RESEARCH AND PRACTICE
IN HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

RESEARCH NOTE

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Taylor, R. (2004). Evaluating an Instrument Designed to Assess Job Satisfaction of Airline Passenger Service Staff, Research and Practice in Human Resource Management, 12(1), 172-183.

Evaluating an Instrument Designed to Assess Job Satisfaction of Airline Passenger Service Staff

Ruth Taylor

Abstract

The importance of understanding how the practices of the work setting impact employee job satisfaction has stimulated a great deal of research, much of which has been researched within the secondary or manufacturing industries. This research project sought to investigate employee job satisfaction as it relates to the tertiary or service industry sector. This paper reports the findings of a survey with 74 airline flight attendants who responded to a questionnaire that provided data for assessing relationships between work unit context variables and job satisfaction. Human resource management implications from the study results, particularly in terms of creating and maintaining a favourable work setting, are discussed.

Introduction

Situational explanations of job satisfaction are widely reported in the contemporary organisational behaviour literature. Since the pioneering work of Herzberg, Mausner and Snyderman (1959), who conceptualised the notion of job enrichment, job design has become a most pervasive and dominant strategy for stimulating the level of employee affective responses. Herzberg and his colleagues, who coined the notion of a two factor theory, advanced the conception that the context of the task was linked to job dissatisfaction, while the content of work was related to job satisfaction. These relationships between the incumbent’s task perceptions and the work context, as a source of cues and meanings, has spawned a plethora of literature. For instance, Katzell, Barrett & Parker (1961), Hulin (1966), as well as Turner and Lawrence (1965) reported job satisfaction could be influenced by a variety of non-content macro variables such as community features, urban and rural populations, plant size and micro context variables such as pay, supervision and colleagues. In spite of encouraging support for placing workers in contexts that fit their unique needs, from a variety of empirical studies (Locke, Sirota & Wolfson 1976, Sims & Szilagyi 1976, Katz 1978, Katerberg, Hom & Hulin 1979), there was a growing advocacy for a requirement to consider the influence of other work setting situational factors.

The phenomena of job satisfaction continues to attract research endeavour (Hom & Kinicki 2001, Lu & Lim 2002, Bernhard & Sverke 2003). Job satisfaction, which refers to the general attitude a person has to their job, has been extensively assessed in the pursuit of better understanding linkages with performance, job attendance, role stress, work motivation and a host of work setting properties as well as job content dimensions. While these are intriguing questions in the manufacturing sector the connections are of considerable importance in the dominant service industry (Korczynski 2002). The purpose of this study, therefore, was to add store to the job satisfaction literature in the aviation service industry by evaluating an instrument that had been designed to assess job satisfaction of aircraft passenger services crew.

Job Satisfaction and the Service Sector

The concern for creating favourable workplaces to significantly effect employee behaviours and job satisfaction has been a central endeavour of managers. A belief that the social environment can influence employee responses underpinned the social information process framework conceptualised by Salanick and Pfeffer (1978). Some support for their perspective that task perceptions and attitudes that evolve from written job descriptions as well as verbal cues from colleagues and supervisors has been reported (O’Reilly & Caldwell 1979, O’Connor & Barrett 1980, Griffin 1983). However, prior to the evolution of this theoretical paradigm, conceived by Salanick and Pfeffer (1978), the most popular task design endeavours were embedded in the job attributes model. By building on the work of Turner and Lawrence (1965), Hackman and Lawler (1971) were able to assess the degree to which job content features such as skill, task significance, job feedback can effect employee responses. This work was to lead to the development of the elegant job characteristics model (Hackman & Oldham 1976), and an extensive body of research in which was reported the evidence of substantial connections between perceived task attributes and respondent affective reactions.

Whilst recognising the importance of this foundation research literature, it is timely to note the growth in service sector industries. With this rapidly expanding sector of industries comes the necessity to question the applicability of research which was performed within the manufacturing industry sector within a differing industry context. World Bank statistics show that the tertiary sector currently accounts for approximately 64 per cent of all Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and more than US$31 billion annual revenue (World Bank 2002). Employment statistics substantiate the growing magnitude of this sector with up to 88 per cent of the US work force currently employed in the services industry (Verma & Boyer 2000). Australia currently shows 73 per cent of employees working within the services sector of industries (ABS 2003). Singapore, Thailand, Korea, Macau, India, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and in the near future, all European Union countries, are likely to experience the dominance of the services industry as the major driver in economic growth and development. One of the key service industries is tourism, with the global importance of both the international and domestic tourism industries being justified through its contribution to economic factors such as import/export earnings, taxation receipts and GDP. Additionally, of importance at a societal level is the contribution tourism makes to employment, infrastructure development, and destination growth and prosperity. The airline sector is one of the key industries within the service sector of industries.

Over time more expansive frameworks have been devised and evaluated in endeavours to determine relationships between job complexity and a variety of work related outcomes such as commitment, involvement, motivation, satisfaction, attendance. Accompanying this continuous exploration in more complex job networks there has been the introduction of a wide range of composite and global scales that directly ask overall feelings about the job. This research note adds to the expanding body of literature by the presentation of a 12 item scale that relates contextual task components with job satisfaction. The validation and reliability assessments, together with descriptive data of the scale and a profile of the study subjects are provided. This lays the groundwork for discussion of the usefulness of the instrument in terms of human resource management implications, particularly within the rapidly expanding services sector of industries.

Methodology

Subjects and Site

The study data were provided by 74 air passenger service crew. Almost 55 per cent of the respondents (n = 41) were flight attendants, some 32 per cent (n = 24) were cabin managers, and the remainder were lead flight attendants. Few of the respondents (5.4 %) were casual employees. Indeed nearly three quarters (74.5 %) of the study respondents had been employed continuously for over five years, while a small number of the service crew (8.1 %) had been employed for less than one year. All respondents were members of an Australian leading airline. The subjects of this study operated out of the head office located on the west coast. Table 1 provides a summary of the demographic profile of the respondents.

Table 1
Socio Demographics % (N = 74)
Age (years) Education Level Marital Status Currently Studying
20 - 29 27.4% Secondary 39.2% Single 29.7% Yes 23.3%
30 - 39 52.1% Professional 29.8% Married 43.2%
40 - 49 19.2% Tertiary 24.4% Relationship 21.6%
Over 49 1.3% Other 6.6% Other 5.5%

Notes: Relationship - long term, Professional - certificate or diploma, and Tertiary - undergraduate and post graduate.

Procedure

Study data were obtained by a questionnaire. Before administration of the survey instrument, approval was given by the airline’s executive management. The representative unions endorsed the project on the proviso that, (1) respondent anonymity was preserved, and (2) participation was voluntary. These two factors were conveyed to 220 potential respondents by a personal letter when they received their questionnaire (with an envelope for returning to the researcher), through internal mail.

Measures

The questionnaire was designed to capture socio-demographic and affective responses. Details of the respondent’s background were sought in terms of age, marital status, formal education, job tenure and work status. Respondents provided this information by checking appropriate boxes.

Four extrinsic dimensions of job satisfaction were assessed. The affective responses were to 12 items that were designed to assess the experience level of job satisfaction for (1) structural, (2) contextual, (3) work colleagues, and (4) service dimensions of the respondents task setting. An arithmetic mean was obtained for each of the four constructs when respondents rated each item on a five point Likert scale. The scale range was from 1 (very dissatisfied) to 5 (very satisfied). The 12 item instrument, which had no reverse items, was developed by Nankervis and Taylor (2002).

Analysis

The study data were evaluated by two main procedures. First, data reduction was undertaken by factor analysis using the varimax option, to confirm the existence of the four job satisfaction constructs. Subsequently, the reliabilities of the identified constructs were estimated with Cronbach’s (1951) alpha. Second, a range of statistical procedures were undertaken. Initially, frequency plots were employed to determine the sample profile. Next, correlation analyses and Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) procedures were employed to evaluate construct relativities.

Results

Table 2 shows relevant information from the results of the factor analysis with the job satisfaction data. Orthogonal rotations were performed with the varimax option to reveal four distinct constructs.

Table 2
Factor Analyses (N = 74)
Items Factors
Structural Contextual Colleagues Service
Eigenvalues 3.21 2.12 1.89 1.84
% variance 26.73 17.70 15.76 15.31
Cumulative 26.73 44.43 60.19 75.50
Employment conditions .74 -.09 .28 .14
Base management .81 .33 .11 .05
Line management .91 .18 .06 .17
Team management .82 .25 -.01 .09
Job duties .07 .77 .03 .05
Job policies .28 .79 -.04 .19
Senior management .56 .65 .20 .08
Flight attendants .19 -.04 .81 .15
Technical crew .06 -.04 .74 .52
Other departments .08 .48 .65 -.05
Passengers .10 .20 .04 .88
Ground staff .24 .05 .36 .82

From the questionnaire items four dimensions were confirmed, which have been conceptualised as (1) structural, (2) contextual, (3) work colleagues, and (4) service to reflect the item terminology. Also shown in Table 2 are the eigenvalues, the percentage of variance and the cumulative percentage variance which was relatively high at 75.5. Having verified the dimensionality of the scale, constructs were assessed for reliability. Reasonable estimates were obtained. Hence the internal consistencies of the scales were acceptable, and arguably, statistical analyses can be conducted with some confidence. Overall, the content of Table 2 demonstrates the study data were robust.

Table 3 reports the mean scores and correlations for the four constructs (structural, contextual, work colleagues, service) as determined by the factor analysis as well as their reliability estimates. The means indicate reasonably high levels were perceived for the constructs. The correlations confirm factor overlapping, particularly for the correlations at the p < 0.01 level. They reveal a reasonable level of multi-collinearity for all variables except for the construct ‘colleagues’ with the two variables of ‘structural’ and ‘contextual’. Nevertheless, on balance, the information of Table 2 and Table 3 demonstrate reasonable construct validity. Reliability estimates are acceptable and expectedly, they were related to the number of questionnaire items.

Table 3
Descriptive Statistics (N = 74)
Variable Mean 1 2 3 4
1. Structural 3.19 .88 .61** .31* .37**
2. Contextual 3.19 - .76 .30* .31**
3. Colleagues 3.71 - - .63 .44**
4. Service 3.75 - - - .63

Notes: a. Bold values on the diagonal are the reliabilities.
b. * p < 0.05 and ** p < 0.01.

Conclusion

This research note sought to assess the worth of an instrument developed for assessing employee job satisfaction within an airline, a key industry sector within the rapidly developing global service sector of industries. The instrument was found to have acceptable validity and reliability, which means that the instrument has great potential for not only providing airline managers with an indication of their staff’s level of job satisfaction, but additionally, it provides an instrument for other service sector organisations to continue to research the concept of employee job satisfaction. With the growth of service sector industries, which are so heavily reliant of human resources, the provision of quality service outputs through job satisfaction of staff is without a doubt a priority of all service sector industry providers. Thus, this research project adds to the current body of established research within the manufacturing sector of industries on employee job satisfaction through focusing on the tertiary sector of industries, and providing a better understanding of measures for achieving the support needed for human resources management to establish relevant industry strategies specific to the needs of the service sector. The further development of studies like this can thus provide the basis to undertake in-depth research within the area of employee job satisfaction and thus provide service sector management with information for human resource management strategy development to improve employees’ work-life and ultimately increase service quality and productivity within the service sectors as a whole. Enhancing and consolidating best practice human resources management is an imperative within the developing tertiary sector of industries due to the dominance and importance of the human factor within this sector.

Author

Ruth Taylor is the Academic Area Head for the Services and Tourism Management program, School of Management, Curtin University, Western Australia. Her research interests include human resource management in the services sector, service operations management, tourism and events management.

E-mail: ruth.taylor@cbs.curtin.edu.au

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