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The Role of Individual Development Plans, Dissertation Example

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Dissertation

The Role of Individual Development Plans (IDPs) for Leadership Development in a Business Setting

Methodology

This chapter includes research methodology, philosophy, and the techniques used to guide this study. The purpose of this study is to explore the use of IDPs in the workplace, and to reveal the essence of a successful IDP in a business setting. The results of this study can provide organizations with empirical research data that can be used to design an IDP program, or to enhance a current IDP program. In addition, this study can provide consumers of IDP programs with tips and tools for their own IDP for professional and personal advantage.

According to Beausaert, Segers and Gijselaers (2011), the usage of IDPs has recently increased in the workplace as a tool for development and promotion; however, yet there is little evidence showing IDPs as an effective tool for development and promotions. Besides, few studies showed results on the effectiveness of the IDP. In the research studies on IDPs, the authors used mostly qualitative data collection method through the usage of the questionnaire, and the second one was a mixed method, a combination of qualitative and quantitative research (Beausaert et al., 2011).

Research Design

This study applies a sequential exploratory mixed-method approach. According to Creswell and Clark (2010), this approach has its own history of development. In 1950s, Campbell and Fiske were first researchers who introduced multiple quantitative methods. In 1970s, Denzin, Jick, Cook, Reichardt, and other researchers combined in their studies both qualitative and quantitative data. When the formative period of a mixed-method approach was over, researchers (Bryman, Rallis, etc.) entered into the “paradigm debate period” (Creswell & Clark, 2010, p. 23). This way, the connections between two traditions (qualitative and quantitative one) were established and reconciled with the framework of one research. During the period of procedural development, Brewer, Hunter, etc. focused on the multi method approach to a research study, and developed a typology of mixed-methods designs. At the beginning of 21st century, the researchers were concerned with advantages and disadvantages of implementation of mixed methods in different research fields. For example, Greene “emphasized the rationales, purposes, and potential for mixing methods in social research and evaluation” (Creswell & Clark, 2010, p. 24). Nowadays, mixed methods are still critiqued by some authors (for example, Howe, Giddings, Holmes, etc.) from a postmodern perspective.

In the framework of the present research study, a mixed-method research design is believed to be the most suitable. According to Tashakkori and Teddlie (2003), “this is a type of research design in which qualitative and quantitative approaches are used in types of questions, research methods, data collection and analysis procedures, and/or inferences“(p. 711). A mixed-method design is chosen because it is not bound to a concrete method or philosophy; in this case, one may choose the methods and techniques based on the research objectives (Creswell, 2007). A mixed method is useful for researchers who want to use viewpoints from both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Johnson, Onwuegbuzie and Turner (2007) published a journal article exploring and analyzing the definition of mixed methods. They stated,

“a mixed-method research is the type of research in which a researcher or team of researchers combines elements of qualitative and quantitative research approaches (e.g., use of qualitative and quantitative viewpoints, data collection, analysis, inference technique) for the broad purposes of breadth and depth of understanding and collaboration” (Johnson, Onwuegbuzie, & Turner, 2007, p. 123).

A mixed method follows the philosophical view of pragmatism. Creswell (2009) described pragmatism as “a worldview which rises out of action, situations and consequences rather then antecedent conditions, as in post positivism” (p. 10). The pragmatic paradigm befits this study; it applies the pragmatic philosophical worldviews. In general, a mixed-method approach to research is not new, because it was widely spread in the 1990s. Introduced in 1980s and 1990s, quantitative methods were commonly used for social and psychological research. However, mixed methods emerged to synthesize qualitative and quantitative research.

A Mixed-Method Design

Unlike other research methods, a mixed-method research can add advantages to the researcher process, because it allows the integration or mix of quantitative and qualitative data, and it may provide different answers to research questions (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2009). Pragmatism, the paradigm generally associated with a mixed-method research, is based on a practical approach which identifies that data are collected to address research questions and both objective and subjective data (Creswell, 2009). One needs to reveal the pragmatic nature of a mixed-method design to understand its value for the present research.

The concept of a mixed-method research is connected with triangulation and pragmatism. Triangulation, a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches to enhance validation, was introduced in the 1960s (Johnson et al., 2007). For Jupp (2006), triangulation is a research strategy that allows answering a research question from two or more different angles in order to converge findings from different data sources. For example, “a researcher may converge self-report data derived from interviews with observational data” (Jupp, 2006, p. 180). In its tern, pragmatism provides a rationale for mixed-method research designs. Pragmatism rejects the idea that quantitative and qualitative paradigms are incompatible and in conflict if they coexist within the same research. Pragmatists believe that these paradigms have their own strengths and weaknesses, and successfully compliment one another. The main advantage of a mixed-method approach is the potential for gaining a richer, fuller, complete, and more in-depth understanding of a research question by combining both quantitative and qualitative perspectives. Thus, being “a form of methodological pluralism”, pluralism opens a wide way for implementation of mixed methods (Jupp, 2006, p. 180).

Cameron and Molina-Azorin (2010) researched several studies in business settings using by a mixed method; the study indicated that a mixed method added value to the management research. Taking into consideration the business nature of this study and the research purpose, one may see that a mixed method is a logical choice for the research methodology. This sequential exploratory mixed-method design study uses a qualitative research method as the primary method to guide the research, and a quantitative one to provide a supporting role that builds and assists the interpretation of the qualitative data collection. Exploration of a phenomenon is the primary role of a sequential exploratory mixed method (Creswell, 2011)

There are some reasons to utilize a sequential exploratory mixed-method approach. First, the researcher is more prone to qualitative data collection. Second, the researcher has not identified the important framework of the study. Third, the researcher may discover new research questions that would not have been discovered through the quantitative data collection (Creswell, 2011). For these reasons, a sequential exploratory mixed-method approach is chosen.

The questionnaire for ten individuals provides the basis for data collection. These individuals either initiate and implement IDPs, completing them with action and/or activities or manage an employee who implements IDPs, completing them with actions or activities. The questionnaire will be focused on the qualitative data of the people who have a certain experience with an IDP. In addition, the data collection process consists in a self-reporting questionnaire designed to capture the quantitative data of the research questions and hypotheses about IDPs in business settings. One validated questionnaire is targeted for the overall population and/or a manager who has certain experience with an IDP.

Research Questions

The principal research question addressed in this study is:

RQ: What is the role of individual development plans (IDP) for leadership development in a business setting?

The following hypotheses were tested during the self-reported questionnaire for data collection:

H1: Learning and reflection are the main reason to utilize IDPs in the business setting.

H2: Instruction of the IDP and feedback provided are considered a key component of the IDPs in a business setting.

H3: The motivated supervisor is a key component of the IDPs in a business setting.

H4: IDPs are an effective tool in a business setting.

Population and Sample

At X organization, where the research is conducted, there are approximately 25,000 employees. The qualitative data collection was based on the questionnaire designed for 10 employees who initiate and implement IDPs, completing them with action and/or activities or manage an employee who implements IDPs, completing them with actions or activities. Approximately 2000 of those employees are professionals; they constitute sample population for the present research. 700 professionals working at the US organization are the accessible population for this study. X organization is accustomed to taking survey’s on-line so they do not have any concerns about unfamiliarity of online testing; though, participation in on-line surveys tends to be low due on-going competing priorities at X organization.

Following Tashakkori and Teddlie’s (2003) book about the implementation of mixed methods in social and behavioral research, one may say that a simple random sampling technique was used to choose participants for this research. Each person among many thousands of organization employees is a representative of the clearly defined population. Ten individuals of different age, sex, education, position, etc. were selected at random. The advantage of simple random sampling cannot be underestimated, since “the research data can be generalized from the sample to the entire population within a computable margin of error” (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2003, p. 278). Thus, the data received from the selected sample population (10 employees working at X organization) can be generalized to other employees or people working in analogous business settings that deal with IDPs in and outside the USA.

Instruments

The study commences with an email sent by the VP of HR to the accessible population. The email outlines the purpose of the survey (to enhance the current IDP process); in addition, the people are informed that they are a selected sample population, and their participation is crucial for the success of this research study. The sequential exploratory mixed-method study originates with the questionnaire for 10 individuals. Nine open-ended questions were asked that allowed the participants to respond outside the bounds of the question.

In general, many researchers utilize a Web-based mail questionnaire (Connaway and Powell, 2010). However, utilizing this research instrument, one should be ready to conduct one or more follow-up mailings in order to receive all responses from the participants. Sending a remind letter, one should attach another copy of the questionnaire. Connaway and Powell (2010) believe that “the response period should be long enough to avoid rushing the participants but short enough that they do not forget about the questionnaire” (p. 165). A reasonable period for the response is one to two weeks.

Mr. Simon Beausaert et al. (2011) from Maastrict University developed the questionnaire used for this research. The Personal Development Plan Practice Questionnaire (PPQ) was designed to measure the employees’ perception of the personal development plan practice by questioning the supporting process conditions (Beausaert et al., 2011). The PPQ contains 36 items categorized in a five-point Likert scale. The dependent variables are based on the five factors: learning and reflection, instruction and feedback, the motivating supervisor, the evaluative nature of the PDP, and the perceived effectiveness of the PDP (Beausaert et al., 2011). The independent variables used are age, education, sex, performance rating, position title, years of service, and experience (the participants who currently have an IDP, had an IDP, and never had an IDP).

Assumptions

It is important to consider assumptions in the present research that uses a mixed-method approach. It is assumed that the role of IDPs for leadership development is significant in current and future business settings. To prove this piece of evidence, one may believe that questionnaire and some statistics concerning IDPs in business settings provide a good base for the research. As the chosen mixed method allows to collect and to analyze both qualitative and quantitative data, it is chosen as the principal method for this research study. It is supposed that the questionnaire and some statistics provide with rigorous and reliable data. Additionally, it is assumed that the participants give their responses in accordance with their worldview. Besides, there is an assumption that the present research has relatively high validity and reliability, and even limitations and weaknesses cannot present serious threats.

Validity and Reliability

Creswell (2009) stated that following a mixed method, the validity needs to be explained in details. The PPQ is validated; the Cronbach’s alpha is ranged between 63 and 91 (Beausaert et al., 2011). According to the study conducted by Dellinger and Leech (2007), quantitative studies can use construct validity to cover the other validity evidence areas such as measurement. The design of qualitative studies may deal with statistical inferences; it supposes many choices and controversies that complicate the research process. Threats to external validity are minimized, since the chosen sample size is relatively large. In addition, there are many independent variables in the study that demonstrate a certain piece of evidence among different people (with different education, positions, etc) and places (different business settings). It will give an opportunity to generalize the research results, and show that the same data about IDPs can be gathered in different today’s business settings located in various countries. Reliability of the research is also improved; the same questions of the questionnaire are asked to the people of the same position, sex, education, etc. working in different business settings. Naturally, answers of the different participants will be compared and taken into consideration; thus, the gathered data will be reliable.

Data Collection

The participants’ answers provided a suitable base for both quantitative and qualitative data collection. Numerical values were assigned to the five-point Likert scale from “strongly agree” (1) to “strongly disagree” (5). At the same time, the participants’ answers greatly contribute to the qualitative data. To gain an in-depth understanding of what currently occurs in a business setting concerning IDPs and their role in leadership development, the following questions were asked during the questionnaire:

  1. How was your manager or others involved in the creation and feedback of the IDP?
  2. How were managers and/or employees trained on how to implement and provide feedback of the IDPs? What pieces if the training were considered helpful?
  3. Is the IDP voluntary? How are you personally motivated to the development of your own career? How does your personal motivation have an impact on the implementation and completion of the IDP?
  4. How does the organization culture support the IDP process?
  5. How was the IDP personalized towards the specific individual i.e. competency assessment testing?
  6. What was initial timing for the IDP designing and timing to complete it? Was this timing acceptable?
  7. What were the actions or activities involved in the IDP?
  8. What components needed to be added to the next generation of the IDP?
  9. How do you know whether your IDP was successful?
  10. What is needed in the IDP approach to respond the needs of the 21st century?
  11. What is the current response and attitude to IDPs in various fields?

To achieve the purpose of the present research, the data needed not only to be collected but analyzed as well. Within the framework of this study, data collection gave an opportunity to receive answers of 10 employees, and to reveal their attitude toward IDPs in the organization, and the role of this individual document in personal development. To process the collected data, some supportive software were used to process and analyzed valuable information received in the process of the web-based questionnaire.

Data Analysis

The answers received in the result of the questionnaire were statistically evaluated. As it was mentioned, numerical values of Likert scale were used to collect necessary data for quantitative data analysis. The quantitative data were processed with the help of Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS), a kind of software used for statistical analysis; this also eliminates any concerns for human error. This standard data analysis software organizes quantitative data into different statistical formats to identify the relevance of the mentioned dependant (learning and reflection, instruction and feedback, etc.) and independent variables (performance rating, experience, etc.) associated with the present research topic. Naturally, it was essential to know the relevance of these variables to each other and to the target population (Greene, 2007).

The qualitative data obtained from the questionnaire are recorded and transcribed with the help of NVivo used for qualitative data analysis, and coded by open, axial and selective code to allow themes to emerge. As the themes that emerged from the questionnaire were coded by this software system, the received structured and categorized qualitative data concerning IDPs in the business setting became evident. NVivo proved its effectiveness as an effective analysis tool that helps to work with unstructured information like surveys or questionnaire, and facilitates the research decision-making process by organizing and analyzing collected data (Greene, 2007)

In general, the value of the software used for data analysis cannot be underestimated. Greene (2007), for example, noted that mixed methods used in social inquiry are greatly supported by different types of developed computer software. These kinds of software facilitate “iterative exchanges of analyses of quantitative data with SPSS and qualitative data with NVivo” (Greene, 2007, p. 46). They support data analysis procedure, and efficiently provide a researcher with accurate and reliable quantitative and qualitative information that clarifies certain phenomenon, issues, and problems researched by mixed methods. Owing to the conducted data analysis, the necessary qualitative and quantitative information related to IDPs in business settings was revealed.

Weaknesses and Limitations

Each research study has its own limitations and weaknesses; the present one is not an exception. However, within the framework of the research based on a mixed-method approach, one may see that they are inevitable and unavoidable. In the context of this study, one may agree with Jupp (2006), who outlined two following pieces of evidence related to the weaknesses or disadvantages of a mixed-method research:

“a potential disadvantage of mixed-methods approaches, however, is the often lengthy data collection and analysis phases required (especially in sequential designs) leading to heavy demands on both time and funding resources. A further possible disadvantage is the demand placed on the researcher to be expert in the use of both quantitative and qualitative approaches” (p. 180).

As this study applied a sequential exploratory mixed-method design, the lengthy data collection and analysis phases and difficulty to combine both quantitative and qualitative approaches in one research are two main weaknesses of this paper. In addition, some people who are skeptical about the implementation of a mixed-method approach to the research, may call into question validity of the data because of the incompatible nature of qualitative and quantitative paradigms in one study.

Limitations for a mixed-method approach should also be taken into consideration by a researcher (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2003). Within the framework of this research, three principal limitations should be mentioned. First, in order to conduct the research of such global business topic as the role of IDPs for leadership development with the help of a mixed method one needs a research team. Owing to the complicated nature of a sequential exploratory mixed-method research dealing with a huge amount of diverse information, a researcher could not easily to pass through data collection and analysis phases alone. Second, this study generated certain conflicting results, and a researcher needed to accurately interpret them. For the reason that a researcher does not have sufficient experience with the implementation of a mixed-method design, this limitation complicated the research process. The last limitation of this study is its time consuming nature that required the help of other people.

Although the research has some weaknesses and limitations, its value cannot be underestimated. The disadvantages of mixed-method research design cannot diminish the scientific and practical significance of the present study. Undoubtedly, the strengths of mixed method implementation to research the chosen topic in the business field contributed to the research value of this paper, since a researcher took advantage from the combination of quantitative and qualitative data.

Summary

The relatively brief summary of the research methodology is needed to cover all main components of the method used to conduct the present research. This summary informs readers who have not read the extended version of the methodological part about the principal peculiarities of the mixed-method research design, data collection, analysis processes, and overall nature of the exploratory study. Although the chosen design is considered complicated and disputable, the implementation of the mixed-method approach to research the role of IDPs for leadership development in a business setting determined the success of the present study.

In order to explore the chosen topic and to meet the research purpose, the mixed-method research design was chosen. Based on triangulation and pragmatism, the mixed-method approach gives an opportunity to thoroughly investigate the topic and to an get in-depth understanding of the research problem. The main power of a mixed method is to combine the elements of qualitative and quantitative elements. Owing to this piece of evidence, the selected study design allowed to collect, process, and analyze both quantitative and qualitative data received from theoretical (the literature review covered all crucial researched points concerning IDPs and leadership development in business settings) and practical (questionnaire designed for individuals working for one of the US business organizations) phases of the research.

The process of data collection was based on the on-line questionnaire the emails with an attached questionnaire were sent directly to the participants of the research). Answers of the selected individuals from X Organization reflected the main points covered by the specially designed questions. The dependant and independent variables related to the participants’ psychometric data, personal experience with IDPs in the business setting, and other information were taken into consideration during data processing and analysis process. Such sophisticated computer supportive systems as SPSS and NVivo helped to organize and analyze the received data from the questionnaire. These kinds of software proved their effectiveness; they facilitated and speeded up the data analysis process, and provided with accurate, reliable, and structured data.

Although the chosen method of the conducted research has its own limitations and weaknesses, its value is significant for the present study. This research is based on relatively valid and reliable data that contributed to the overall success of the research. The mixed-method design made this research richer, fuller, and more complete that gave an opportunity to thoroughly understand the research problem from quantitative and qualitative perspectives.

References

Beausaert, S., Segers, M., & Gijselaers, W. (2011). The Personal Development Plan Practice Questionnaire: The development and validation of an instrument to assess the employee’s perception of personal development plan practice. International Journal of Training and Development, 15(4), 249-270.

Cameron, R., & Molina-Azorin, J. (2010). The use of mixed methods across seven business and management fields. International Federation of Scholarly Associations of Management. Retrieved from http://epubs.scu.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1459&context=comm_pubs&sei-redir=1&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.

Creswell, J., & Clark, V. (2010). Designing and Conducting Mixed Methods Research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Creswell, J. (2007). Educational Research: Planning, Conducting, and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Creswell, J. (2009). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Connaway, L., & Powell, R. (2010). Basic Research Methods for Librarians. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

Dellinger, A., & Leech, N. (2007). Toward a unified validation framework in mixed methods research. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 1(4), 309-332.

Greene, J. (2007). Mixed Methods in Social Inquiry. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley and Sons.

Johnson R., Onwuegbuzie A., & Turner L. (2007). Toward a definition of mixed methods research. Journal of Mixed Methods Research 1, 112-133.

Jupp, V. (2006). The Sage Dictionary of Social Research Methods. London, UK: Pine Forge Press.

Teddlie, C., & Tashakkori, A. (2009). Foundations of Mixed Methods Research: Integrating Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Tashakkori, A., & Teddlie, C. (2003). Handbook of Mixed Methods in Social & Behavioral Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

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