Socializing New Employees

Often work culture, depending on the organization, can be deeply convoluted and difficult to grasp for a new hire. Socialization of new employees, also called onboarding, is the process by which they learn about the culture of the organization and about roles and expectations. Socialization, if done well, can be an important asset to employers and the people who work for them. It can often consist of a formal onboarding program including workshops and other activities. It can also be done informally through mentoring and collaborative work or vicariously through observation and supervisory feedback. Employee socialization fulfills several important functions, such as demystifying an unfamiliar environment, bolstering commitment, and forming an organization’s identity, which can result in employee proactive, feedback-seeking behaviors. Socialization is also an ongoing process as employees interact with new departments or take on new roles.

In this Discussion, you will explore socialization strategies and their impact on job attitudes. You will also look at feedback-seeking behaviors and their influence on socialization.

To prepare for this Discussion:

  • Read the article “Impact of Core-Self Evaluation and Job Satisfaction on Turnover Intentions: A Study of Indian Retail Sector.” In the onboarding and socialization of new employees, consider how high core self-evaluation employees showing higher confidence and feedback seeking might impact organizational outcomes.
  • Read the article “The Role of Job Satisfaction, Work Engagement, Self-Efficacy and Agentic Capacities on Nurses’ Turnover Intention and Patient Satisfaction.” Think about how agentic capacities could impact turnover intention and the role socialization could play to support positive outcomes.
  • Read the article “Organizational Socialization Tactics and Newcomer Proactive Behaviors: An Integrative Study.” Consider how onboarding and socialization tactics can improve newcomer proactive behaviors, especially with employees who show less feedback-seeking behavior.
  • Read the article “Examining the Impact of Socialization Through Trust: An Exploratory Study.” Consider how increased trust in a supervisor or organization can enhance the positive outcomes of socialization such as job satisfaction and commitment.

By Day 5

Post a response to the following:

Provide a description of two strategies that organizations might use to socialize new employees. Then, explain how these two strategies might positively or negatively impact job attitudes. Finally, explain how employee feedback-seeking behaviors might influence the socialization process.

Original Article

Examining the Impact of Socialization Through Trust

An Exploratory Study

Kristyn A. Scott,1 Samantha D. Montes,2 and P. Gregory Irving3

1Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University, Toronto, ON, Canada, 2Department of Management, University of Toronto Scarborough, Toronto, ON, Canada, 3School of Business &

Economics, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, ON, Canada

Abstract. Past research on newcomer socialization practices has focused on how such practices influence employee attitudes through increased job knowledge and role clarity. However, to date, no research has examined organizational trust as a mechanism through which socialization influences employee attitudes. We suggest that socialization serves as a signal to new employees regarding the treatment they are likely to receive from the organization, thus leading to increased organizational trust and positive job attitudes. In this three-wave study, we examine the relations among institutionalized socialization, organizational trust, and job attitudes. Our results indicate that trust functions as a mediator between institutionalized socialization tactics and job satisfaction and affective commitment.

Keywords: employee socialization, trust, signaling theory

Upon entry, organizational newcomers face much uncer- tainty. For instance, they lack sufficient knowledge about organizational norms and values, about where to acquire the resources necessary to carry out job functions, and about organizational expectations. Actions on the part of the orga- nization (e.g., orientation activities) can function to reduce this uncertainty, in part, by decreasing stress and ambiguity (Ashforth & Saks, 1996). As such, the process of organiza- tional socialization enables newcomers to acquire the knowledge needed to successfully adjust to their new work surroundings and function in their new roles.

In general, extant socialization research focuses on the processes through which new employees are introduced to the organization and how employees exert control in new organizational settings. Research that has examined the cau- sal mechanisms through which socialization efforts exert positive influence on employee attitudes has tended to focus on job knowledge and role clarity. Other approaches to the study of socialization emphasize the dynamic individual processes that may occur upon organizational entry as the new employee proactively seeks information (e.g., Morri- son, 1993). Proactive behavior on the part of the individual interacts with the information provided by the organization to affect outcomes (e.g., Griffin, Colella, & Goparaju, 2000; Gruman, Saks, & Zweig, 2006; Kim, Cable, & Kim, 2005).

In this paper, we draw on signaling theory (e.g., Spence, 1973), to examine the attitudinal consequences of socializa- tion practices via an unexplored mechanism – organizational trust. We begin by discussing the significance of socializa- tion for new employees. We then discuss how such pro-

grams may engender a sense of trust in the organization, in part, by serving as a signal to the new employee, which influences their beliefs about the organization. Finally, we present an exploratory three-wave study that examines the mediating role of trust in the relations between newcomer socialization and job attitudes.

Organizational Socialization

Socialization is defined as the process through which new employees are provided information about the organization. It is one of the main ways new employees learn about the organization and it functions to reduce uncertainty about organizational entry and the way things are done in the orga- nization (e.g., Jones, 1986; Louis, 1980; Van Maanen & Schein, 1979). To this end, organizations engage in a variety of socialization activities (e.g., assign mentors, hold orienta- tion sessions). Early research categorized socialization efforts into six broad tactics: formal-informal, collective- individual, sequential-random, fixed-variable, serial-disjunc- tive, investiture-divestiture (e.g., Van Maanen & Schein, 1979). Each of these tactics is construed as being institution- alized at one extreme and individualized at the other (Jones, 1986). The former extreme refers to those tactics that are structured and embedded into formal organizational pro- cesses, whereas the latter represents unstructured, idiosyn- cratic learning for employees.

Formal (vs. informal) tactics provide a defined socializa- tion period in which new employees are separated from existing members, as opposed to immersing new members

� 2012 Hogrefe Publishing Journal of Personnel Psychology 2012; Vol. 11(4):191–198 DOI: 10.1027/1866-5888/a000072

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into the larger organization, necessitating on-the-job learn- ing. Collective (vs. individual) tactics refer to the extent to which new employees are socialized in a group and pro- vided common experiences, rather than allowing each new member to have unique experiences. Sequential (vs. ran- dom) socialization practices allow new employees to pro- gress through a defined, ordered series of events, leading to the acquisition of an organizational role, rather than a ran- dom, ambiguous sequence. Fixed (vs. variable) socialization programs involve a scheduled socialization agenda, whereas variable socialization programs do not follow a timetable. Serial (vs. disjunctive) socialization practices are those in which a mentor or other experienced organizational member works with new employees, as compared to disjunctive tac- tics in which no mentor is used. Finally, investiture (vs. divestiture) tactics affirm personal identities of organiza- tional newcomers rather than using (negative) tactics designed to shape new organizational identities at the expense of self-identities (Jones, 1986; Van Maanen & Schein, 1979). Recently, researchers have focused on a sin- gle factor classification depicting the institutionalized versus individualized distinction (e.g., Kim et al., 2005). This sin- gle factor is the focus of the present research.

To date, findings in the socialization literature appear to promote the use of socialization strategies near the institu- tionalized end of the continuum in an effort to cultivate favorable attitudes and behaviors among employees. For instance, research demonstrates that use of institutionalized tactics is associated with increased job satisfaction and orga- nizational commitment, and decreased intentions to quit among employees (e.g., Allen & Meyer, 1990; Ashforth & Saks, 1996; Ashforth, Sluss, & Saks, 2007; Jones, 1986; Saks et al., 2007). Further, institutionalized socializa- tion tactics are negatively related to uncertainty and anxiety for new employees (e.g., Ashforth & Saks, 1996; Saks et al., 2007) and positively related to trust in management and peers (Baker & Feldman, 1990), and formal, structured (i.e., institutionalized) socialization tactics lead to greater information and feedback seeking on the part of employees (e.g., Gruman et al., 2006). Institutionalized socialization is believed to have the aforementioned positive effects primar- ily by decreasing role ambiguity, role conflict, and stress (Ashforth & Saks, 1996; Saks et al., 2007). However, we propose that institutionalized socialization tactics have posi- tive effects on employee attitudes and behaviors because, in part, these practices signal something to the employee about the reliability, predictability, and treatment that they might expect from the organization. Thus, drawing on signaling theory (e.g., Spence, 1973), we offer a theoretical mecha- nism to link socialization practices to satisfaction and com- mitment via perceptions of trust in the organization.

We note that not all studies find similar support for the effects of institutionalized socialization. For example, Fulla- gar, Gallagher, Gordon, and Clark (1995) found that individ- ualized socialization (as assessed by a checklist of informal experiences) was positively related to commitment to, and participation in, a union. Despite this, we focus on the insti- tutionalized end of the spectrum, in part because of the nat- ure of our mediator of interest – organizational trust.

Organizational Socialization and Trust

Fundamentally, trust refers to the assumption or expectation that others will engage in behaviors that are beneficial (or not detrimental) to one’s interests and entails a willingness to be vulnerable at the behest of others (Mayer, Davis, & Schoorman, 1995; Robinson, 1996). Further, trust can repre- sent an affective evaluation of a relationship (e.g., based on concern for the well-being of the other(s) in the relationship; Dirks & Ferrin, 2002). Within organizational contexts, trust has demonstrated associations with myriad job-related out- comes and attitudes, all of which aid in organizational func- tioning. For example, trust in the organization is associated with increased performance (Oldham, 1975; Rich, 1997; Robinson, 1996), job satisfaction (Driscoll, 1978; Rich, 1997), decision acceptance (Tyler & Degoey, 1996), accep- tance of change efforts (Rousseau & Tijoriwala, 1998), and organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs; Konovsky & Pugh, 1994; Robinson, 1996; Rousseau & Tijoriwala, 1998). Additionally, Kramer (1999) notes that trust reduces the need to monitor others and increases cooperation with others.

As noted, the positive outcomes of organizational trust are numerous and, in fact, overlap somewhat with the out- comes of socialization discussed previously. Although it is possible that institutionalized socialization tactics and orga- nizational trust may have independent positive effects on employee attitudes and behaviors, in this paper we argue that the relations among these variables are interrelated, and that institutionalized socialization practices actually pro- mote trust in the organization. Specifically, we apply signal- ing theory (e.g., Spence, 1973) and theorize that the very nature of institutionalized tactics (i.e., the formal, structured, collective process) serves as a signal to new employees regarding what they can expect from the organization and the consistency with which all new employees are intro- duced to the organization.

Recently, Connelly, Certo, Ireland, and Reutzel (2011) recapitulated the basic tenets of signaling theory and how it may relate to a variety of areas of organizational study. In particular, they put forth a timeline that clarifies how the signaling process works in organizations, and suggest that the signal sent by the organization should be designed such that its effect results in something that might not have existed otherwise. Drawing on this, we suggest that the organization (the signaler) establishes socialization practices (the signal) for the new employee (the receiver). The specific features of the signal (i.e., the type of socialization insti- tuted) are then interpreted and feedback is sent to the orga- nization. We argue that when socialization practices are institutionalized, the feedback sent by the employee is increased organizational trust. As noted, institutionalized practices are demonstrated to reduce uncertainty for new employees (e.g., Ashforth, Saks, & Lee, 1997). Given that trust also functions to reduce uncertainty (e.g., Kramer, 1999), and impacts the assessment of the future behavior of others (e.g., Dirks & Ferrin, 2001), we propose that the signal sent to organizational newcomers, through institution- alized socialization practices, provides an indication of how

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to interpret and anticipate the behavior of others in the organization. As such, we suggest that institutionalized socialization practices will lead to increased trust in the organization.

We propose that inherent in institutionalized socializa- tion are two specific features of signals, namely observabil- ity and consistency (Connelly et al., 2011), and these features are what differentiate institutional from individual socialization as they relate to trust. Specifically, institutional- ized socialization is higher in observability, or signal strength (Connelly et al., 2011); the very nature of these practices (i.e., the collective, formal, structured aspects) pro- vides all new employees with uniform information about how they, and others, may be treated by the organization, thus engendering trust because everyone is provided with a common, consistent message. This common socialization experience also speaks to signal consistency because the fea- tures of institutionalized practices ensure the provision of common information. As such, institutionalized socializa- tion sends a strong signal to newcomers that they will receive the same information, treatment, and training as oth- ers, thus leading to trust.

Generally, organizational trust is believed to develop over repeated interactions with organizational agents (e.g., Kramer, 1999; Lewicki & Bunker, 1996). However, Kramer (1999) notes that it is often difficult for individuals to learn everything they need to know about those with whom they interact. We argue that observability and consistency remove this barrier and give new employees confidence that the organization is acting in ways that will be to their benefit (i.e., is trustworthy; Mayer et al., 1995). On the other hand, individualized socialization practices leave employees to learn about the organization largely independently, and are much less observable and consistent; the more solitary nat- ure of individualized socialization means that employees may be unaware of what others are learning and what their roles are. Consequently, new employees are left with limited information as to how their on-boarding experience com- pares with that of others, and therefore will not engender the same level of organizational trust.

Hypothesis 1: Institutionalized socialization practices are positively related to organizational trust.

Institutionalized socialization practices provide employees with a shared understanding of organizational roles, the responsibilities associated with each role, and greater knowl- edge of how roles are interrelated. These practices also pro- vide employees a basis for understanding how their own actions on the job may impact the outcomes of other orga- nizational members. We argue that this understanding is also important because it enables employees to carry out their job responsibilities effectively, leading to greater job satisfac- tion, as is demonstrated by the empirical evidence support- ing the relationship between institutionalized socialization and job satisfaction (e.g., Bauer, Bodner, Erdogan, Truxillo, & Tucker, 2007). Indeed, researchers have posited that the

positive relationship between job satisfaction and institution- alized tactics exists because these tactics provide job-related information, reduce uncertainty, and facilitate social relation- ships for new employees (e.g., Gruman et al., 2006). Thus, it is equally possible that these tactics influence job satisfac- tion through trust, because trust serves to minimize uncer- tainty and the need to monitor others, as well as facilitates cooperative behavior (e.g., Kramer, 1999). As such, we sug- gest that organizational trust resulting from institutionalized socialization tactics will mediate the relationship between said tactics and job satisfaction.

Hypothesis 2: Organizational trust will mediate the relationship between institutionalized socialization and job satisfaction.

As noted, in addition to their positive influence on job satis- faction, institutionalized socialization tactics are also related positively to organizational commitment, specifically affec- tive commitment (e.g., Allen & Meyer, 1990). Moreover, newcomer adjustment (one outcome of organizational socialization) is also related to commitment, thus providing further support for the impact of socialization on commit- ment in organizations. Indeed, Kammeyer-Mueller and Wanberg (2003) indicate that clarifying responsibilities for employees and enhancing social relationships (e.g., through cooperation in work groups) will lead to greater commit- ment. More importantly, trust has a demonstrated, positive relationship with commitment (e.g., Aryee, Budhwar, & Chen, 2002; Brockner, Siegel, Daly, Tyler, & Martin, 1997; Dirks & Ferrin, 2001; Pillai, Schriesheim, & Williams, 1999). However, as Dirks and Ferrin note, the the- oretical rationale for this relationship is yet to be elucidated. Despite the largely empirical foundation for the relationship between trust and organizational commitment, we suggest that trust is the mechanism through which the relationship between institutionalized socialization and affective commit- ment operates. Ultimately, trust is the basis for social rela- tionships, increases cooperation, and allows for greater certainty in relationships (Kramer, 1999). Moreover, Colquitt, Scott, and LePine (2007) note that trust and affec- tive commitment are both indicators of a positive social exchange relationship. As such, we assert that people will be more committed to organizations that engender trust. Given this, we hypothesize:

Hypothesis 3: Organizational trust will mediate the relationship between institutionalized socialization and affective commitment.

As part of a larger longitudinal investigation, in the current research we tested the mediating role of trust in the relations between institutionalized socialization and newcomer atti- tudes. Due to the self-report nature of the constructs, our variables of interest were assessed at three separate points in time to reduce the potential for common method bias.

K. A. Scott et al.: Socialization and Trust 193

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Method

Participants and Procedure

Recent graduates from two Canadian universities were recruited to participate in this study via invitation letter. Let- ters were sent out approximately six months after graduation to ensure that graduates had found employment and had experienced/were experiencing some socialization. One hundred twenty-six individuals agreed to participate by returning the first questionnaire, which contained the measure of organizational socialization and demographic questions. A second questionnaire containing the organiza- tional trust measure was mailed to participants approxi- mately 3 months after they had returned the first. Of those who completed the first questionnaire, 93 returned the sec- ond with usable data, yielding a Time 2 response rate of 74%. A third questionnaire containing the attitudinal mea- sures was mailed to participants approximately 6 months after they returned the second. Sixty-nine of those who returned the second questionnaire returned the third, for a Time 3 response rate of 74% and an overall response rate of 55%. We compared individuals who completed all three questionnaires to those who did not to determine if they differed on any demographic variables and no significant differences emerged.

Of the 69 participants who completed all three question- naires, six individuals had an organizational tenure that (likely) far exceeded a typical socialization period (i.e., greater than 40 months). Thus, these participants were removed from the sample and the analyses were conducted with the remaining 63 participants with the exception of the confirmatory factor analysis on organizational socialization, which was conducted on the full sample (N = 126). The majority of the participants were female (52%), under the age of 35 (84%), never married (81%), employed full time (77%), and had earned either undergraduate or graduate degrees (98%) from one of a variety of disciplines (primarily business and arts). Participants were employed in a wide range of sectors including service, finance, and manufactur- ing. The vast majority of participants (95%) were in their first year of employment (mean tenure was 8 months, SD = 3.21). This level of tenure is consistent with other studies that have examined the effects of socialization (e.g., Bauer et al., 2007) and, given that socialization is likely an ongoing process (e.g., Ostroff & Kozlowski, 1992), most, if not all, of our participants would have experienced at least some socialization processes.

Measures

Organizational Socialization Tactics

At Time 1, we assessed organizational socialization tactics using Jones’ (1986) 30-item measure. High scores represent institutionalized tactics and low scores individualized tactics. A sample item is ‘‘Much of my job knowledge has been acquired informally on a trial and error basis.’’ Two of the items had zero or negative item-total correlations and were

removed from the scale mean. All items were rated on a 7-point scale (strongly disagree-strongly agree; a = .91).

Trust

At Time 2, we measured organizational trust using six items from Robinson (1996). A sample reverse-scored item is ‘‘My employer is not always honest and truthful.’’ All items were rated on a 7-point scale (strongly disagree-strongly agree; a = .92).

Affective Commitment

At Time 3, we measured affective commitment using the six-item short version of Meyer, Allen, and Smith’s (1993) Organizational Commitment Questionnaire. An example reverse-scored item is ‘‘I do not feel a sense of ‘‘belonging’’ to my organization.’’ All items were measured on a 7-point scale (strongly disagree-strongly agree; a = .84).

Job Satisfaction

At Time 3, we used 20 items from the Minnesota Satisfac- tion Questionnaire (MSQ) to assess job satisfaction. The MSQ asks respondents to rate statements on a 5-point scale (not at all satisfied-very satisfied) based on the extent to which each reflects their satisfaction with their job. Sample items include ‘‘The way my co-workers get along with each other’’ and ‘‘The way company policies are put into prac- tice’’ (a = .92).

Results

Scale means, standard deviations, correlations, and reliabili- ties are presented in Table 1. Past research has treated Jones’ (1986) socialization scale as a one- (e.g., Gruman et al., 2006; Kim et al., 2005), three- (Cable & Parsons, 2001), and six-factor scale (e.g., Ashforth & Saks, 1996). As such, prior to testing our hypotheses we used AMOS 19 to assess the fit of a one-factor model. Given that our hypotheses focus on the individualized-institutionalized continuum, we

Table 1. Means, standard deviations, and correlations

Variable 1 2 3 4

1. Socialization (.91) 2. Trust .39** (.92) 3. Affective commitment .32* .50** (.84) 4. Job satisfaction .29* .55** .73** (.92) M 4.26 5.26 4.34 3.69 SD 1.01 1.25 1.28 .067

Note. Coefficient alpha reliability estimates are given in paren- theses on the main diagonal. *p < .05. **p < .01.

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compared the fit of a one-factor model, a six-factor model, and a model in which each of the six factors was fixed to load on a second-order factor, to ascertain the appropriate- ness of this analytic strategy.

Our first step was to compare the fit of the one-factor model to that of the six-factor model. Although the fit statis- tics were slightly lower than conventional recommendations (cf. Hu & Bentler, 1999), the v2 difference test indicates that the six-factor model provided a better fit to the data than did the one-factor model (see Table 2). We then compared the six-factor model to the higher-order model. Unlike the first test, in this case the models are not nested, therefore assess- ing model fit using the v2 difference test is inappropriate. We followed conventional standards for comparing non- nested models by examining the AIC (Akaike, 1973) and BCC (Browne & Cudek, 1989) for each model; the model with the lower AIC and BCC is the better fitting model (e.g., Kline, 1998; Vandenberg & Grelle, 2009). The results suggest that the higher-order model provided the best fit to the data. Given these findings we believed that the best approach to analyzing the data was to treat socialization as a six-factor scale, represented by a higher-order factor.

We analyzed our data using Structural Equation Model- ing techniques with AMOS 19 as this allowed us to use socialization as a first level factor with each scale as a sep- arate indicator.1 Because we had a large number of parame- ters to be estimated, we first created item-parcels for each of our scales. To do so, we ran exploratory factor analyses on each of the scales and grouped the items with the highest and lowest loadings (e.g., Landis, Beal, & Tesluk, 2000). This resulted in three item-parcels for each of trust and affective commitment, and four item-parcels for job satisfac- tion. Prior to testing our hypotheses, we first tested our measurement model, comparing a four-factor model to a three-factor model in which job satisfaction and affective

commitment were set to load on a common factor, a one-fac- tor model, where all item-parcels were set to load on a single factor, and the independence model. Results suggest that the intended four-factor model was the best fit to the data (see Table 3).2

To test our hypotheses we ran three separate boot- strapped models: One in which trust fully mediates the rela- tions between socialization and job attitudes, and two alternate models in which trust functions as a partial media- tor in the relations between job satisfaction and affective commitment. As shown in Table 3, v2 difference tests indi- cate that the fully mediated model provided the best fit to the data. In support of Hypothesis 1, socialization is positively related to trust (standardized coefficient = .39, p < .01). To assess support for Hypotheses 2 and 3, we examined both the indirect effects of socialization on job satisfaction and affective commitment along with the 95% bias- corrected confidence intervals around the indirect effects. The results indicated the direct effects of socialization on job satisfaction and affective commitment were not signifi- cant (standardized coefficients = .07 and .21, respectively, p > .05). However, the indirect effects on our outcome vari- ables were significant. Further, neither indirect effect included zero, thus supporting both Hypotheses 2 and 3 (see Table 4).3

Discussion

The positive effects of organizational socialization are well documented and include both job-focused (e.g., satisfaction) and organization-focused (e.g., commitment) outcomes. Moreover, research has demonstrated that institutionalized socialization tactics lead to positive outcomes by decreasing

Table 2. CFA results for Jones’ (1986) Socialization Scale

Model v2 df v2/df Dv2 CFI TLI IFI RMSEA AIC BCC

One-factor model 662.35** 350 1.89 .74 .70 .75 .066 830.35 858.35 Six-factor model 585.86** 335 1.75 76.49** .79 .75 .80 .061 783.86 816.86 Higher-order model 595.52** 344 1.73 .79 .75 .80 .060 775.52 805.52

Notes. All items were first grouped according to the tactics discussed by Van Maanen and Schein (1979; i.e., formal-informal, collective-individual, sequential-random, fixed-variable, serial-disjunctive, investiture-divestiture). In the one-factor model, all tactics were set to represent a single, common factor. In the six-factor model, each tactic was considered to be independent of the others. In the higher-order model, each of the six tactics was treated as an indicator of a second, higher-order factor. *p < .05. **p < .01.

1 We also tested our hypotheses using the full model of socialization, whereby each item loaded on one of six factors that, in turn, loaded on a second-order factor. Path coefficients for the structural model were largely identical to the simplified model presented in the paper (e.g., the standardized coefficient from socialization to trust was .39). However, fit statistics were poorer, likely due to sample size and the large number of parameters to be estimated. As such, we present the simplified model in the paper.

2 We also used the procedures of Preacher and Hayes (2008) to assess any influence of a variety of control variables (i.e., age, gender, and tenure) on our analyses. None of our controls were significant predictors of any of our variables, nor did they alter the results in any way.

3 Given the results of our factor analysis of the Jones (1986) scale, we conducted supplementary mediation analyses on each of the six dimensions of socialization separately using the macro provided by Preacher and Hayes (2008). With the exception of sequential versus random, and serial versus disjunctive, all of the results were significant and in keeping with the findings of our SEM analysis. Thus, we feel it appropriate to conclude that, on the whole, institutionalized socialization tactics lead to higher levels of trust than do individualized.

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role ambiguity and stress, among other things. In this explor- atory study, we extend the findings on organizational social- ization by suggesting that institutionalized socialization tactics function as a signal to new employees that leads to greater organizational trust, which, in turn mediates the rela- tionship between institutionalized socialization and job satis- faction and affective commitment. Thus, our findings contribute to the existing literature by offering an alternative theoretical mechanism, namely trust, through which to examine the positive effects of organizational socialization and by offering a promising avenue for future research. Specifically, future research is needed to explore how using institutionalized practices can enhance perceptions of organizational trust and, in turn, influence other important job-related attitudes and behaviors positively (e.g., organizational citizenship behaviors; in-role performance; turnover).

Contributions to Scholarship

In this paper, we theorize that institutionalized socialization leads to positive feelings toward the organization by increas- ing employee feelings of organizational trust. As such, by suggesting that organizational socialization tactics may influence trust, we add to the trust literature by offering one possible explanation for why new employees sometimes appear to have an immediate level of trust in the organiza- tion shortly after entry. That is, although some argue that trust in new relationships starts at zero and develops over time (e.g., Blau, 1964), others have noted that initial trust levels can be moderate or even high at the start of relation- ships (e.g., Kramer, 1996). Consistent with the tenets of sig- naling theory, we argue that by virtue of having a common, structured socialization experience, new employees use

institutionalized socialization practices as a ‘‘signal’’ of the consistent treatment they and other newcomers in the orga- nization receive. Thus, institutionalized socialization prac- tices may ‘‘jump start’’ initial trust and through further experiences with organizational agents lead to greater trust over time.

An additional, somewhat tangential, contribution of our paper is the finding that socialization, as measured by Jones’ (1986) scale, may actually be best represented by a higher- order factor. That is, each of the six dimensions of socializa- tion represents a common factor inherent in socialization. We theorize that this may be related to the institutional-indi- vidual continuum of each scale. However, further research is necessary.

Applied Implications

Practically speaking, our findings speak to the importance of sending a strong, consistent signal to new employees through the use of institutionalized socialization tactics. Our results suggest that doing so will lead to increased trust and positive job- and organization-focused outcomes. We acknowledge, however, that given the economic hardships facing many organizations today, hiring a mass of employ- ees may not be feasible and thus it may be difficult to social- ize employees using all of the institutionalized tactics (e.g., collective tactics). Given this, we suggest that extra attention be paid to those practices that appear to be most strongly related to trust (e.g., formalizing a socialization schedule), even if newcomers are not able to be socialized together. Similarly, focusing on role acquisition and how the new employee adds to organizational expertise (vs. emphasizing individual expertise) may lead to the formation of organiza- tional trust, and result in positive employee attitudes.

Table 4. Trust as a mediator of the relationship between socialization and attitudinal outcomes

Trust Job satisfaction Affective commitment

Predictor Direct effect

Indirect effect

Direct effect

Indirect effect

95% CI for indirect

effect (LB)

95% CI for indirect

effect (UB) Direct effect

Indirect effect

95% CI for indirect

effect (LB)

95% CI for indirect

effect (UB)

Socialization .39** .07 .23** .10 .47 .21 .18** .05 .42

Notes. Standardized coefficients are presented. LB = lower bound; UB = upper bound. *p < .05. **p < .01.

Table 3. Model fit statistics for confirmatory factor analyses and mediation analyses

Model v2 df v2/df Dv2 CFI TLI IFI RMSEA AIC BCC

Four-factor measurement model 150.67** 100 1.51 .91 .90 .92 .09 254.67 294.85 Three-factor measurement model 161.27** 101 1.60 .89 .87 .88 .10 263.27 302.68 One-factor measurement model 286.60** 101 2.84 .68 .62 .69 .17 388.60 428.08 Independence model 698.93** 120 5.82 .28 762.93 787.66 Hypothesized Fully Mediated Model 132.50* 100 1.33 .94 .93 .95 .07 204.50 232.32 Socialization ! Job satisfaction 132.44* 99 1.34 .06 .94 .93 .94 .07 206.44 235.15 Socialization ! Affective commitment 131.00* 99 1.32 1.50 .95 .93 .95 .07 205.00 233.59

*p < .05. **p < .01.

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Limitations and Future Research

Although this study was an exploratory examination of the previously untested relations between organizational social- ization and trust, one limitation of the current study is the small sample size (N = 63). However, the use of bootstrap- ping and confidence intervals to test our effects gives us some assurance in the validity of our findings (e.g., Shrout & Bolger, 2002). Furthermore, this concern is offset by the strengths of a three-wave design and by our replication of past findings in this area of investigation (i.e., positive zero-order correlations between institutionalized socializa- tion and job satisfaction and affective commitment). Despite this, additional research using a larger employee sample is necessary to explore the relationships between these vari- ables further.

Tied to issues of sample size is a need to examine indi- vidual socialization tactics more closely. It is possible that some of the tactics may represent a stronger signal than oth- ers, thus leading to stronger feelings of trust. For example, collective tactics allow employees to be socialized together and this may provide a stronger signal to new employees with respect to how others in the organization are treated, in part because of the common experience provided by col- lective socialization. Indeed, the information learned may also lead to stronger feelings of trust, in part, because employees can be confident that all employees have learned common information and, as such, the on-the-job behaviors of others in the organization can be better predicted. Sup- porting this, our supplementary analyses suggest that some institutionalized tactics (e.g., collective and formal tactics) may lead to greater trust than others (e.g., serial tactics). Future research designed to tease apart relations based on the separate tactics will clarify these possibilities.

Finally, we propose that what is presented to new employees when they are socialized is as important as how they are socialized. The content of socialization prac- tices may lead to an increase in organizational trust in a vari- ety of ways. For example, it is possible that the information provided during the socialization period corresponds directly to the promises made during recruitment. In this case, social- ization may represent complete or partial fulfillment of the psychological contract, contributing to increased organiza- tional trust (e.g., Rousseau, 2011). In a somewhat related vein, the information presented during socialization may represent the fulfillment of preemployment expectations (e.g., Major, Kozlowski, Chao, & Gardner, 1995), and a cor- responding increase in organizational trust. Learning about the culture of the organization may also lead to greater trust over time. In their examination of the content of organiza- tional socialization, Chao, O’Leary-Kelly, Wolf, Klein, and Gardner (1994) found either no changes or positive changes in socialization related to the people, politics, and culture of an organization as individuals changed jobs. In fact, they theorized that over time employee values might become more congruent with organizational values. If this is the case, we expect a corresponding increase in organizational trust. Future research should examine these possibilities.

In sum, we suggest that the present research contributes to the existing knowledge on organizational socialization by

presenting organizational trust as an alternative mechanism through which to examine socialization outcomes. Contin- uing to explore the effects of socialization on trust will expand the literature in both of these areas of research and emphasize further the importance of new employee socialization.

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Kristyn A. Scott

Department of HRM/OB Ted Rogers School of Management Ryerson University 575 Bay Street Toronto ON M5N 1L7 Canada Tel. +1 416 979-5000 ext. 2482 E-mail kristyn.scott@ryerson.ca

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