The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

The Work-Expectation-Scale: A New Measure for Research in Human and Social Service Organizations

Sunday, January 20, 2013: 8:45 AM
Executive Center 2A (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Marlene Walk, MA, PhD Student and Research Fellow, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Background and Purpose: Young social work, health care, and business management professionals bring a variety of personal expectations with them to the workplace.  However, those expectations often do not align with the work experiences in entry-level jobs in social service and human service.  Employees with unmet job expectations report sick more often and have higher intentions to quit.  Consequentially, their organizational commitment decreases, which negatively influences the quality of work outcomes.  The relationship between personal characteristics of young adults, their expectations, and their work experience is dynamic.  Younger people have the increased tendency to enter the workforce with high expectations, but adapt their expectations according to their workplace reality over time.  To date, there is no measure that reliably captures the expectations of young professionals entering the social and human service workforce.  Existing measures focus only on specific groups (e.g. social workers, MBAs), but do not account for the increasingly diverse workforce in social and human service organizations. The Work-Expectation-Scale, as developed in this paper, improves previous measures in integrating a diverse population of social work, nonprofit management, health care, and business management students (N=200).

Methods:  The initial scale consisted foremost of items from pre-existing measures with a few new items added.  As suggested for smaller variable sets, we applied common factor analysis with squared multiple correlations as initial communality estimates for 3-7 factor models rotated according to varimax, equamax, and promax criteria.  Each model was evaluated for its ability to produce dimensions that a) satisfy the minimum constraints for Cattell's scree test, Velicer's minimum-average partialing test, and parallel factoring of normal random variables on the basis of 100 replications; b) retain at least three items with salient loadings, where loadings ≥.40 are considered salient; c) yield high internal consistency (≥.70); d) remain invariant across models; e) produce the highest hyperplane count and f) make theoretical sense in terms of parsimonious coverage (mutually exclusive assignment of items to factors, maximum numbers of items retained).

Results: The four-factor promax (k = 4) model was found superior and satisfied all criteria; whereas the five-factor model produced unreliable factor scores with too few salient markers.  Salience was found for 20 of the 25 items.  The Work-Expectation Scale consists of four distinct dimensions:  Societal Impact (α=.76), Work Conditions (α=.72), Leadership Prospect (α=.74), and Skill Development (α=.72).

Implications and Conclusion: The Work-Expectation-Scale contributes to research on work expectations of employees in social and human service organizations and can be applied to research on diverse populations within those organizations.  Future research on work expectations using the Work-Expectation-Scale should investigate the reliability and generality of the factor structure across samples as well as validate the four-factor structure through confirmatory factor analysis.