Experiment Thesis

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¶ … human resource services has changed from its traditional role of providing benefit administration and payroll services to one that has become more focused on treating employees as valued customers through the provision of active support. This transformation has been influenced in part by the ability of human resource departments to provide high quality services to their customers in a timely fashion in both face-to-face as well as online venues. In face-to-face exchanges between human resources employees and customers, there must be a level of comfort involved in order for there to efficient communication between the two parties. The hypothesis of this study was that employees visiting a university human resource office with questions concerning their benefits would be more likely to ask for another benefit representative when the initial agent was visibly younger and would be less likely to ask for another benefit representative when the initial agent was visibly older. To confirm or refute this hypothesis, an experiment was conducted using 20 visiting employees and their reactions to the two benefit representatives tabulated. Other factors such as estimated age and gender were also taken into account. The results of the experiment are followed by a discussion of the results. A summary of the research and salient findings are presented in the concluding chapter.

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Thesis on Experiment I Conducted Assignment

As the process of benefits enrollment becomes more challenging, due to increasing numbers of choices available to the employee, employers are becoming increasingly concerned over communication and employee-engagement during the process. Traditionally, enrollment in a benefits plan involved registration-like steps and little in-depth interaction with human resources personnel. This has changed in recent years, though, as the goal of human resources has become more focused upon treating the employee as a customer and offering active support throughout the complex decision-making process ("Engage Employees," 2007, p.2). These are important considerations when attempting to formulate the most effective method of service delivery in an organizational setting because people depend on their human resources services to ensure they are provided with the benefits and perquisites to which they are rightfully entitled.

In order to successfully engage the employee in the benefit selection process and encourage the individual to feel comfortable asking questions, human resources personnel must understand the factors that could impact the relationship between personnel and employees. One such factor that may not be considered by many human resource services is the physical appearance of their representatives. The research to date suggests that facial characteristics may impact the judgment of others across a broad continuum of emotional reactions. In this regard, Little and Perrett (2007) investigated the relationship between facial cues and personality perception. Study participants were asked to rate composite facial images of individuals for agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, openness to experience, attractiveness, masculinity, and age. Results indicated that for female faces, participants associated a younger looking face with high conscientiousness. For male faces, participants associated older looking faces with high extraversion, high openness to new experiences, and low degrees of neuroticism (p.120). This study was deemed highly relevant and especially noteworthy because of the steps taken by the researchers to ensure the validity and reliability of their approach and their interpolation of the study's findings.

Other research has also focused on the importance of facial characteristics in establishing credibility. For instance, Masip, Garrido, and Herrero (2003) investigated the relationship between facial babyishness and perceived impression of truthfulness and the influence of facial characteristics on credibility judgments. Prior research suggested that both facial babyishness and physical attractiveness played a role in others perceiving that individual as credible. The authors described babyishness as possessing qualities typically associated with the face of an infant, such as prominent forehead, large eyes, and thin eyebrows. Results from this study indicated that individuals possessing babyish facial qualities were judged to be more truthful than those who did not. While this study does not necessarily suggest that individuals will react in a more positive manner to those who appear younger, it does demonstrate that physical facial appearance impacts the views held by the observer.

This study investigated the impact of perceived age upon the interaction between the employee and the human resources personnel. Today's human resources professionals strive to treat employees as customers and actively engage them in the benefits selection process. Employees often have questions concerning the complex workings of benefits and may turn to human resources professionals for assistance. Ideally, employees should feel comfortable in interacting with such individuals so that questions can be quickly resolved. Prior research suggests that factors such as facial features and perceived age may play a role in the success of the interaction between two individuals. Furthermore, research also indicates that the importance placed upon the corporate value of operating in a highly ethical manner at all times varies with age, as older individuals tend to place higher importance upon this ethic (Thumin, Johnson, Kuehl, & Jiang, 1995, p.398).

Employees seek accurate information from knowledgeable individuals committed to performing their best at all times. The perceived age of the human resources service agent may be one factor that contributes to the quality of the interaction between this individual and the employee. Therefore, the hypothesis investigated in this experiment is that employees with questions regarding benefits will be more likely to ask for another service agent when the initial agent is younger and less likely to ask for another service agent when the initial agent is older. This research will be based upon a between-subject design; participants will be less likely to determine the proposed hypothesis because they will only be exposed to one condition and unaware of other conditions.

The dependent variables in this experiment will be the customer service given to employees and the rate at which they ask for a different agent for assistance. The independent variables will be the difference in age between two service agents. The manipulated variables will consist of two different agents with an age difference of ten years. Results from this experiment will provide insight into ways to improve communications between employees and service agents with regards to benefits questions.

METHODS

Participants

In this experiment the sample size consisted of 20 employees of Florida International University who are visiting the Human Resources office at the University Park campus. These employees are there because they have questions regarding their benefits. They are comprised of existing, past and prospective employees. Both of the benefit representatives that greeted the employees upon their arrival in the human resources offices were younger then most of the other benefit representatives in the office despite the age difference between the two participating benefit representatives (i.e., 20 and 30 years, respectively).

Materials

The materials used to conduct the experiment consisted of a clipboard containing copies of a worksheet to collect a running count of participants that was measured by the frequency which the participants asked for another agent other than the two used in the experiment to assist them with their benefits questions or services. Repeated customers were also taken into account when analyzing the data. All participants were addressed in an identical fashion to ensure that the greeting was not a confounding factor.

Procedure

The procedure used in this study involved observing 20 employees visiting the Human Resources office on University Park campus. No attempt at randomization was made, but rather the first 20 employees observed were used in the data analysis who visited either of the two participating benefit representatives. All of the employees were greeted by one of two departmental employees. As noted above, both of the benefit representatives were visibly younger than the majority of the other benefit representatives in the HR office, but were themselves separated by an age gap of 10 years. The questions asked by the participants coming into the office ranged from simple inquiries concerning when a particular benefit would start to more complex questions regarding their benefits. The independent variable used was the exchange between the two younger benefit representatives, whose age gap is seven years, and the 20 employees who visited the office.

The dependent variable was the frequency that an employee asked for another benefit representative for whatever reason. A running count was maintained using the clipboard and worksheets in order to identify the number of employees that requested another benefit representative to answer their questions or otherwise assist them with the visit. The participant's estimated age and gender were also recorded on the worksheets. It was anticipated that the gender of the visiting employee participants would not have any meaningful influence on the results of the experiment, but that the visibly younger benefit representatives would be perceived as less credible than the other benefit representatives available, compelling some participants to seek alternative sources of information or assistance.

Results.

All told, 20 employees participated in the experiment; of these, five (or 25%) were male and 15 (or 75%) were female. The average estimated age of the 20 participants was 36.5 years. The experiment's raw results are presented in Table 1 and Figure 1… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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