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Informal learning of temporary agency workers in low-skill jobs: The role of self-profiling, career control, and job challenge

Paul Preenen (Sustainable Productivity & Employability, TNO, Leiden, The Netherlands)
Sarike Verbiest (Sustainable Productivity & Employability, TNO, Leiden, The Netherlands)
Annelies Van Vianen (Work and Organizational Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Ellen Van Wijk (Sustainable Productivity & Employability, TNO, Leiden, The Netherlands)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 10 August 2015

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to develop and investigate the idea that self-profiling and career control by temporary agency workers (TAWs) in low-skill jobs are positively related to informal learning and that this relationship is mediated by job challenge.

Design/methodology/approach

An online survey study was conducted among 722 TAWs in low-skill jobs in the Netherlands. Bootstrap mediation analyses were used to test the hypotheses.

Findings

Self-profiling and career control are positively related to informal learning of TAWs and these relationships are mediated by job challenge.

Research limitations/implications

This is the first study to develop and empirically test the proposition that self-profiling and career control are important factors for enhancing employees’ learning experiences in low-skill jobs.

Practical implications

Hiring companies and temporary work agencies could stimulate and train TAWs’ self-profiling and career control competencies to enhance their job challenge and informal learning. Organizations should consider assigning challenging tasks to TAWs, which may be a good alternative for expensive formal training programs.

Social implications

Many TAWs in low-skill jobs do not possess the skills and capacities to obtain a better or more secure job. In general, temporary workers face a higher risk of unemployment and greater income volatility (Segal and Sullivan, 1997). Gaining knowledge about how to develop this group is important for society as a whole.

Originality/value

Research on the determinants of informal learning mainly concerned higher-educated employees and managers with long-term contracts (e.g. Dong et al., 2014), whereas very little is known about factors that stimulate informal learning among TAWs in general, and among TAWs in low-skill jobs in particular.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the Dutch foundation of education and development in the temporary agency work sector (STOOF), by a grant from TNO’s Behavior and Performance Enabling Technology Program (ETP) 2014 and by the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs. The authors thank the temporary work agencies that cooperated with the research for their time and effort. Furthermore, the authors thank two anonymous reviewers and Emma Jansen for their valuable comments and feedback.

Citation

Preenen, P., Verbiest, S., Van Vianen, A. and Van Wijk, E. (2015), "Informal learning of temporary agency workers in low-skill jobs: The role of self-profiling, career control, and job challenge", Career Development International, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 339-362. https://doi.org/10.1108/CDI-12-2013-0158

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited