdominal) muscles
Static strength
Ability to exert force against external objects
Explosive strength
Ability to expend a maximum of energy in one or a series of explosive acts
Flexibility Factors

Extent flexibility
Ability to move the trunk and back muscles as far as possible
Dynamic flexibility
Ability to make rapid, repeated flexing Movements
Other Factors

Body coordination
Ability to coordinate the simultaneous actions of different parts of the body
Balance Ability
Ability to maintain equilibrium despite forces pulling off balance
Stamina Ability
Ability to continue maximum effort requiring prolonged effort over time


Ø  Can identify individuals who are physically unable to perform the essential functions of a job without risking injury to themselves or others
Ø  Can result in decreased costs related to disability/medical claims, insurance, and workers compensation
Ø  Decreased absenteeism


o   Costly to administer
o   Requirements must be shown to be job related through a thorough job analysis
o   May have an age based disparate impact against older applicants
o   Learning is a term frequently used by a great number of people in a wide variety of contexts. Learning can be defined as a relatively permanent change in behaviour or potential behaviour as a result of direct or indirect experience. There are two primary elements in this definition.
o   The change must be relatively permanent. This means that after 'learning', our behaviour must be different, either better or worse as compared to our behaviour prior to this learning experience. For example, you 'learn' to drive a car or have 'learned' how to use a computer.

This change must occur due to some kind of experience or practice. This learning is not caused by biological maturity. For example, a child does not learn to walk; it is a natural biological phenomenon. We do not learn to eat or drink.

The Ability – Job Fit

Employee performance is enhanced when there is a high ability-job fit. The specific intellectual or physical abilities required depend on the ability requirements of the job. For example, pilots need strong spatial-visualization abilities. Directing attention at only the employee's abilities, or only the ability requirements of the job, ignores the fact that employee performance depends on the interaction of the two. When the fit is poor employees are likely to fail. When the ability-job fit is out of synchronization because the employee has abilities that far exceed the requirements of the job, performance is likely to be adequate, but there will be organizational inefficiencies and possible declines in employee satisfaction. Abilities significantly above those required can also reduce the employee's job satisfaction when the employee's desire to use his or her abilities is particularly strong and is frustrated by the limitations of the job.

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