This paper will discuss how the principles of organizational psychology can be applied to recruitment and organizational socialization. The structure of the paper will be as follows: first, the concept of organizational socialization in general will be defined, followed by an exploration of how organizational psychology can help to understand the recruitment process, since recruitment can be regarded as the first stage of organizational socialization.
The stage is referred to as pre-entry socialization (Cooper-Thomas & Anderson 2006), associational socialization (Feldman 1976), or pre-arrival (Porter, Lawler & Hackman 1975; cited in Feldman 1976). Organizational socialization is defined by Cooper-Thomas and Anderson (2006) as “the process through which a new organizational employee adapts from outsider to integrated and effective insider” (p. 492).
As Van Maanen and Schein (1979) note, this process takes place every time an organizational boundary is crossed, regardless of whether it is an external (between organizations) or internal (functional, hierarchical) boundary. As Werner and DeSimone (2008) observe, organizational socialization implies establishing relationships and learning “new behaviors, facts, procedures, expectations and values” (p. 250) as well as unlearning some of the previously acquired practices inappropriate for the new workplace setting.
Organizational psychology is the key to understanding successful organizational socialization. Theory of organizational socialization rests on three main concepts borrowed from organizational psychology (in fact, from social psychology in general), namely organizational roles, groups norms, and expectations (Werner & DeSimone 2008). As early as three decades ago, Van Maanen and Schein (1979) have shown that “what people learn about their work roles in organizations is often a direct result of how they learn it” (p.
209) and proposed their famous tactics model of organizational socialization, which implies that newcomers can be socialized collectively or individually, formal or informally (in terms of separation from insiders in the process of socialization), sequentially or randomly (in terms of being informed in advance about sequence of socialization events), serially or disjunctively (depending on whether or not previous job incumbents are available as role models for newcomers), as a investiture or divestiture (depending on whether or not newcomers receive positive social support from insiders), and following a fixed or variable timetable for socialization stages. However, there has been a departure in contemporary literature from the focus on organization as the primary agent responsible for socialization of newcomers to analyzing lower order agents. Since most, if not all, contemporary organizations rely on work groups or teams, research into group-level socialization at the workplace has been a welcome development. It is of paramount importance that newcomers “feel that they are making a valued contribution, as well as ensuring that their colleagues have the same perception” (Cooper-Thomas & Anderson 2006, p. 493); smaller work groups usually are the loci where such perceptions are formed.
It has been already noted that organizational socialization applies not only to new hires but also to employees promoted within the organization, therefore re-focusing research on smaller groups or teams seems timely and appropriate. Moreover, researchers understand that at the individual level, organizational socialization can be associated with a high level of stress (Werner & DeSimone 2008), and all people respond to stress differently. In general, individual characteristics that have a considerable impact on the process of organizational socialization: “[e]mphasis on the individual’s perspective is critical, because individual differences will affect how socialization experiences will be learned and interpreted” (Jones, 1983; Louis, 1980; cited in Chao 1994 et al. , p. 731).
During the last 20 years, researchers have increasingly recognized that newcomers are active, information-seeking, and sense-making agents with an ability to influence group norms and performance outcomes (Cooper-Thomas & Anderson 2006). Moving on to the discussion of recruitment process from the perspective of the organization and newcomer, Feldman (1976) suggests four stages of organizational socialization: anticipatory socialization, accommodation, role management, and outcomes. Recruitment process will be analyzed as an integral part of the anticipatory socialization stage. It can act as a predictor of future success of a newcomer for at least three reasons. First of all, recruitment process has a public relations function: interviewees’ experiences of an organization’s selection procedures influence their impressions of the organization in general (Anderson 2001).
Secondly, recruitment process marks the beginning of establishing a psychological contract between the organization and potential employee (Herriot 1989; cited in Anderson 2001). Thirdly, recruitment exposes interviewees to the culture and management style of the organization (Wanous et al. ; cited in Anderson 2001). As Feldman (1976) observes, there are two variables that indicate progress through anticipatory. The first is realism, or the degree to which interviewees are given full and accurate information about what life in the organization is like. The second is congruence, or the degree to which the organization’s resources and individual’s needs and skills are matching.
The success of this socialization stage depends on information sharing and evaluation by both the organization and interviewee: when applicants withhold information from the organization in order to get the job, or when the employer holds back important facts from interviewees to get them to take positions, employees end up with jobs not meeting their needs. Anderson (2001) hypothesizes that all information conveyed in the process of recruitment, intentionally or unintentionally, might be interpreted by interviewees as unconditional and contractually binding. For this reason, Werner and DeSimone (2008) emphasize the importance of realistic job previews. Anderson and Ostroff (1997; cited in Anderson 2001) suggest four scenarios of pre-entry socialization, depending on whether organizational message is accurate and whether an applicant forms correct perceptions.
If both organizational message and applicant’s perceptions are accurate, then the outcome would be realistic and correctly construed expectations on the part of the applicant. If organizational message is accurate while applicant’s perceptions are not, realistic expectations would be misconstrued. If organizational message is inaccurate while applicant’s perceptions are, unrealistic yet correctly construed expectations will be formed. Finally, if both are inaccurate, unrealistic and misconstrued expectations emerge. Therefore, it is possible to conclude that both the organization and newcomer play an important role in the process of organizational socialization. This has been the rationale behind the recent shift in research from the organizational level to newcomers themselves or small workplace groups.
The process of organizational socialization passes through four main stages, namely anticipatory socialization, accommodation, role management, and outcomes. Recruitment is an integral part of the anticipatory socialization stage, and it is of paramount importance that applicants are given correct information. Therefore, more and more organizations opt in favor of developing realistic job previews. References Anderson, N. (2001). “Towards a theory of socialization impact: selection as pre-entry socialization. ” International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 9(1/2): 84-91. Chao, G. T. , O’Leary-Kelly, A. M. , Wolf, S. , Klein, H. J. , & Gardner, P. D. (1994). “Organizational socialization: Its content and consequences. ” Journal of Applied Psychology, 79(5): 730-743.
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