Skip to main content

Research uncovers tips for business success in changing workforce

Media release

Self-motivated employees who are wise, make good judgement calls and are sensible thinkers are more likely to succeed in the workplace, new research led by Curtin University has found.

The research, published in the journal Annual Review of Organisational Psychology and Organisational Behaviour, reviewed more than 90 published research articles that examined the factors influencing the outcomes of proactivity in the workplace and how theories of wisdom, such as tacit knowledge, good judgement, and sensible thinking, influenced proactivity.

Lead author ARC Laureate Fellow Professor Sharon Parker, from the Centre for Transformative Work Design based at Curtin University’s Future of Work Institute, said employees needed to be more flexible and proactive than ever as a result of the changing nature of the workforce.

“Organisations are now requiring their employees to exhibit behaviour that is self-starting, future focused and change-oriented. This behaviour can include improving local work processes or taking charge, showing personal initiative, actively seeking feedback, showing career initiative, changing one’s job, and preventing the occurrence of problems,” Professor Parker said.

“Previous research suggests that proactivity can positively benefit individuals and organisations, but this way of behaving can sometimes be ineffective or have negative consequences. Our goal was to understand when proactivity is effective and when it is not.

“We found that employees who exhibit proactive behaviour are more likely to be effective when they consider the tasks and strategic context of the organisation or company, when they work in harmony with other employees and the work environment, and when they are able to monitor and control their own behaviour, thoughts and emotions.”

Professor Parker explained that the research provided key pointers for individuals who wanted to improve their success through proactivity, as well as ways for leaders and managers to support proactive workers.

“Our research shows that organisations should not only change their systems, structures and processes to promote higher levels of proactivity, but also put in place similar processes that promote wiser proactivity in order for their employees to be more successful,” Professor Parker said.

The research was also co-authored by researchers from RMIT University and The University of Western Australia.

The research paper, ‘When is proactivity wise? A review of factors that influence the individual outcomes of proactive behaviour,’ can be found online here.