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Career-related
Effects of career-related continuous
continuous learning: a case study learning
Jens Rowold
University of Münster, Münster, Germany 45
Sabine Hochholdinger
University of Paderborn, Paderborn, Germany, and
Jan Schilling
RWTH Aachen, Aachen, Germany

Abstract
Purpose – Although proposed from theory, the assumption that career-related continuous learning
(CRCL) has a positive impact on subsequent job performance has not been tested empirically. The
present study aims to close this gap in the literature. A model is derived from theory that predicts a
positive impact of CRCL, learning climate, and initial job performance on consequent job performance.
In addition, CRCL is hypothesized to mediate the impact of learning climate on final job performance.
Design/methodology/approach – Implementing a longitudinal approach, this model was tested
empirically in a call center context. Within the first year of their respective career, multiple source data
were gathered from employees about their formal CRCL activities, their initial performance, as well as
their perception about learning climate.
Findings – Results indicated that CRCL predicted final job performance and mediated the impact of
learning climate on final job performance. A total of 28 percent of final job performance was explained
by the proposed model, highlighting the importance of CRCL for organizational contexts.
Practical implications – The results of this study support the notion that CRCL programs are
highly useful for both employees and organizations.
Originality/value – For the first time, the impact of CRCL on job performance is demonstrated
empirically.
Keywords Careers, Learning organizations, Workplace learning, Call centres, Germany
Paper type Research paper

Owing to the accelerating rate of technological change, learning organizations develop


strategies to update the knowledge and skills of their human resources (Small and
Irvine, 2006; Sun and Scott, 2003). For accomplishing organizational goals, and for
purposes of career advancement, employees have to engage in continuous learning
activities in order to keep up with heightened job requirements (Ford and Orel, 2005). It
is generally assumed that these continuous learning activities will lead to enhanced
levels of performance. Whereas in the past theoretical development has advanced our
understanding of continuous learning (London and Smither, 1999; Tannenbaum, 1997),
empirical research is still rare. More specifically, no empirical research exists that tests
the assumption that employees’ engagement in continuous learning will contribute to
objective measures of subsequent job performance. In addition, our understanding
about the process of continuous learning and its effect on job performance is still The Learning Organization
Vol. 15 No. 1, 2008
limited. As employees’ career and continuous learning activities are embedded within a pp. 45-57
wider organizational context, it is important to include organizational determinants of q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
0969-6474
individual behavior such as aspects of climate or culture (Cunningham and Iles, 2001). DOI 10.1108/09696470810842484
TLO The present study addresses the question of how concepts such as learning climate
15,1 contribute to employees’ engagement in continuous learning.
In sum, the present study has two main goals. First, by testing the relationship
between employees’ engagement in continuous learning activities and job
performance, the present study closes a gap in the literature. A second gap is
addressed by the exploration of the role of organizational climate within the process of
46 continuous learning. As continuous learning is a process which extends over time,
these two study goals are explored within a longitudinal framework. For scientists,
these research goals are important for the theoretical understanding of the processes of
continuous learning in organizations and the potential supporting role of
organizational climate. As human resource experts and managers are interested in
fostering employees’ engagement in training activities and performance, these research
questions are also relevant to practitioners. In order to achieve the two main goals of
the present paper, a model of continuous learning in organizations is developed from
the literature. Subsequently, within a case study, this model is tested empirically.

Model development
The first goal of the present study is to understand the role of continuous learning for
subsequent job performance. For the sake of conceptual clarity, we first turn to the
explication of the construct of career-related continuous learning as it is of main
importance within the present study.

Career-related continuous learning


In contrast to other related constructs or to the abstract concept of continuous learning
(Kluge and Schilling, 2003), career-related continuous learning (CRCL) is a well-defined
concept embedded within a nomological network of other, organizational- and
career-relevant constructs (Ferris, 1999; London and Smither, 1999). London and
Smither (1999) have defined CRCL by several characteristics. First, CRCL is an
individual-level phenomenon. Thus, it is different to organizational learning, the
learning organization and related approaches (Popper and Lipshitz, 2000). Second,
CRCL is always related to employees’ individual careers. Its focus is on job or
career-related experiences. Moreover, CRCL contributes to career development and
prepares for future changes in the respective career (Multon, 2000; Niles, 2002). Thus, it
helps employees to be prepared for both voluntary and involuntary career transitions
(Heppner, 1998; Heppner et al., 1998). Third, CRCL is self-initiated, voluntarily,
discretionary, and proactive. Employees choose the activities necessary, their
sequence, and they do so on their own demand. In contrast, many organizations offer
mandatory training programs to their employees. Within CRCL, employees reflect on
and enhance their individual career development abilities that have been the focus of
recent research (Kuijpers and Scheerens, 2006). Finally, CRCL is a process sustained
over time. Employees actively involved in CRCL engage in cumulative and integrative
learning. On various occasions such as reading, discussions with colleagues, voluntary
training programs, challenging job assignments, and so on, employees improve and
accumulate knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) which help them to prepare for the
future. Viewed from a methodological perspective, this implies that CRCL can only be
assessed in a longitudinal research design. Consequently, the present study collected
data from employees CRCL over a period of one year.
As an aside, it should be noted that two forms of CRCL can be distinguished. Formal Career-related
CRCL refers to activities such as participating in off-the-job training seminars,
attending lectures or computer-based training courses. Data on formal CRCL are
continuous
available through computer-stored data. In contrast, informal CRCL includes activities learning
such as reading technical literature or discussing new ideas with colleagues. Data on
this type of CRCL have to be collected via survey methodology. However, validated
instruments for the assessment of informal CRCL are still missing in the research 47
literature. Moreover, while formal CRCL in organizations can be fostered by
implementing adequate training and development programs, informal CRCL mainly
depends on day-to-day activities of the employees. Therefore, human resource
practitioners and leaders in organizations are naturally more interested in formal than
informal CRCL. In sum, informal CRCL was beyond the scope of the present study.
Instead, we focused on employees’ formal CRCL activities.
From both an organizational and a theoretical perspective, it would be interesting to
gain knowledge on potential consequences of employees’ formal CRCL behavior,
Especially, organizational decision makers, who invest into human resource
development programs, are interested in the return on investment (ROI) of these
programs. Furthermore, if CRCL leads to desired outcomes, it would be important to
know how to foster employees’ motivation to engage in CRCL. As a consequence, a
theoretical model was developed which describes the influence of CRCL on subsequent
job performance as well as learning climate as a potential prerequisite of CRCL.
Figure 1 depicts the basic model and the hypotheses. Rationales for the hypothesized
relationships are provided in turn.

Impact of CRCL on subsequent job performance


Given that employees voluntarily engage in CRCL over a period of time, organizational
decisions makers are interested in the outcomes of these individual CRCL activities.
That is, what is the effect of CRCL on organizational-relevant criteria? In general,
theories of training and development (e.g. Cannon-Bowers et al., 1995) suggest that
participating in developmental activities enhance participants’ level of job satisfaction
and commitment. We have some empirical evidence that confirms this positive
relationship between employees’ participation in training and development activities
and their job satisfaction and organizational commitment (Birdi et al., 1997).
Participants obviously perceive the offered training and development programs as an
investment on part of the organization in their knowledge, skills, and abilities.
Furthermore, in their theoretical work, London and Smither (1999) proposed that
CRCL would improve job performance. As these programs are intended to help
employees to better deal with work-related problems, they should not only impact job
satisfaction but also performance. This also mirrors the idea that employees’
participation in training and development activities will yield enhanced levels of

Figure 1.
Theoretical model and
hypothesized relationships
between study variables
TLO commitment, as commitment and job performance revealed positive relationships in
15,1 meta-analytic research (Meyer et al., 2002). Likewise, organizations expect a return for
their investment in human resource development activities such as formal training
(Phillips and Phillips, 2001). Despite these theoretical and practical assumptions, no
empirical research exists that tests the assumption that over time, CRCL leads to
higher levels of job performance. Consequently, in our model, which will be tested in
48 the present study, CRCL is hypothesized to impact final (i.e. subsequent) job
performance:
H1. CRCL predicts final job performance.

Impact of initial job performance on final job performance


When the impact of interventions such as training or employees’ engagement in CRCL
on subsequent job performance is studied, initial levels of job performance have to be
controlled for (Orpen, 1994). That is, the individual level of job performance at any
given point of time is known to be affected by prior levels of job performance. The
present study acknowledges the impact of prior levels of job performance on
subsequent performance. Thus, initial performance (i.e. performance before CRCL) was
included as a potential predictor of final job performance (i.e. performance after CRCL)
in the model.

Impact of learning climate on CRCL


Employee training and development is not isolated from the organizational context
(Goldstein and Ford, 2002). While there is a growing amount of literature that stresses
the importance of the work environment for training (Cheng and Ho, 2001), their focus
was mainly on the training transfer (e.g. Tracey et al., 1995). For example, group-level
factors such as transfer climate have been identified to foster the transfer of training to
the workplace. Rouiller and Goldstein (1993) demonstrated that within departments
where supervisors encourage employees to utilize what they have learned from
training for their daily work (i.e. positive transfer climate), subsequent performance
was higher than in departments with a negative transfer climate.
Within the last decade, more general conceptions as organizational learning culture
(e.g. Bates and Khasawneh, 2005) or learning climate (e.g. Cunningham and Iles, 2001)
have been established that are based upon the vast literature concerning organizational
learning and learning organizations (Kluge and Schilling, 2003). These conceptions
share the assumption that organizations differ in their support of their members’
learning and development activities. Even though the two concepts are often used
interchangeably, learning culture refers to the implicit assumptions, norms and values
held by the organization on the nature and importance of learning that manifest in a
learning infrastructure and learning-related cognitions and behaviors of the
organizational members. Following Schneider et al. (1996), learning climate can be
defined as the cognitions of the organizational members concerning learning events,
practices, and procedures as well as learning-related behaviors that are expected, and
supported within the organizational setting. For example, Cunningham and Iles (2001)
interviewed managers from a financial service organization and found division-specific
differences in managers’ cognitions concerning their roles about promoting a positive
learning climate.
While culture has the character of a social phenomenon and is implicit (the members Career-related
are not necessarily aware of the underlying values and norms), climate is concerned continuous
with subjective perceptions and is rather explicit in its nature. Learning climate can be
understood as one manifestation of an organizational learning culture. For example, learning
organizations might aim at establishing a positive learning climate by offering a
variety of training programs, providing time for participation in these programs, or
promoting members based on their personal development. Therefore, it seems 49
reasonable to hypothesize that a positive learning climate will enhance employees’
participation in CRCL activities and, ultimately, result in higher levels of job
performance. Thus, CRCL mediates the impact of learning climate on final job
performance (cf. Figure 1). This causal sequence has been posited in the literature but
not tested empirically. For example, in Farr and Middlebrooks’s (1990) expectancy
theory-based model of professional updating, participation in professional updating
activities (a concept closely related to CRCL) mediated the impact of work environment
factors such as organizational climate on job performance. Consistent with the
theoretical literature, and for addressing the second study goal, it is hypothesized that
CRCL mediates the impact of learning climate on job performance:
H2. CRCL mediates the relationship between learning climate and final job
performance (with positive associations between learning climate and CRCL
as well as between CRCL and final job performance)..
To our knowledge, the present study is the first attempt to test the described mediating
effect of CRCL. The proposed model was tested in an empirical case study. The data
assessment strategy of this study reflected the longitudinal nature of CRCL in
organizations. Thus, data were gathered at several points in time. In addition, data
were gathered from three independent sources. In sum, the hypothesized relationships
were examined with methodical rigor.

Method
Setting
The present study was located in a context that has seen much attention from the
research community recently (e.g. Lewig and Dollard, 2003), namely call centres. A
total of 11 inbound and outbound call centers were hosted by a single company, which
offered a career-related continuous learning program to all of its employees. Since
customer satisfaction is one of the most important organizational goals for call centers,
several trainings based on voluntary participation were offered to call center agents
which aimed at enhancing customer service oriented knowledge, skills, and abilities
(KSA). These training programs included classroom lectures, group exercises, as well
as role modeling. For example, the first training focused on basic skills for call center
agents such as opening and closing phrases, handling complaints, etc. Other training
taught skills necessary for basic software packages and relied on computer-based
training. Still other trainings focused on hard selling skills. Due to the broader set of
customer service related KSA that were taught, the components of the CRCL program
was designed to ensure a high degree of flexibility: agents participating in this
program could be assigned to different call centers, different tasks (front or back
office), inbound (handling customers’ requests and complaints) and outbound (hard
TLO selling, conducting interviews) call centers. Participation in this training was
15,1 voluntary.
From an organizational and HR management perspective, this flexibility was
critical for the company. As the call center business is characterized by high dynamics,
short average tenure, and often short-term project work, call center agents have to be
prepared for a variety of job assignments.
50 The CRCL program described reflects the characteristics of CRCL. First, it focuses
on learning on the individual level, and not on the organizational level. Next, the
training modules were career-related. In fact, for career advancement it was necessary
to participate in a number of these modules. Nevertheless, employees decided on their
own if (and when) they participated in a particular module. Thus, participation was
voluntarily, self-initiated and planned. The learning was cumulative and integrative,
meaning that employees built on previous skills and integrated newly learned skills
with existing skills. Both the sequence and the pace of attending the career-related
workshops described were chosen by the individual employee. In sum, these points
highlight the CRCL nature of the company’s training program.

Sample
A random sample of n ¼ 300 call center agents working in the organization described
above was drawn. All of the call center agents were asked to participate by research
assistants; questionnaires were filled out during work time. Accounting for missing
data (listwise deletion) yielded a final sample size of n ¼ 41. This high dropout rate (86
percent) was more than one standard deviation above the average in organizational
research (i.e. M ¼ 51:6 percent; SD ¼ 22:5 percent; cf. Baruch, 1999). Besides the fact
that participants did not fill out the survey or declined from participating in the
performance assessment, a considerable amount (i.e. more than 20 percent) left the
organization during the study period. Participants had an average age of 29.4 years
(SD ¼ 7:2). Of these, 34.1 percent worked part time, and 65.9 percent worked as
full-time employees. Finally, 48.8 percent of the employees were male, and 51.2 percent
were female.

Measures and procedure


Performance. To assess performance, instruments were constructed which focused on
customer service-oriented behavior. Due to differences in work tasks between inbound
and outbound call centers (Dormann and Zijlstra, 2003), it was deemed necessary to
construct different instruments for these two types of call centers. Moreover, in order to
account for the complexity of call center agents’ work, a broad assessment of
service-oriented behavior was deemed appropriate. In cooperation with human
resource experts, trainers, and senior management (all employed in the organization),
the first author developed the instruments. First, trainers and HR experts identified
behaviors that were:
.
trained during the training modules;
.
highly relevant to the organization’s success;
.
displayed regularly by employees; and
.
easy to observe by both supervisors and external raters.
A total of 34 items were constructed for inbound, and 35 for outbound. Next, the items Career-related
were discussed with senior management representatives of all of the 11 call centers. continuous
They agreed that the sets of items offered a broad and comprehensive description of
the agents’ work in all of the call centers. In addition, each of the senior managers learning
confirmed that the behaviors were observed frequently during work and highly
relevant to success. Thus, the items were not amended. Finally, HR experts helped to
define behavior anchors for each of the items. All of the items had a five-point 51
Likert-type scale. A typical item was: “The employee is responsive and individually
considerate to each customer”. Behavior anchors for this item were: 1 (very individual
considerate formulations), 2 (almost no individual considerate formulations), 3 (few
individual considerate formulations), 4 (some individual considerate formulations), 5
(lots of individual considerate formulations). In sum, the described procedure yielded
content-validated instruments for assessing inbound and outbound job performance.
Performance assessment. In contrast to many other empirical studies in
organizations, the present study assessed performance neither by self-report nor by
supervisor ratings. A number of problems are connected to these types of
measurement, such as inaccuracy, leniency, or lack of agreement between ratings
(cf. Harris and Schaubroeck, 1988). As a consequence, for a more objective form of
assessment, external observers were recruited as raters in the present study (cf.
Viswesvaran et al., 2002). Another reason for implementing external observers was
that these observers had the resources to rate participants’ behaviors in detail. It was
communicated by top management that supervisors would not have the time to rate
employees’ behaviors twice with an extended performance assessment. Prior to their
assignments, these raters were trained and briefed for their task by a member of the
HR department as well as by the first author.
Performance was assessed at two points in time. First, at T1, initial performance
was assessed approximately seven and a half weeks (M ¼ 53 days; SD ¼ 18) after
entering the organization (i.e. after the assessment center). None of the participants
took part in any of the training programs prior to this date. After an average tenure of
about one year (M ¼ 372 days; SD ¼ 13), final performance was assessed (T2). At both
points in time, job performance was assessed with the instruments described above.
The scores for both in- and outbound performance were standardized before they were
aggregated to form one performance score.
Career-related continuous learning. It has been noted (Konradt et al., 2003) that for
call center agents, tenure is typically shorter than two years. Thus, it can be expected
that employees will engage in CRCL in the first year of their career. For the purpose of
the present study, a time window of 12 months was chosen. Within the first 12 months
of their respective careers, employees voluntarily participated in a number of training
modules, which were part of the formal CRCL program described above. The total
number of training programs was used as an indicator of an employee’s formal CRCL
activity. The number of training programs attended per employee ranged from zero to
six, and was available from company records.
Learning climate. For the assessment of learning climate, a three-item scale from
Wardanjan et al. (2000) was implemented. Wardanjan et al. (2000) identified four
dimensions which characterize the learning organization. One of these dimensions,
“personnel development“, was chosen for the purpose of the present study, as it
operationalizes the learning climate accurately. A typical item was “We have good
TLO opportunities for personnel development”. This scale included a five-point response
15,1 scale (1 ¼ strongly disagree to 5 ¼ strongly agree). Learning climate was assessed at
the end of the employees’ first training.

Results
52 Table I presents descriptive statistics for the study variables. Internal consistency
estimates (Cronbach’s a) were satisfactory. Additional correlation analyses revealed
that neither personal characteristics (e.g. age) nor type of call center (i.e. inbound
versus outbound) were related to the key study constructs that were analyzed in
Table I.
Hierarchical multiple regression analyses were performed to test the hypotheses.
According to Baron and Kenny (1986), it is necessary to estimate three regression
equations to test for mediation. First, it must be demonstrated that the independent
variable (i.e. learning climate) is related to the mediating variable (i.e. CRCL). As
indicated in Table I, learning climate was significantly related to CRCL (r ¼ 0:37,
p , 0:05). Furthermore, in a multiple regression analysis, learning climate explained a
significant amount of the variance in CRCL (DR 2 ¼ 0:11, p , 0:05), more than that
explained by initial job performance. Thus, the first requirement for mediation was
supported.
Second, the independent variable (i.e. learning climate) must be related to the
dependent variable (final job performance). As indicated in Table I, learning climate
was significantly correlated with final job performance (r ¼ 0:40, p , 0:05). In
addition, in a multiple regression analysis, learning climate explained a significant
amount of the variance in final job performance (DR 2 ¼ 0:12, p , 0:05), greater than
that explained by initial job performance. These results support the second
requirement of mediation.
Third, the dependent variable (i.e. final job performance) must be regressed on both
the independent variable (i.e. learning climate) and the mediating variable (i.e. CRCL).
To demonstrate mediation, it must be shown that the mediating variable is related to
the dependent variable, when the dependent variable is regressed both on the
independent variable and the mediator. If CRCL mediates the relationship between
learning climate and final job performance (H2), then the variance explained by
learning climate after CRCL has been kept constant should be lower than the variance
explained by learning climate alone (Baron and Kenny, 1986). To establish a model of
complete mediation, the relationship between learning climate and final job
performance must disappear when CRCL is kept constant. CRCL must also be

M SD 1 2 3 4
Table I. 1. Initial performance 4.29 0.28 (0.74/0.71)
Means, standard 2. CRCL 2.34 0.17 0.19 –
deviations, internal 3. Learning climate 3.60 0.57 0.20 0.37 * (0.76)
consistency reliabilities, 4. Final performance 4.73 0.50 0.28 0.51 * * 0.40 * (0.81/0.90)
and intercorrelations for
key study variables Note: Values in parentheses are internal consistency reliability estimates (inbound/outbound);
(n ¼ 41) *p , 0:05, two-tailed; * *p , 0:01, two-tailed
shown to enhance the explanatory power of the model. As Table II demonstrates, both Career-related
of these two latter conditions were met: the relationship between learning climate and continuous
final job performance was not significant (b ¼ 0:22; p . 0:05), while the impact of
CRCL on final job performance was significant (b ¼ 0:40; p , 0:05). Thus, both learning
hypotheses were supported. As indicated, in all of these regression analyses, the
impact of initial job performance on final job performance was controlled for.
53
Discussion
The first goal of the present study was to test whether CRCL impacts individual job
performance. Call center employees who participated in formal CRCL activities had
higher subsequent job performance than employees who refrained from such activities,
while controlling for initial job performance. Due to the longitudinal design of the
present study, it could be demonstrated for the first time that in the long run,
employees’ engagement in CRCL has a positive impact on job performance. Overall, the
model explained 28 percent of the variance in final performance. Thus, employees’
CRCL behavior has a considerable impact on the development of performance over
time. The methodological rigor (i.e. multi-source data and multiple points in time)
allows for a causal interpretation of the relationship between CRCL and job
performance.
The second study goal was to provide insight into the longitudinal process of CRCL
and performance development, with special emphasis on organizational learning
climate. The results demonstrated that a positive learning climate leads to employees’
subsequent participation in CRCL activities. In other words, a positive learning climate
can be seen as one factor that fosters employees’ engagement in career-related training
and development.
The theoretical model that was developed in the present study (cf. Figure 1) was
confirmed by the empirical data, with one exception: it is interesting to note that initial
job performance was not related to final job performance. Even though the relationship
misses statistical significance mainly because the rather small final sample size, one
has to state that participation in learning activities is more important as a predictor of
final job performance. In sum, the present case study supported the notion that CRCL
mediates the impact of learning climate on job performance. Thus, our understanding
of the process of employees’ continuous development was advanced.
It should be kept in mind that the present study was conducted in a special case of
service organizations: call center employees typically have short tenures and have to
attend many training classes per time in order to be prepared for various work
assignments and tasks. Thus, the results of the present study might be context-specific
and cannot be easily generalized to other branches. In particular, previous knowledge

Table II.
Independent variable B SE B b T p
Summary of
Initial performance 0.29 0.25 0.16 1.18 0.247 simultaneous regression
CRCL 0.12 0.04 0.40 2.73 0.010 analysis for the effects of
Learning climate 0.19 0.13 0.22 1.51 0.140 independent variables on
final performance
Note: R 2 ¼ 0:33 (n ¼ 41)
TLO or formal education – which are mainly irrelevant to enter the job of a call center agent
15,1 – might be more important in other professions and thereby limit the impact of
career-related continuous learning on job performance. Also, it might be speculated
that in other industries – with longer tenures and less trainings per time – other
processes such as workplace-related learning or learning by experience might mainly
contribute to enhanced levels of performance. In contrast, it might be argued that
54 despite the short average tenure in call centers, the positive effects of CRCL could be
detected, thus providing a strong case for the positive effects of CRCL.
As a conclusion, from the one-year timeframe implemented in the present study,
positive effects of the causal chain (learning climate-CRCL-performance) have been
demonstrated. It is important to note that this longitudinal approach seems necessary
to detect effects of learning climate and employees’ participation in CRCL on job
performance.
From a wider perspective, these results contribute to the actual discussion on
organizational learning. As Kluge and Schilling (2003) have shown, there is a clear gap
between theory and empirical studies. Many concepts are meta-theoretical and
therefore difficult to operationalize for empirical investigation. Additionally, the
relationship of organizational and individual learning still awaits theoretical and
empirical clarification (e.g. Popper and Lipshitz, 2000). On the one hand, the present
study is able to empirically link organizational (i.e. learning climate) and individual
levels of learning (i.e. career-related continuous learning) and, on the other hand, points
to the importance of such learning processes for performance.
Organizations offering career counseling and guidance programs might want to
create clear links between their interventions and their clients’ potential CRCL
activities. For example, long-term career paths should include the possibilities of
participating in CRCL activities such as training, coaching, and mentoring. To monitor
and foster progress, these long-term career paths should include regular feedback from
both career counselors and supervisors (Luthans and Peterson, 2003; O’Brien et al.,
1997). From an organizational perspective, organizations might want to invest in
long-term career-related human resource development programs, such as described in
the present study. By the inclusion of many different skills necessary for work in
different call centers and work assignments, the organization prepared its employees
for the future. On the other hand, different career paths of different groups of
employees were considered within these development programs. Thus, employees’
goals such as employability and career success were also met.

Limitations and perspectives for future research


The present case study focused on formal CRCL activities such as participation in
training programs. However, as CRCL also includes informal activities such as reading
and discussing with colleagues, future research should assess these parts of CRCL.
Informal CRCL activities can be assessed by means of surveys. However, everyday
activities such as discussing with colleagues might have divergent meanings,
importance and impact for different groups of employees. Thus, further conceptual
work on informal CRCL and instrument development and validation have to be
provided before informal CRCL can be studied in organizations. Nevertheless, in
combination with formal CRCL, these survey-based studies will allow for a more
complete understanding of CRCL. In the case of formal CRCL, different types of
training (e.g. classroom seminars versus computer-based training, one-day versus Career-related
two-day, etc.) should be assessed separately in order to gain a more detailed picture of continuous
the effects of various kinds of employees’ development activities.
Although the present study was based on a longitudinal research design, the learning
possibility that high performing employees engage in more CRCL could not be ruled
out completely. Thus, experimental designs seem to be warranted in future research.
As was noted above, the results of the present study might have been influenced by 55
special characteristics (e.g. short average tenure) of the call center context. Thus, it is
highly recommended that future studies replicate the results in other types of
industries.
The present study utilized specific instruments for performance assessment. These
instruments reflected the complexity of call center agents’ work. Although the fact that
these instruments were constructed specifically for the purpose of the present study,
the question remains whether the results of the present study could be replicated if
commonly utilized standard instruments, which typically have three or four items,
were to be implemented. In order to provide enough time for performance ratings and
to ensure valid and “objective” ratings, external observers were trained. Future studies
should validate these external ratings with supervisor ratings, which are more
common in organizations.
Also, future studies should be based on larger sample sizes. Although the present
case study started with a total of 300 employees, the longitudinal research design,
multiple sources of data, and high turnover resulted in a relatively small sample size.
However, the sample size was sufficient for testing the hypotheses and yielded
significant relationships among study variables. In addition to learning climate,
constructs such as career commitment, career planning and career decision-making
self efficacy might impact CRCL (cf. Chung, 2002; O’Brien et al., 1997, 2000) and thus
should be included in future research. With respect to equity and fairness, it would be
especially important to explore the role of ethnic and gender characteristics of the
employees under focus (Cook et al., 2002; Turner and Lapan, 2006). Finally, as job
performance is influenced by multiple variables, future research should include
established predictors of job performance such as commitment (van Dick et al., 2004).

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Corresponding author
Jens Rowold can be contacted at: rowold@psy.uni-muenster.de

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