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Scholarly Technical Education Publication Series (STEPS) Vol. 2


Promoting Innovative Behavior Among Polytechnic Faculty Through Psychological Empowerment


Author:

    Tengku Ahmad Badrul Shah bin Raja Hussin
    Senior Lecturer
    tabs2104@yahoo.com

    Nik Azida binti Abd Ghani
    Head, Research and Innovation Unit
    nikazida5@yahoo.com
    Ungku Omar Polytechnic, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

    Aziz Zuddin bin Othman
    Principal Assistant Director, Training & Career Development Section
    Department of Polytechnic Education, Putrajaya, Malaysia
    aziz.zuddin@gmail.com

Abstract

Innovative behavior has been identified as an important behavioral outcome of psychological empowerment. Despite considerable attention accorded on innovation, studies in innovative behavior in polytechnic setting remains an important issue. This study attempts to gain insight on the association of the two variables in the academia from two polytechnics in Malaysia. The sample size of the study comprises 272 lecturers from various technical and commerce departments. This study was also intended to confirm the reliability and validity of the psychological empowerment scale. First- and second-order confirmatory factor analyses backed the existence of the four dimensions of psychological empowerment, meaning, competence, autonomy and impact in the context of Malaysian polytechnic. The fit indices indicate that the models were acceptable. The correlation analysis showed that psychological empowerment had a positive significant relationship with innovative behavior. The results indicated that all the dimensions of the psychological empowerment except meaning had positive relationships with innovative behavior. Regression analysis showed that impact was the most outstanding predictor of innovative behavior of the faculty members. This paper also discusses the practical implications of the findings.

Keywords: psychological empowerment, innovative behavior, first- and second order confirmatory factor analyses


Introduction

There has been evidence of the rising need for innovative behavior among the academia of polytechnic to compromise with the transformational agenda inspired by the Ministry of Higher Education of Malaysia to become the leader among the technical and vocational educational training (TVET) providers. Innovative behavior, defined as the intentional creation, introduction and application of new ideas helps to improve the performance of the role, group and organization (Janssen, 2000). Innovative behavior leads faculty to create, adopt and develop new teaching approaches and methods to facilitate teaching and learning. Nevertheless, the academia needs to be supported and encouraged to innovate and be given the ability to take control of their own situation to be able to reach the expected stage of innovativeness. The ability of the individual to take control of one’s own situation is termed as psychological empowerment (Spreitzer, 1995a). It has been found that empowered employees ameliorate their performance by finding innovative ways of managing daily chores such as generating innovative proposals in designs and recovering from errors (Fernandez & Moldogaziev, 2012).

Psychological empowerment has been described as the participatory process of enhancing the feeling of self-efficacy among employees through the identification of condition that brings about greater control at the individual level (Midgley & Dowling, 1978). Another view is that psychological empowerment attenuates the state of powerlessness by formal organizational practices and informal techniques of giving self-efficacy information (Conger & Kanungo, 1988). The construct of psychological empowerment centres on the process through which employees are able to bring about positive development in their environment (Wilke & Speer, 2011).

As empowerment has been identified as having significant contribution in predicting innovative behavior (Knol & Van Linge, 2009), it is essential to understand the insight provided by psychological empowerment. Based on the Thomas and Velthouse (1990) and Spreitzer (1995a) conceptualization of psychological empowerment, this study attempts to examine the linkage between psychological empowerment and innovative behavior of faculty members in the TVET higher learning institutions. Thomas and Velthouse (1990) posit that psychological empowerment focuses on the perception of employee on empowerment whereby an employee feels empowered when he/she observes his/her work environment as providing opportunities for individual behavior. In situations where traditional bureaucratic social structures exist, employees would not experience empowerment due to substantial stringency in their workplace (Fernandez & Moldogaziev, 2012). Empowering employees in the workplace involves providing employees with access to information, organizational support, resources and opportunity to learn and develop (Wilke & Speer, 2011).

Literature Review

Conceptualization of Psychological Empowerment

Thomas and Velthouse (1990) conceptualized empowerment in terms of changes in cognitive variables which set the level of motivation of employees. Thomas and Velthouse (1990) and Conger and Kanungo (1988) postulate that psychological empowerment is an internal cognitive state characterized by amplified intrinsic task motivation or enhanced feeling of self-efficacy which comprises four different subelements, meaning, competence, autonomy and impact. These sub-elements or dimensions are considered to be the core for psychological empowerment in the workplace.

Meaning is defined as the value of work goal and purpose, in relation to the individual’s own value and standard. Meaning is also defined as the value of work goal and purpose as perceived by the individual, relative to his own personal mission and expectation (Spreitzer, 1995b). Employee will feel that their works are important when the organizational mission and goal concur with their own value system (Spreitzer, 1995b).

Through the competence dimension, empowered employees feel that they are efficient and able to influence their work and organization meaningfully (Spreitzer, 1995b). Competence refers to the self-efficacy specific to work i.e. ability of an employee to perform his/her job tasks with the required knowledge and skill (Spreitzer, 1995b). Impact refers to the extent that an employee feels that his work can make a difference on the overall goal achievement (Thomas & Velthouse, 1990) and how far an employee believes that he/she can influence the strategic output, management and operation in the workplace (Spreitzer, 1995b). In conclusion, psychological empowerment can be defined as the feeling of being facilitated to carry out tasks in the workplace according to individual’s own value and standard or to influence the work outcome by having autonomy and competence.

Moreover, empowerment is a dynamic phenomenon that is influenced by the context surrounding an individual, therefore, the feeling of empowerment can be encouraged or constrained by the things that happen in the environment (Woodman, Sawyer & Griffith, 1993). Further, empowered employees also seem to improve their performance by working smarter or by exploring more advance methods of carrying out daily routines (Fernandez & Moldogaziev, 2012).

Conceptualization of Innovative Behavior

Being a multidimensional construct, innovative behavior can be defined as the ignition, promotion and realization of new ideas in the intended work role (Janssen, 2000). On the other hand, innovative work behavior as the creation, introduction and application of new ideas intended to improve the performance of the role, group and organization. In other literature, innovative behavior has been characterized as the individual’s openness to new ideas and decision making to adopt an innovation, free from the influence of the experiences of other employees (Elsbach & Kramer, 2003).

In business survival and sustainability, innovation is one of the elements that serves as effective tools (Yu, Yu & Yu, 2013). Innovations which include rethinking and changing underlying principles of work are new and potentially suitable products or processes developed to help reform the status quo (Messmann & Mulder, 2012). Kheng and Mahmood (2013) posit that innovative individuals think distinctively about products, services and processes and go to the extent of learning new ways of doing things. Business companies consider innovation as one of the ways of competitive edge and organizational success (Mohd Hassan, 2010). Lastly, Mumford (2000) argued that individual innovative behavior is affected by an individual, the group, and the organization.

Relation between Empowerment and Innovative Behavior

The significance of innovation in organizations have led to the recognition of successful leadership as a possible method (Abbas, Iqbal, Waheed & Riaz, 2012). Abbas et al. (2012) conducted a survey in the field of education involving employees

in schools, colleges and universities. Their results indicated that leadership was significantly related with four elements of innovative behavior namely promotion, idea generation, work commitment and idea implementation. They suggested that innovative practices by leadership and high ranked academia can foster innovative work behavior among teachers.

Li, Feng, Liu and Cheng (2014) looked from the social-exchange theory which viewed that individuals who feel that their organization has fullfilled their obligations will reciprocate them by displaying behaviors that are beneficial to the organization. One of the essential ways individuals would give back is by demonstrating innovative behavior. Their studies found that psychological contract fulfillment was positively associated with both innovative behavior of the bank supervisors. While another study among nurse educators teaching baccalaureate nursing programs in the United States by Hebenstreit (2012) found that there was a significant and positive correlation between empowerment and innovative behavior. She also concluded that there were significant differences in the degree of perceived innovative behavior were associated with age, academic rank, employment status, and tenure status. Other literature suggests that innovation is positively associated to perfomance in government (Borins, 2001).

As empowerment has been identified having significant contribution in predicting innovative behavior (Knol & Van Linge, 2009), it is essential to understand the insight provided by psychological empowerment. Thomas and Velthouse (1990) posit that psychological empowerment focuses on the perception of employee on empowerment whereby an employee feels empowered when he/she observes his/her work environment as providing opportunities for individual behavior. In situations where traditional bureaucratic social structures exist, employees would not experience empowerment due to substantial stringency in their workplace (Fernandez & Moldogaziev, 2012). Empowering employees in the workplace involves providing employees with access to information, organizational support, resources and opportunity to learn and develop (Wilke & Speer, 2011). The feeling of psychologically empowered can be enhanced by changing the psychological environment or climate (Thomas and Velthouse, 1990). Such conditions contribute to the innovative behavior. Based on the Thomas and Velthouse (1990) and Spreitzer (1995a) conceptualization of psychological empowerment, this study attempts to examine the linkage between psychological empowerment and innovative behavior of faculty members in the TVET higher learning institutions.

Hypotheses

In view of the reviewed literatures provided above, the following are the proposed hypothesis for this paper.

Hypothesis 1: Psychological empowerment dimensions (competence, autonomy, impact and meaning) are positively correlated with innovative behavior.

Hypothesis 2 : There are significant effects of psychological empowerment dimensions (competence, autonomy, impact and meaning) on innovative behavior.

Methodology

This cross-sectional survey study was administrated in two polytechnics in Peninsular Malaysia. A total of 272 lecturers were chosen randomly from various departments to fill in the questionnaires. Data gathered were analyzed using the computerassisted Statistical Programme for Social Sciences (SPSS) for Windows version 19.0. Statistical analyses conducted include reliability tests, descriptive analysis and correlations. The scores from these subscales were averaged to form the mean score for psychological empowerment and innovative behavior for each respondent. Firstand second-order confirmatory factor analyses were also conducted to verify that psychological empowerment comprises four dimensions (meaning, competence, autonomy and impact).

Research Instruments

Measurement items for psychological empowerment were adopted from the Spreitzer’s 12-item psychological empowerment scale. The scale contains items in four components, meaning, competence, autonomy and impact. A seven-point Likert scale ranging from (1) ‘strongly disagree’ to (7) ‘strongly agree’ was used in the instrument. For measuring innovative behavior, Janssen’s nine items innovative behavior scale was administered on the respondents. This scale, which has to be rated on also a seven-point Likert scale, comprises three subscales, ignition, promotion and realization of new ideas. To supplement the accuracy of the instruments used in the study, reliability tests were conducted for each of the four subscales of psychological empowerment as well as the three subscales of innovative behavior.

Results and Analysis

Confirmatory Factor Analysis

First-order confirmatory factor analysis was carried out to examine the appropriateness of the items measuring each construct. Each construct was measured using threeitem statements. The four dimensions of psychological empowerment under study were shown in Figure 1. The factor loadings, which depict the correlations between items and constructs, were found to be between 0.64 and 0.93. These values were above the cut-off value of 0.4 as recommended by Nunnally (1978). It was therefore decided that all of the 12 items were retained in the measurement scale.

Next, second-order confirmatory factor analysis was conducted to confirm that psychological empowerment comprises four dimensions. Second-order factor analysis examines the correlations between first-order factors and produces a factor-pattern matrix that denotes the weights given to the first-order factor scores in establishing the second-order factor (Browne & Cudeck, 1993). The results of the second-order confirmatory factor analysis are shown in Figure 2.

The goodness-of-fit indices shown in Figure 2 also indicate that the model was acceptable. Even though the RMSEA value (0.094) was above the value of 0.08 recommended for a reasonable error of approximation, it was still below 0.1, the cut-off value for a model to be employed (Marsh & Hocevar, 1985). The chi-square/df ratio of 3.388 which stood between 2 and 5 indicated that the model was considered as reasonable fit (Bentler & Bonette, 1980). The values of NFI and TLI (0.916 and 0.919 respectively) were close to 1 and above 0.9. These values also indicate a good fit (Carless, 2004).


Figure 1: First-order Confirmatory Factor Analysis


Figure 2: Second-order Confirmatory Factor Analysis

Correlation Analyses

Correlation analyses were carried out to analyze the association between all four dimensions of psychological empowerment and innovative behavior. The correlation values in Table 1 suggest that there is a positive significant relationship between psychological empowerment and innovative behavior (r = 0.321) at 0.01 level. The results also indicate that all of the dimensions of psychological empowerment with the exception of meaning have positive significant relationships with innovative behavior with coefficient values of 0.169 (competence), 0.207 (autonomy) and 0.388 (impact). Meaning, however, shows a positive coefficient (r = 0.081) but no significant relationship with innovative behavior. Despite that, there is a relatively weak correlation between values except for autonomy and psychological empowerment (0.812) and competence and psychological empowerment (0.721). This suggests that among the factors mentioned, the association between these factors are highly explainable. Based on the significant values, Hypothesis 1 was partially accepted.

Hence, any increase in competence, autonomy and impact may be associated with the increase in innovative behavior. Similarly, any reduction in the three dimensions of psychological empowerment may be associated with the reduction in innovative behavior. Nevertheless, the correlation coefficients do not reveal the causal effect of psychological empowerment on innovative behavior.

Table 1: Correlation Analyses

Regression Analysis

Regression analysis was conducted to study the effect of psychological empowerment on innovative behavior. The results of the regression analysis are displayed in Table 2. The regression values denote that only the dimension of impact (0.375) had significant effect on innovative behavior. The rest of the dimensions (meaning, competence and autonomy) did not have significant effect on innovative behavior. These results partially supported Hypothesis 2 which states that there are significant effects of psychological empowerment dimensions (competence, autonomy, impact and meaning) on innovative behavior. Accordingly, the dimension of impact was found to be the most significant predictor of innovative behavior. In other words, management may consider increasing the perception of lecturers on the dimension of impact to enhance innovative behavior among lecturers.

Table 2: Regression Analyses

Conclusion and Recommendations

This study verified the reliability and validity of the psychological empowerment scale by using first- and second-order confirmatory factor analyses. The correlation analysis found that psychological empowerment has significant relationship with innovative behavior while the regression analysis shows that the dimension of impact was the most significant predictor of innovative behavior. Therefore, innovative behavior may be considered as one of the behavioral outcomes of psychological empowerment.

This study confirmed the validity and reliability of the psychological empowerment scale developed by Spreitzer in the work context of polytechnics. This finding was consistent with the empirical study of Carless (2004). Management ought to evaluate the level of psychological empowerment at their institution to get information on the lecturers’ perception about the structure of psychological empowerment. The management should also examine each dimension of psychological empowerment and play active role to increase psychological empowerment by focusing on dimensions that are poorly evaluated by lecturers.

To empower employees in the workplace, employees should be given access to information, organizational support, resources and opportunity to learn and develop (Stewart, McNulty, Griffin & Fitzpatrick, 2010). Lecturers should also be given opportunity to attend courses, seminars and training to increase their knowledge and skills. Discussions and forum can also be organized from time to time to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and brainstorming among lecturers. Open channel of communication such as periodic publication, emails and forums can facilitate the flow of needed information and increase the level of lecturers’ skills and knowledge.

As impact was found to be the most significant predictor of innovative behavior, the management may increase the perceived impact by facilitating employees to feel that their work can affect the overall goal achievement of polytechnic. The management should provide more opportunities to employees to be involved in decision making so that they feel that they are able to influence the strategic output, management and operation in the workplace. Participation in decision making may not only stimulate innovative ideas, but may also facilitate transformational leadership development (Agin & Gibson, 2010).

A limitation of this study is that it was carried out in only two polytechnics in Peninsular Malaysia. Future researchers should gather more samples from other polytechnics or higher education institutions in order to warrant generalizations made to all polytechnics or higher education institutions in the country. Future studies should also consider antecedents to psychological empowerment or other factors of innovative behavior supported by extensive literature review.

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