Various authors have provided diverse definitions of theory. Argote and Miron-Spektor (2011) defined theory as a systematic grouping of knowledge for the purposes of problem-solving. For Bansal, Bertels, Ewart, MacConnachie, and OBrien (2012), theory is used in explaining, predicting, and understanding a specific issue. There is an agreement among researchers that theory constitutes a crucial aspect of informed practice. According to Feldman and Orlikowski (2011), a theory refers to conclusions regarding real conditions and events applicable to the real world situations. Theories evolve from observations and are often formulated in an internally logical and consistent way. Practice or application is defined as the actual work completed by practitioners. A theory should explain a particular phenomenon in a given setting (Udo-Akang, 2012). Moreover, a theory should tackle practical problems. As a result, the usefulness of a theory rests on the degree of its practical application. This part conducts a literature review focusing on the relationship between theory and practice, how theory informs practice, and issues involved in the translation of theory to practice.
Relationship between Theory and Practice
In the literature, there are two dominant views regarding the relationship between theory and practice. This relationship is broadly described by authors as reciprocal and symbiotic. A number of authors have reported that theory and practice share a reciprocal relationship (Feldman, & Orlikowski, 2011; Udo-Akang, 2012), which means that practice needs theory to position itself. Consequently, for practice to develop, the data collected in research that informed the practice should be explained using theory. Udo-Akang (2012) argued that practice cannot exist without theory, and theory cannot exist without practice. Similar views are shared by Feldman and Orlikowski (2010) who outlined four functions of theory, which include describing the components of practice, explaining the nature of relationships between these components, predicting certain occurrences in particular conditions, and offering guidance for practice. Based on these functions of theory, it is evident that theory is an important tool in practice. Theories also play a delimiting role in practice in the sense that they determine the scope of practice (Udo-Akang, 2012). For example, when a practitioner in any field encounters certain conditions, he or she will rely on theory to decide on the step to be performed in such a situation. Practitioners depend on theory because of the resultant accuracy developed after years of observation. The reciprocal nature of the relationship also implies that theory benefits from practice in the sense that when practitioners encounter new conditions or circumstances, new theory can be produced or existing theory can be improved to account for the novel observations (Feldman, & Orlikowski, 2011). Therefore, in any form of practice, the relationship between theory and practice is reciprocal, and one cannot exist without the other.
Place New Order
In addition to being reciprocal, the relationship between theory and practice can be described as symbiotic (Argote, & Miron-Spektor, 2011). In this respect, an advancement in one inevitably poses the need to modify the other (Argote, & Miron-Spektor, 2011). This means that when theory advances, practice also advances accordingly, and when practice improves, there is a need to modify theory. Existing theories cannot explain and describe new developments in practice. Thus, this gap can be filled by formulating new theories or modifying existing theories to consider the progress in practice. Similarly, when theories are revised or improved, practice should reflect the changes in theory. From this observation, it is evident that theory and practice are interdependent of each other. Argote and Miron-Spektor (2011) clarify that a good theory should exhibit the generative function, which focuses on the generation of ideas and instigates further examination. Such theories can help stimulate research, which also promotes practice.
How Theory Guides/Informs Practice
Theory informs practice through offering direction as well as rationale for making decisions (Argote & Miron-Spektor, 2011; Bansal, et al., 2012). When describing the way in which theory guides practice, Jarzabkowski, Le, and Feldman (2012) state that practice essentially entails using theory in practical settings. In addition to offering a framework for practice, the adequacy of theory lies on its predictive function, which enables to prognosticate the outcomes of particular practical situations. Theories play a crucial role in identifying, describing, explaining, predicting, controlling, and coping with events in practical settings (Bansal et al., 2012). Udo-Akang (2012) argues that theories help practitioners recognize, select, and collect observations and stimuli. Bansal et al. (2012) agree with Udo-Akang (2012) by claiming that since theories serve as a guide to the behavior of people, they are vital in monitoring and correcting the actions of practitioners. When strong theoretical foundations are incorporated into practice, the order is reinforced into that practice because theory helps organize the vast amounts of suppositions, impressions, and facts. Many authors agree that practice is derived from theoretical knowledge (Argote, & Miron-Spektor, 2011; Bansal et al., 2012; Jarzabkowski, Le, & Feldman, 2012). Since theory is a tool for expecting outcomes, it plays a crucial role in elucidating unexpected relationships between variables, which in turn help in guiding the practitioner when he or she encounters unique situations (Jarzabkowski, Le, & Feldman, 2012). In general, theory informs practice by offering a conceptual framework that influences the actions of practitioners. Therefore, the actions of practitioners are not random and reflect theories.
Issues in Translating Theory to Practice
The theory-practice relationship is an important one as theory helps in directing practice whereas practice also influences theory. Nevertheless, several assumptions, controversies, and issues exist when translating theory into practice The gap that exists between practice and theory is presented as an issue of knowledge transfer by several authors (Argote, & Miron-Spektor, 2011; Bansal et al., 2012). Apart from the knowledge transfer problem, other issues affecting the translation of theory to practice include the subjective nature of practitioners that influences the practiced theory, and the fact that theory accounts for a part of the explanation rather than the whole. The linguistic components used in theories may also hinder their application in the real world scenarios (Argote, & Miron-Spektor, 2011).
Recommendations to Address the Theory-practice Gap
A number of recommendations that exist in the literature address the theory-practice gap. First, initiating dialogue between scholars and practitioners together with information exchange between practitioners and academicians has been suggested as a solution to close the apparent gap between practice and theory (Argote, & Miron-Spektor, 2011). Bansal et al. (2012) agree with Argote and Miron-Spektor (2011) by proposing scholarship engagement. In this regard, scholarship engagement does not only increase the relevance of research in practice, but also increases knowledge in a given field. In addition, the fact that theoretical and practical knowledge is different does not imply that they can substitute each other as they are complementary of each other (Bansal et al., 2012).
To eliminate the disconnection that exists between practice and theory, certain steps have been recommended to help understand the issues affecting the theory-practice relationship. The first step entails conceptual development that seeks to offer a preliminary understanding as well as explanation of the dynamics and nature of a problem that the theory tackles (Feldman, & Orlikowski, 2011). Operationalization is the second step, which is defined as an explicit link between the conceptual development stage and practice implementation. It also encompasses the assessment of a suitable research agenda and research studies aimed at confirming or disconfirming the theoretical framework that forms the core of the theory. The last stage is application, which focuses on testing the theory using learning and experience in the real world (Feldman, & Orlikowski, 2011).
The review of the literature shows that theory and practice share a reciprocal and symbiotic relationship. Theory requires practice to develop as practice needs theory to improve. The relationship is also considered symbiotic because an advancement in one inevitably leads to the corresponding modification of the other. Therefore, researchers and practitioners often go back and forth between practice and theory because changes in one provoke alterations in the other. Theory influences practice through offering a framework for practice, creating order in practice, and guiding practitioners in new situations. The main issue in translating theory into practice is the vivid gap between theory and practice, which results in a knowledge transfer issue because of the disconnection between scholars and practitioners.
Argote, L., & Miron-Spektor, E. (2011, March 23). Organizational learning: From experience to knowledge. Organization Science, 22(5), 1123-1137. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/orsc.1100.0621
Bansal, P., Bertels, S., Ewart, T., MacConnachie, P., & OBrien, J. (2012). Bridging the researchpractice gap. The Academy of Management Perspectives, 26(1), 73-92. doi: dx.doi.org/10.5465/amp.2011.0140
Feldman, M. S., & Orlikowski, W. J. (2011, February 23). Theorizing practice and practicing theory. Organization Science, 22(5), 1240-1253. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/orsc.1100.0612
Jarzabkowski, P. A., Le, J. K., & Feldman, M. S. (2012, October 19). Toward a theory of coordinating: Creating coordinating mechanisms in practice. Organization Science, 23(4), 907-927. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/orsc.1110.0693
Udo-Akang, D. (2012). Theoretical constructs, concepts, and applications. American International Journal of Contemporary Research, 2(9), 89-97. Retrieved from http://aijcrnet.com/journals/Vol_2_No_9_September_2012/11.pdf
In this part, the literature regarding the past and current views on the person-environment (P-E) fit theory is reviewed.. In the last two decades, the issue of person-environment fit has attracted the attention of scholars and researchers alike.
The original P-E fit theory provides a framework for organizations to evaluate and predict the impacts of the work environment and the characteristics of the individuals on the organization and employees (Miles & Perrewe, 2011). In theory, P-E fit is defined as the degree, to which there is an alignment between the individual and environmental characteristics. The P-E fit theory maintains that for effective human functioning to be achieved, an optimal fit should exist between and individual and his or her environment. Consequently, a P-E misfit will lead to suboptimal human functioning (Boon, Den Hartog, Boselie, & Paauwe, 2011).
A recent view incorporated into the theory by Park, Monnot, Jacob, and Wagner (2011) entails the concept of stimulus that a person receives in his or her environment. With respect to stimulus, there are two conditions that determine the extent of P-E fit. The first condition that results in a high P-E fit is when both the preferred stimulus and the received stimulus are high. The second condition is when both the preferred and the received stimuli are low (Park et al, 2011). Miles and Perrewe (2011) had similar views regarding the criterion for achieving a strong fit. In this respect, the authors stated that a strong P-E fit is documented when an employee who prefers extensive social contact is stationed in an open office environment (Miles, & Perrewe, 2011). Fundamentally, the stimulus provided to the employee determines the extent of P-E fit, which in turn has an impact on the employee and organization.
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Another aspect of the P-E fit theory relates to the concepts of subjective and objective fit, which has been covered by various authors (Miles, & Perrewe, 2011; Van Iddekinge, Putka, & Campbell, 2011). Subjective fit refers to the fit that is perceived by the employee or target individual, whereas objective fit is defined as the P-E fit that is devoid of human perception (Van Iddekinge, Putka, & Campbell, 2011). Objective fit comprises facts regarding the environment and person that are not perceived by the individual. Asking a colleague to rate the job environment and personal characteristics of the target individual is likely to produce another collection of subjective views (Miles, & Perrewe, 2011). Van Iddekinge, Putka, and Campbell (2011) together with Miles and Perrewe (2011) agree that the issue of objective measurement of fit remains a crucial problem in the P-E fit theory.
Another current view regarding the P-E fit theory discusses the mapping adjustment (Boon et al., 2011), which refers to the level of improvement in P-E fit over time. The process of adjustment demonstarates how the P-E fit worsens or improves. A number of interventions have been proposed to help with the adjustment process. Its significance has been emphasized by various authors (Boon et al., 2011; Hoffman et al., 2011). The first intervention includes changing the objective person (needs and abilities) together with the environmental characteristics (supplies and demands). An example of altering the objective aspect of the P-E environment is through the recruitment of people with particular skills and abilities. Training can also be used to change characteristics of existing employees. Moreover, engineering human factors in the work environment (ergonomics) is also a form of altering the objective environment (Hoffman et al., 2011). Additionally, the subjective components of the P-E fit can be altered as well (Hoffman et al., 2011). The improvement of the P-E fit has also been explored through changing either P or E. The original P-E fit theory did not suggest the manner in which such adjustments should be performed although options can be derived from the theory. Some scholars have advocated for changing the characteristics of a person through training employees to improve their abilities to meet the demands of the organization (Boon et al., 2011; Hoffman et al., 2011). A common approach to achieve the P-E fit preferred by most employees is through changing the aspects in the work environment rather than having them change themselves (Miles, & Perrewe, 2011).
Despite the fact that considerable research on the P-E fit theory has been conducted, there are still some aspects that need to be addressed in the theory. The pertinent issue recommended for theorists to address relates to who has the responsibility to change the P-E fit, which primarily focuses on the antecedents of the P-E fit within the work environment. Even though the P-E fit theory is concerned with the adjustment of people in their work environment, it fails to suggest the entity that is responsible for achieving the P-E fit. As a result, it is not clear whether achieving the P-E fit is an individual or collective responsibility.
From the review of the literature, it is evident that the P-E fit theory has undergone subsequent improvements since its initial conception. The scope of the P-E fit theory has been expanded to include the role that stimulus plays in affecting the P-E fit, subjective and objective fit, and mapping adjustment in order to enhance the fit between employees and their environments. The responsibility of achieving the P-E fit remains an issue to be addressed in the theory.
Boon, C., Den Hartog, D. N., Boselie, P., & Paauwe, J. (2011, January, 27). The relationship between perceptions of HR practices and employee outcomes: examining the role of person-organisation and person-job fit. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 22(1), 138-162. doi: 10.1080/09585192.2011.538978
Hoffman, B. J., Bynum, B. H., Piccolo, R. F., & Sutton, A. W. (2011, August 1). Person-organization value congruence: How transformational leaders influence work group effectiveness. Academy of Management Journal, 54(4), 779-796. Retrieved from doi: 10.5465/AMJ.2011.64870139
Miles, A. K., & Perrewe, P. L. (2011, April 18). The relationship between person-environment fit, control, and strain: The role of ergonomic work design and training. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 41(4), 729-772. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2011.00734.x
Park, H. I., Monnot, M. J., Jacob, A. C., & Wagner, S. H. (2011). Moderators of the relationship between person-job fit and subjective well-being among asian employees. International Journal of Stress Management, 18(1), 67-87. doi: 10.1037/a0021854
Van Iddekinge, C. H., Putka, D. J., & Campbell, J. P. (2011). Reconsidering vocational interests for personnel selection: The validity of an interest-based selection test in relation to job knowledge, job performance, and continuance intentions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(1), 13-33. doi:10.1037/a0021193
This part conducts a review of the literature related to the practical application of the person-environment fit theory in the organizational settings. In this context, practical application of theory entails designing organizational interventions aimed at understanding and improving the fit between an employee and his or her environment based on the assumptions outlined in the P-E fit theory. The practical problem to be solved by the P-E fit theory is the need to ensure that congruence exists between an employee and his or her work environment to ensure optimal functioning (Boon, Den Hartog, Boselie, & Paauwe, 2011). Organizations together with their employees play a fundamental role in determining the extent of fit between the organizational environment and personal characteristics. Organizations seek to employ people who are best suited to meet the job demands, adapt to the changes in the work requirements through training, and exhibit high levels of loyalty and commitment. In their turn, employees look for organizations that satisfy their needs based on the nature of the work environment (Dul, & Ceylan, 2011). The P-E fit theory facilitates organizations in improving the fit between their employees and their work environments. In this part, the literature on the application of the P-E fit theory is reviewed and specific recommendations are made.
The P-E fit theory is essential to the organizational psychology and development. The measures of P-E fit are often utilized in calibrating and monitoring the perceived fit between employees and their environment in order to determine their level of wellbeing satisfaction (Dul, & Ceylan, 2011). The practical application of the P-E theory is evident in the workplace environment. Liu, Tang, and Yang (2015) state that organizations often rely on a strong P-E fit to enhance individual and organizational performance. In this respect, the P-E fit is applied in the selection, recruitment, and assessment functions to increase job performance (Boon et al., 2011; Sekiguchi, & Huber, 2011). Studies have shown that a misfit between an employee and his or her environment in terms of either job demands or organizational resources can result in poor performance and serious conflicts within the organization (Dul, & Ceylan, 2011). High levels of absenteeism and stress together with the lower productivity have been found to relate to P-E misfit (Miles, & Perrewe, 2011). As a result, organizations are applying the theoretical assertions of this theory, which have been affirmed in empirical research, to improve P-E fit. The application of the P-E fit theory in the selection, recruitment, and assessment of employees ensure a fit between the organization and its employees.
The second area in which the P-E fit has been used appropriately entails the concept of P-E fit reducing work stress and enhancing employees wellbeing (Sekiguchi, & Huber, 2011; Dul, & Ceylan, 2011). If employees do not share the same beliefs, values, and motivations as the organization, then stress and dissatisfaction are the possible outcomes since two dissimilar ends are being met (Sekiguchi, & Huber, 2011). In the event of an employee being placed in a job position whereby he or she is not able to meet the work requirements, either because of unrealistic demands or inadequate training, the outcome is workplace stress (Dul, & Ceylan, 2011). Such a misfit with the workplace environment can be attributed to diverse factors like poor assessment, recruitment, selection, inadequate training, lack of skills, abilities or knowledge to perform the job (Miles, & Perrewe, 2011). In such a case, organizations have applied the P-E fit theory through employee training and development, and performance appraisals to improve the fit between the employee and his or her workplace environment. For instance, on-the-job training and development has been utilized in enhancing the knowledge and upgrading the employees skill set to ensure that they meet the work demands (Liu, Tang, & Yang, 2015). A similar approach is used in performance appraisals that seek to raise the person-job fit. Training employees is an appropriate application of the P-E fit theory since the emphasis is placed on altering the subjective aspect of the fit (employee characteristics) to provide a fit between employees and their work, which in turn lowers stress and promotes their wellbeing.
Given the appropriateness of the fit theory in the in the selection, recruitment and evaluation of employees, it is recommended that organizations prioritize a fit between employees and their work when selecting candidates to fill up positions. This has been emphasized by various authors in the literature (Dul, & Ceylan, 2011;Sekiguchi, & Huber, 2011). Employees consider an organization to be attractive when they perceive a fit between their characteristics and organizational values. Therefore, it is vital to consider the P-E fit during the selection and recruitment of the employees as the organization must hire employees who fit the firm (Sekiguchi, & Huber, 2011). An example of the practical application of the P-E fit theory during the selection and recruitment process is choosing people who possess values that are compatible with the organizational values and excluding those having incompatible values (Liu, Tang, & Yang, 2015). The application of the P-E fit theory in the selection and recruitment processes is appropriate and relies on the accurate understanding of the theory. Its objective is to ensure a fit between the employee and the organization to achieve optimal employee functioning.
The applications of the P-E fit theory elucidated in the literature focus on the selection and recruitment processes, and in the areas of workplace wellbeing and stress. The application of the P-E fit theory in the selection and recruitment process ensures that the employees values, beliefs, and motivations are compatible with those of the organization. With respect to workplace stress and wellbeing, the P-E fit theory helps in enhancing the skills and abilities of employees to ensure that they satisfy the demands and requirements set by the job.