Graduate entitlement management: exploring the graduate-employer disconnect in students’ anticipatory psychological contract
Since expectations have always been regarded as an interrelated part of the psychological contract, it can be assumed that the antecedent thereof, namely entitlement beliefs, is a component of the anticipatory psychological contract. It is believed that by fully understanding the effect that entitlement beliefs have on the anticipatory psychological contract of prospective employees, employers may reduce the occurrence of psychological contract breach, which has the potential to reduce the turnover intent of new working graduates. There is, however, a problem that research regarding the anticipatory psychological contract, as well as entitlement in the workplace is quite limited. Therefore, the general objective of this research was to explore the anticipatory psychological contract of graduates and occupational newcomers to determine the graduate-employer disconnect and its theoretical principles that will be used to develop a model of the anticipatory psychological contract that will enhance our understanding of managing graduate entitlement within the framework of psychological contract theory. This study was mixed method, which included both exploratory and descriptive research methods. The research was divided into two phases that would ultimately reach the research objectives. The first phase followed a qualitative approach to research. The first research article focused on expanding psychological contract development theory by exploring the mental schemas of graduates’ anticipatory psychological contract, and including entitlement disconnect as a component thereof. A qualitative approach to research was adopted consisting of interviews with 18 final-year graduate students in the final phase of their degrees to derive themes associated with the mental schemas of graduates’ anticipatory psychological contract. The findings suggest that graduates already have a developed mental schema that was based on their entitlement. It was also confirmed that graduates had a disposition towards voluntary turnover intuition before organisational entry, which was due to an entitlement disconnect perception. The most surprising finding was that some graduates displayed a pre-employment psychological contract breach, where graduates already anticipated contract breach before entering an employment relationship. This research suggests that graduates’ mental schemas in their anticipatory psychological contract play a much bigger role in the development of their psychological contract, after organisational entry, than what was initially thought. The second research article aims to explore and substantiate themes associated with the subjective experiences, expectations and obligations of new employees and the experiences and employability perception of their employers to determine whether an obligational disconnect exists. A qualitative approach to research was adopted consisting of interviews with 18 employees in their first two years of employment, as well as 18 interviews with their supervisors. Our findings suggest that there is a clear obligational disconnect between occupational newcomers and their supervisors, and that employers have a negative employability perception of graduate occupational newcomers. The second phase followed a quantitative approach to research. It is suggested that if we assess an individual’s mental schema, it may facilitate a better understanding of the psychological contract formation process due to the specific terms of the psychological contract, which are only present during the organisation entry phase. Therefore, the third research article was aimed at developing and validating an instrument to measure the anticipatory psychological contract of labour market entrees. The research was conducted on 316 final-year students from two different campuses of a South African university. The newly developed anticipatory psychological contract questionnaire (APCQ) was administered and analysed. The themes identified in research articles 1 and 2 were used to develop the APCQ. Results indicated that the APCQ is reliable and valid to measure the anticipatory psychological contract of graduates. The descriptive statistics and correlation coefficient results clearly enhanced our understanding of how the anticipatory psychological contract works, and it was established that students did have a predisposition towards turnover intent, had some form of pre-employment violation, and were considered entitled. The last article’s focus was to develop and assess the theoretical model of the mental schema of prospective employees through a structural equation model (SEM). This was due to no theoretical model existing at the time of writing. The APCQ was used to gather data from 316 final-year students. The results supported an excellent fit in the proposed model of the anticipatory psychological contract. This model indicated that entitlement is central to the anticipatory psychological contract, and that the norm of reciprocity was already present in the anticipatory psychological contract. Based on the results of this dissertation, the effective way to manage graduate entitlement is by focusing on continuous violation triggering in every phase of students’ academic process by focusing on the graduate-employer disconnect aspects that were identified.