Recruitment & Selection

Does Education Contribute to Job Performance?

Organizations often use education as a measure/indicator of a person’s skills and abilities during the selection process. But does advanced education, particularly holding a bachelors degree or higher, actually indicate the likelihood of a person being a good citizen of the organization and not engaging in counterproductive behaviors? Is the higher salary required for employees with advanced education worth it?

Citizenship Behaviors

Those with a higher education have been shown to be more likely to engage in general organizational citizenship behaviors (OCB), including those directed at the organization (e.g., describing the organization in a positive light to nonemployees) and supervisor (e.g., helping supervisor meet her deadline). The reason for this may be that people with college degrees tend to value helping others and forming good relationships more than those with only a high school education. Therefore, in addition to gaining knowledge and skills, those with advanced education gain the work values that closely relate to citizenship behaviors. It makes sense then that employees with higher educations have also proved to be more creative (a dimension of OCB). Creativity helps the organization get and keep their edge in the market.

Counterproductive Behaviors

Education level has been shown to be negatively related to undesirable work behaviors such as workplace aggression, on-the-job substance use, and absenteeism. This may be because college-educated individuals tend to adhere more to rules regarding attendance and protection of organizational property. However, those with an advanced education who are in a high-complexity job (e.g., lawyers, engineers, doctors) are more likely to engage in counterproductive work behaviors as compared to those in low-complexity jobs (e.g., file clerk). This may be due to the added stress of being in a high-complexity job.

Take-home Message

To stay competitive in today’s market, organizations need much more than people who can complete the core job tasks; they need people who will go above and beyond for the organization, while at the same time will refrain from engaging in behaviors that are counterproductive to the functioning of the organization. Investing in highly educated employees overall does increase the likelihood of these positive outcomes in addition to core task performance.  It seems that a college-education provides broader work values that are beneficial to organizational functioning. An organization can feel more confident that by utilizing education as an indicator during the selection process, they are using a measure that predicts many aspects of overall job performance.

Interpretation by:

Lexy Adkins

DeGarmo Group

This was a summary of the research and practice implications from: Ng, T. W. H., & Feldman, D. C. (2009). How broadly does education contribute to job performance? Personnel Psychology, 62, 89-134.