Proceedings of 29th International Business Research Conference

Proceedings of 29th International Business Research Conference
24 - 25 November 2014, Novotel Hotel Sydney Central, Sydney, Australia, ISBN: 978-1-922069-64-1
Competence Utilisation among Foreign-Trained Faculty Members
in Saudi Public Universities
Mohammed Ali Alzubaidi1,2 and Paddy O‟Toole2
Foreign scholarships awarded by Saudi public universities to their trainee
academics are intended to provide substantive learning and skill development
opportunities for future faculty members through education and training at wellestablished higher education institutions throughout the world. At the same time,
overseas studies are intended to provide sponsoring universities with highly
qualified domestic faculty members who can help meet staffing needs and
opportunities to strengthen their human and organisational capabilities.
However, this investment can be successful for faculty members and
universities alike only if faculty members are effectively utilised by their
universities after they return from overseas and have the opportunity to acquire
and apply new skills, knowledge and experience. This research examines
competence utilisation among foreign-trained faculty members in Saudi public
universities. Using cross-sectional survey data from 566 foreign-trained faculty
members from three major public universities, the research examines foreigntrained faculty members’ perceived utilisation and how patterns of competence
utilisation influence important job attitudes. The results of this study suggest that
many foreign-trained faculty members perceive their knowledge, skills and
abilities to be not fully and adequately utilised by their universities. Moreover,
consistent with previous research, poor competence utilisation was significantly
negatively related to job satisfaction and organisational commitment and
significantly positively related to turnover intention even after controlling for such
variables as gender, age, academic rank, administrative position, and previous
work experience. In addition, competence utilisation was the major predictor of
the three job attitudes and in no case did any control variable account for more
variance than competence utilisation.
JEL Codes: I2 and I20
Keywords: Foreign-trained faculty members; Competence utilisation; Skill utilisation; Job
1. Introduction
Saudi universities arrange for their junior academic staff (i.e., individuals who are expected to
finish their doctorates in order to be accepted as permanent faculty members) to go abroad
for further education, training and other skill-knowledge exchange activities in foreign
countries. Since 1965, a significant number of trainee academics have been sent overseas to
pursue graduate studies on fully paid scholarships (Al-Shami, 1983; Higher Education
Statistics Center [HESC], 1977; 2011). Thus, the majority of Saudi faculty members had
received their graduate degrees from foreign countries through scholarships awarded by the
Undoubtedly, there are several reasons for individuals to choose to study overseas, and for
institutions to support such a trend. At the individual level, these reasons are most often
academic and social in nature. For example, overseas studies provide substantive learning
and skill development opportunities for future faculty members to benefit from scientific
King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. [email protected] (Corresponding author)
Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. [email protected] [email protected]
Proceedings of 29th International Business Research Conference
24 - 25 November 2014, Novotel Hotel Sydney Central, Sydney, Australia, ISBN: 978-1-922069-64-1
progress and knowledge diversity in the developed countries and meet their specific
professional and personal needs. At the institutional level, there are developmental and
strategic dimensions to these reasons, including investment in human resources and
securing highly qualified domestic faculty members, who can help meet staffing needs and
make up for deficiencies at the level of national skills (Ministry of Higher Education [MOHE],
2010; 2011). Therefore, the offering of foreign scholarships focused on capacity development
of the recipient to subsequently contribute to the development of the university.
With the expansion of existing universities and the establishment of many new ones, the
number of academic trainees being sent overseas is expected to continue to increase in the
years to come. Although foreign scholarships for Saudis, including both students and public
employees, are increasingly common, there has been very little empirical examination of how
universities and other government bodies can maximise the returns of this investment. If
foreign-trained employees are not deployed effectively after returning from scholarshipfunded overseas study, this may create problems from the perspectives of both the employee
and the sponsoring organisation (Feldman & Bolino, 2000; Al-Yahya, 2010). Hence, effective
utilisation of foreign-trained faculty members is an important issue for two reasons. First, the
costs associated with sending academic staff on foreign scholarships are substantial. The
scholarship covers a monthly stipend for living expenses, all tuition costs and fees associated
with recipient's program of study, medical treatment, insurance, expenses incurred for studyrelated travel, and annual round-trip airfare tickets to the host country. Even recipients'
spouse and children are considered scholarship holders (i.e. they are funded to travel and
live with them). Given that foreign scholarship typically lasts 4-6 years, the average
unmarried employee3 in countries like the US, the UK, Australia, or Canada, which are most
popular destinations for Saudis studying abroad, usually costs more than 1 million Saudi
Riyals (about US $266,500) (MOHE, 2013; MOHE, 2011; Smith & Abouammoh, 2013).
Therefore, it is desirable that Saudi universities obtain an adequate return on this
considerable investment. Second, there is some evidence suggesting that poor competence
utilisation might be a significant problem for public universities in Saudi Arabia (Al-Yahya,
2010). For example, in studies conducted on faculty members in Saudi Arabia, Hakim (1989)
and Al-Meth‟heb (1998), researchers found bureaucracy and rigid administrative procedures,
insufficient opportunities and resources for research and self-development, lack of
recognition and advancement in the university system, and dissatisfaction and high tendency
in terms of the relevant academics due to the lack of effective utilisation of abilities and
capabilities. This study, then, attempts to explore the issue of competence utilisation and its
impacts among foreign-trained faculty members in Saudi universities.
First, using quantitative data from a sample of 566 foreign-trained faculty members from three
Saudi universities, the research examines the perceptions of foreign-trained faculty members
regarding the utilisation of their skills, abilities and experiences on the various aspects of their
work. Second, we examine how the patterns of utilisation systematically affect important job
attitudes. Third, the article concludes with the implications of our findings for foreign-trained
faculty members and their universities in terms of competence utilisation.
The cost varies depending on the scholarship recipient's social status, host country, number of children,
course of study or degree program (e.g., Masters, PhD, medical followership), and whether the recipient's
spouse is enrolled in a study program.
Proceedings of 29th International Business Research Conference
24 - 25 November 2014, Novotel Hotel Sydney Central, Sydney, Australia, ISBN: 978-1-922069-64-1
2. Literature Review
2.1. Definition and measure of competence utilisation
The topic of competence utilisation has received relatively little attention so far in the
literature. Previous research has mainly focused on the concept of overqualification4 (i.e.,
having a qualification at a higher level than an applicant would need to get their job) or more
broadly on the concept of underemployment (i.e., holding a job that is in some way of lower
quality, relative to some standard) (Feldman, 1996). In addition, competence utilisation has
been conceived and operationalized in different ways. For instance, competence
underutilisation has been conceptualised as a sub-dimension of underemployment, which is
often seen as a more general and a multidimensional construct, usually referring to several
situations of insufficient or inadequate employment, including overqualification,
underpayment, skill underutilisation, involuntary part-time, and temporarily or intermittent
employment (O‟Brien, 1980; Zvonkovic, 1988; Feldman & Turnley, 1995; Feldman, 1996;
Johnson & Johnson 2000; Maynard, Joseph & Maynard, 2006; Fine & Nevo, 2008; Khan &
Morrow, 2011). Although each of these terms describes an independent situation of jobs that
are inferior by some standard, they have been used interchangeably, with little or no
distinction between them (Smith 1986; Johnson, Morrow & Johnson 2002; Fine & Nevo,
2008; McKee-Ryan & Harvey, 2011). For example, the term skill utilisation, which we extend
to "competence utilisation", in particular, is often confused with the quite distinct concept of
overqualification (McKee-Ryan & Harvey, 2011). This has contributed to the confusion in the
literature regarding these different terminologies and the situations when they occur (Smith
1986; Johnson et al., 2002; Green & Zhu, 2010).
It stands to reason that overqualification might imply an underutilisation of skills and
education, assuming that some skills and education will not be utilised (Linsley, 2005).
However, this does not necessarily mean that all employees who have a higher degree than
the job requires are by definition underutilised (Chevalier, 2003). Skill underutilisation cannot
only be represented as an absolute outcome of overqualification. Rather, it can be argued
that skill and education underutilisation might occur even if the employees are not
overqualified, but are simply not given the opportunities to utilise their skills and knowledge in
a way that their job roles would indicate. One of most commonly cited definitions for skill
utilisation is that proposed by O‟Brien (1980), where he defines it as “the degree of match or
congruence between an individual‟s skills and the opportunity to use these skills in that
individual‟s work role‟‟ (O‟Brien 1980, p.168). In a general sense, competence underutilisation
can be seen as any type of inadequate or insufficient use of individual's education, skills,
abilities, experiences and capabilities.
Competence utilisation (or underutilisation) has mainly been measured as a perceived
construct, using direct self-assessment (Caplan et al., 1975; Khan & Morrow 1991; Johnson
& Johnson 1996; O‟Brien, 1980; Feldman & Bolino, 2000; Feldman, Leana, & Bolino, 2002).
Perceived competence utilisation refers to the degree to which individuals perceive their
skills, abilities, experience and training to be utilised through the requirements and challenges
of their work. Previous research studies have used slightly different subjective measures to
document competence utilisation. For example, O‟Brien and colleagues (O‟Brien, 1980; 1983;
O‟Brien & Dowling, 1980) measured „skill utilisation‟ by asking respondents to generally
indicate the extent to which they used their abilities or training on the job. More specifically,
Also referred to as “overeducation”, “surplus schooling” or “overtraining”
Proceedings of 29th International Business Research Conference
24 - 25 November 2014, Novotel Hotel Sydney Central, Sydney, Australia, ISBN: 978-1-922069-64-1
Heller and his colleagues in Europe (e.g., Heller & Wilpert, 1981; Heller et al., 1988)
measured managers‟ competence utilisation‟ using a comprehensive scale consisting of
several items that refer to a number of human capacities or skills important to organisational
work. The scale assesses the extent to which these capacities and experiences are utilised in
one‟s work. Likewise, Feldman and Bolino (2000) measured skill utilisation of overseas
interns by assessing the extent of their utilisation on number of specific job skills that most
frequently mentioned as central to career in international management.
2.2. Impact of competence utilisation on job attitudes
Although empirical research on competence utilisation is limited, the results, from different
fields, consistently suggest that competence underutilisation is likely to have an adverse
impact on job attitudes, psychological well-being and citizenship behaviour (Burris, 1983;
Khan and Morrow, 199; Feldman & Turnley, 1995; Feldman, 1996; O‟Brien, 1980; Bolino &
Feldman, 2000; Johnson & Johnson, 1996; 2000; Maynard et al., 2006; Wiley, 2012). The
first systematic contribution to research on skill utilisation was probably made by Kornhauser
(1965) in a study of automobile workers in the United States. He found that skill utilisation
was the major determinant of the job satisfaction and mental health. Subsequent research by
Caplan et al. (1975) suggests that 'ability utilisation' is a negatively related to workers‟
physical health. Using a range of occupations, a series of studies by O‟Brien and colleagues
(O‟Brien, 1980; 1982; 1983; O'Brien & Dowling, 1980; Humphrys & O‟Brien, 1986) found that
skill utilisation was amongst the strongest predictors of job satisfaction. In an in-depth
qualitative analysis of the impacts of skill underutilisation, although was referred to as
„underemployment’, on clerical workers, Burris (1983) reported that workers who felt they
were not fully using their skills were more likely to be dissatisfied and to have higher turnover
Similarly, Karasek and Theorell (1990), using data from the US Quality of Employment
Survey (QES), suggest that skill underutilisation relates to work-related depression, stress
and dissatisfaction. Although the authors used the term „skill underutilization‟, it was not really
skill underutilisation, as it was assessed in terms of the difference in the number of years of
formal education possessed by workers and that required by the job. It is thus more
appropriately interpreted as a measure of overqualification. More recently, Feldman and
Bolino (2000) examined the impact of perceived skill utilisation on job attitudes among a
sample of 125 interns working in overseas internships across 23 countries. Having controlled
for age, gender, previous overseas experience, and cultural distance, they found poor skill
utilisation to be negatively related to internship satisfaction, organisational commitment and
organisational citizenship behaviour. In another similar study, (Bolino & Feldman, 2000), that
examined the impact of skill utilisation (eight specific skills critical to expatriate assignments)
on job attitudes of expatriates working in over 30 countries, they found that skill
underutilisation contributed to expatriates‟ job dissatisfaction, low commitment, and intentions
to leave overseas assignments early.
In addition to this limited literature in developed countries, the first attempt to systematically
and empirically examine the nature and patterns of competence utilisation within the context
of Arab work organisations was the study of Al-Yahya (2010). In addition to measuring and
documenting the incidence of competence underutilisation among a sample of 540 managers
drawn from different Saudi and Omani public organisations, the study examined the
relationship between competence utilisation and overall job satisfaction. Al-Yahya found that
competence utilisation was positively associated with overall job satisfaction. Despite the
Proceedings of 29th International Business Research Conference
24 - 25 November 2014, Novotel Hotel Sydney Central, Sydney, Australia, ISBN: 978-1-922069-64-1
importance of pervious research efforts to study the impacts of competence utilisation, most
research has been on competence utilisation-satisfaction relationship. To a far lesser extent,
competence utilisation has been linked with organisational commitment and turnover
intentions, though these relations have consistently been hypothesised (Feldman, 1996;
Maynard et al., 2006). Moreover, most research has been conducted in developed countries
with very little empirical research done in developing countries. Accordingly, the goal of the
current study is to examine the relationships between competence utilisation and these job
attitudes among a sample of foreign-trained faculty members in Saudi Arabia.
3. Methods
3.1. Sample and data collection
Data for this study came from a survey instrument distributed to a sample of 566 foreigntrained faculty members working in 3 major universities in Saudi Arabia. There were 24 public
universities in Saudi Arabia geographically distributed in 13 provinces. The participating
universities were purposefully selected based on specific criteria to serve the study purpose 5.
For the purpose of confidentiality, these universities are only referred to as University „A‟,
University „B‟, and University „C. There were approximately 3,072 Saudi foreign-trained
faculty members in the selected universities, of which 1,842 were in University A, 900 were in
University B, and 330 were in University C
The original survey instrument was designed in English and then translated into Arabic by
two bilingual translators using back-to-back translation to guarantee authenticity and
accuracy of the translation. All measures used in the survey instrument have gone through
reliability and validity scrutiny by the original authors and follow-up studies. However, since
the instrument was translated to Arabic, it was imperative to establish the content validity of
the Arabic version of the instrument and ensure its relevance to the Saudi context. Content
validation was carried out by consulting a panel of experts in Saudi Arabia who were asked to
examine the relevance of the instrument content to the multiple constructs, its clarity and its
suitability to the target population (Kimberlin &. Winterstein, 2008; De Vellies, 2012). Upon
receipt of the comments and suggestions from the panellists, corrections and revisions were
made to the survey to make it both consist and easy to fill out.
In addition, prior to the actual data collection of this study, a pilot test of the survey instrument
was conducted with a convenience sample of 78 Saudi foreign-trained faculty members from
a university that was not considered for the actual study. The purpose was to account for any
vague questions or ambiguous concepts and explore the appropriateness of the
administration procedure. After all necessary adjustments and modifications, the survey
instrument was judged to be ready for distribution to the actual participants.
For the purpose of this study, a self-administrated web-based survey was constructed using
Qualtrics ™ Survey Software. With prior permission and arrangement with the relevant
authorities at the three universities, an e-mail invitation containing a link to the web-based
survey was sent to all faculty members, who had a university-provided e-mail address,
The selected universities are the oldest with the highest numbers of foreign-trained faculty members; have the
highest percentages of faculty members with seniority among other public universities; and, have both male and
female faculty members. Therefore, their inclusion was to improve the representativeness of the sample and the
quality of the data.
Proceedings of 29th International Business Research Conference
24 - 25 November 2014, Novotel Hotel Sydney Central, Sydney, Australia, ISBN: 978-1-922069-64-1
requesting the participation of only Saudi foreign-trained faculty members with at least two
years of service6. A first skip question on the opening page of the survey was included to
determine the eligibility of the participants up front in order to access and complete the
survey. In addition, a paper-based survey was made available to a convenience sample of
Saudi foreign-trained members at each university through their mailboxes. The hoped-for
outcome was that potential participants who did not have access to the web-based survey
would have more chance, although unknown, of receiving the mail survey (Dillman et al.,
2009). A total of 550 surveys7 were distributed at the three universities. In a procedure similar
to the web-based survey, a question to determine eligibility was included in the front cover of
the paper-based survey to inform both those eligible and those ineligible to act accordingly.
Out of the 668 eligible participants who started the web-based survey and completed the fist
demographic part, only 353 completed the survey. On the other hand, 193 eligible
participants form the three universities completed and retuned the paper-based survey.
Hence, in total, 546 fully completed surveys were received. Due to the large amount of
missing data, the final sample size of 566 individuals composed the data set for statistical
analysis. Some of the demographic characteristics of the sample are presented in Table 1.
3.2. Measures
The measures on the survey instrument involve competence utilisation, job satisfaction,
organisational commitment, intention to turnover and demographic control variables, which
are further explained below.
3.2.1. Competence utilisation
The competence utilisation variable assessed the extent to which participants perceived the
knowledge, skills, and abilities they already had developed through their previous education
and experience to be used through the requirements of their work. Caplan et al. (1975)
measure of abilities and skills utilisation was used to measure competence utilisation. The 3item scale assesses the opportunity to use one‟s skills and abilities for which one has
received training or experience. A sample item from this scale is: „„How often can you use
skills from your previous experience and training?‟‟ Wording in one item was adjusted slightly
to better fit the sample (e.g., the word „school‟ was changed to „overseas studies‟).
Four additional items used to measure competence utilisation were also included along with
the 3-item measure of Caplan et al. (1975). The four items were used in various studies by
O‟Brien and his colleagues (e.g., O‟Brien, Dowling, & Kabanoff, 1978; O‟Brien & Dowling,
1980; O‟Brien, 1980; 1982; Humphrys & O‟Brien, 1986). These items ask participants about
opportunities for learning new jobs, working in the way they thought best, using abilities,
training and experiences. Given that the two measures of Caplan et al. (1975) and O‟Brien
and colleagues were highly correlated (r = .76, p < .01), the seven
Foreign-trained faculty members who had been working in their potential universities for less than 2 years after
receiving the PhD were deliberately excluded from the study. It was believed that their experience of the activities and
practices in the workplace was not sufficient to warrant their inclusion in the study.
It is important to note that this total number of distributed surveys (550) dose not accurately reflect the final sample of
the paper-based survey. Surveys were mainly distributed to Saudi foreign-trained faculty members, not only or
necessarily those who met the eligibility criteria of the years of experience.
Proceedings of 29th International Business Research Conference
24 - 25 November 2014, Novotel Hotel Sydney Central, Sydney, Australia, ISBN: 978-1-922069-64-1
Table 1: Demographic characteristic of the sample (N = 566)
Precent %
University A
University B
University C
Age at time of survey (years)
39 or under
60 or over
Academic rank at time of survey
Assistant Professor
Associated Professor
Administrative position
Associate Dean
Department chairman
Centre director
Country(s) of graduation
Two or more countries of the above
Academic field
Humanities & Social Sciences
Natural Sciences
Applied Sciences
Medical & Health Sciences
Experience at time of survey (years)
27 or over
Note. Other countries = Egypt, France, Germany, India, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria,
Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Ukraine.
Multiple-response question.
Proceedings of 29th International Business Research Conference
24 - 25 November 2014, Novotel Hotel Sydney Central, Sydney, Australia, ISBN: 978-1-922069-64-1
items were combined into a single composite measure of perceived competence utilisation
(Watt & Hargis, 2010). Responses ranged from 1 “never” to 5 “all the time-always”, with
higher scores reflecting greater competence utilisation.
3.2.2. Job satisfaction
Job satisfaction was measured with an 8-item scale of intrinsic satisfaction adopted from the
short form of Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire (MSQ; Weiss, Dawis, England, &
Lofquist, 1967). The scale measures satisfaction with different intrinsic facets of the job,
including nature of the tasks and how participants feel about the work they do. A sample item
from this scale is: “The feeling of accomplishment I get from the job.” Responses ranged from
(1) “very dissatisfied” to (5) “very satisfied”, with higher scores indicating higher levels of job
3.2.3. Organisational commitment
Organisational commitment was measured with the 6 items of the revised version of Affective
Commitment Scale (ACS: Meyer, Allen & Smith, 1993). A sample item from this scale is: “I
really feel as if this institution‟s problems are my own.” Responses ranged from 1 “strongly
disagree” to 5 “strongly agree”, with higher scores indicating higher levels of commitment. For
the purpose of the current study the three originally negatively keyed items (e.g., I do not feel
a strong sense of “belonging” to my 'institution) was positively rewarded to minimise potential
confusion for participants. Furthermore, wording on some items was adjusted slightly to
better fit the sample (e.g., the word „organization‟ was changed to 'institution').
3.2.3. Intention to turnover
Turnover intentions were assessed with a 3-item scale developed by Adams and Beehr
(1998). A sample item from this scale is: "I am planning to leave my job for another in the
near future." Responses ranged from 1 “strongly disagree” to 5 “strongly agree”, with higher
scores indicating higher intention to turnover.
3.2.4. Demographic control variables
Participants reported their institution, gender, age, academic rank, administrative position,
country(s) of foreign qualifications, academic field, and years of experience. For all of these
measures, participants checked the most appropriate answer or category from a list of
groupings developed using specific rationale. When necessary, questions had an openended “Other (specify)” option to provide one correct answer for every participant. The
categories were then coded accordingly.
4. Results
From the survey, the results have been organised according to patterns and impacts of
competence utilisation.
4.1. Patterns of competence utilisation among foreign-trained faculty members
The main purpose of this study was to examine the patterns of competence utilisation among
foreign-trained faculty members. In this study, competence utilisation was measured using a
7-item scale that assesses the extent to which foreign-trained faculty members perceived
their skills, abilities, and experience to be recognised and utilised in their work. Participants‟
responses were solicited using a five-point scale (1=never, 2=seldom, 3=sometimes, 4=often,
5=all the time-always). All individual answers were summed up to obtain mean scores, which
Proceedings of 29th International Business Research Conference
24 - 25 November 2014, Novotel Hotel Sydney Central, Sydney, Australia, ISBN: 978-1-922069-64-1
were used to divide the sample into five different scoring groups. Participants who obtained a
mean score equal to 1 were classified as 'no utilisation at all' group; „greater than 1 and less
than or equal to 2‟ as 'very low utilisation' group, „greater than 2 and less than or equal to 3‟
as 'low utilisation' group, „greater than 3 and less than or equal to 4‟ as medium utilisation'
group, „greater than 4 and less than or equal to 5‟ as 'high utilisation' group. The results
showed that about 44 percent of foreign-trained faculty members form the three universities
reported „medium utilisation‟, 27 percent „low utilisation‟, 21 percent „high utilisation‟, 6
percent „very low utilisation‟, and about 2 percent reported „no utilisation at all‟ (see Figure 1).
The mean and standard deviation scores are presented in Table 3.
Figure 1: Competence utilisation mean scores (%)
No Utilisation at al
Very Low
High Utilisation
In addition, a series of one-way ANOVAs were preformed to investigate the differences in the
level of competence utilisation between the different groups of participants. The results
provided additional information about the patterns of competence utilisation.
By looking at perceptions of competence utilisation across participants from the three
universities (University A, University B and University C), there were statistically significant
differences, (F(2, 563) = 3.598, p < .05, η2 = .01). Tukey post-hoc tests showed that,
participants from University A (M = 3.44, SD = .89) reported the highest level of competence
utilisation and were statistically significantly different from participants from University C (M =
3.18, SD = .90). Participants from University B (M = 3.38, SD = .82) did not differ significantly
from participants from either University A or University C. This pattern seems to correspond
to the differences between universities in terms of size, prestige, reputation, and even
educational performance.
Another interesting pattern emerges when looking at the impact of administrative position on
competence utilisation. Participants were classified into two groups: those with administrative
positions (e.g., vice-rector, dean, associate Dean, department chairman, centre director) and
Proceedings of 29th International Business Research Conference
24 - 25 November 2014, Novotel Hotel Sydney Central, Sydney, Australia, ISBN: 978-1-922069-64-1
those without. ANOVA8 showed that competence utilisation score was statistically
significantly different between the two groups, Welch's F(1, 331.796) = 14.929, p < .0005. An
inspection of the mean scores indicated that participants with administrative position reported
slightly higher level of perceived competence utilisation (M = 3.58, SD = .77) than participants
without (M = 3.29, SD = .90).
The difference in competence utilisation between participants according to their country(s) of
graduation9 was also investigated. ANOVA showed that competence utilisation mean scores
were statistically significantly different between participants graduated from different
countries, (F (5, 560) = 5.058, p < .0005, η2 = .04). Tukey post-hoc tests showed that that
participants graduated from Australia (M =2.90, SD = 1) reported the lowest level of
competence utilisation and were significantly different from those graduated form the US
(M=3.46, SD= .87), the UK (M =3.32, SD = .78) and from other countries (M =3.66, SD = .90).
No other group differences were statistically significant.
4.2. Impacts of competence utilisation among foreign-trained faculty members
The descriptive statistics and correlations for study variables are presented in Table 3. There
was a significant positive correlation between perceived competence utilisation and job
satisfaction (r = .73, p < .01) and between perceived competence utilisation and
organisational commitment (r = .61, p < .01). Competence utilisation was also significantly
negatively correlated with turnover intention (r = -.34, p < .01).
Hierarchical regression analysis was used to further analyse the impact of competence
utilisation on the three outcome variables. The results are summarised in Table 3. In each
regression equation, the five control variables (gender, age, rank, administrative position,
experience) are entered first. In the second step of each equation, competence utilisation is
entered. There is a separate regression equation for each of the three dependent variables:
job satisfaction, organisational commitment, and turnover intention.
Competence utilisation explained a significant amount of additional variation in job
satisfaction (∆R2 = .50, F(1, 549) = 584.448, p < .0005), organisational commitment (∆R2 =
.34, F(1, 542) = 309.565, p < .0005), and turnover intention (∆R2 = .10, F(1, 538) = 64.083, p
< .0005). After controlling for the demographic variables, competence utilisation variable
made statistically significant contribution to the prediction of job satisfaction (β = .72, p <
.0005), organisational commitment (β = .59, p < .0005), and turnover intention (β = -.33, p <
.0005). In no case did any control variable account for more variance than competence
utilisation variable. The results generally support the evidence in the literature regarding
relationships between competence utilisation and the outcome variables.
Because the assumption of homogeneity of variances was violated, as assessed by Levene's Test of
Homogeneity of Variance (p = .011), a one-way Welch ANOVA was performed.
To ensure independence of observations and that there are different participants in each group of country of
graduation variable with no participant being in more than one group, those 44 participants graduated from more
than one of the listed countries (i.e., fit to more than one group) were excluded form the analysis.
Proceedings of 29th International Business Research Conference
24 - 25 November 2014, Novotel Hotel Sydney Central, Sydney, Australia, ISBN: 978-1-922069-64-1
5. Discussion
The results of this study revealed a deficit in competence utilisation among foreign-trained
faculty members in Saudi universities. Many faculty members reported significantly low levels
of competence utilisation. In particular, only 21 percent of the participants perceived their
skills and abilities to be highly utilised, while 44 percent reported medium
Proceedings of 29th International Business Research Conference
24 - 25 November 2014, Novotel Hotel Sydney Central, Sydney, Australia, ISBN: 978-1-922069-64-1
Table 2: Descriptive statistics and inter-correlations between the study variables
1. Gender
2. Age
3. Academic rank
4. Administrative position
5. Experience
6. Competence utilisation
7. Job satisfaction
8. Affective commitment
9. Turnover intention
Note. Gender is coded as 1= male, 2 = female. Administrative position is coded as 0 = none-administrative position, 1 = administrative position. Coefficient alphas
are presented in parentheses.
*p < .05; **p < .01.
Proceedings of 29th International Business Research Conference
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Table 3: Hierarchical regression analyses summary for competence utilisation predicting
three job attitudes
Dependent variables
Job satisfaction
Step and independent
Step 1
.04*** .04***
Turnover intention
.06*** .06***
Academic rank
Admin position
Step 2
Competence utilisation
.59*** .50***
.40*** .34***
*p < .05; **p < .01; ***p < .001.
utilisation, and a total of 35 percent reported low, very low or no utilisation at all. This deficit
in competence utilisation is an obstacle that can represent a serious challenge to universities
and hamper their abilities to benefit from accumulated knowledge, abilities, and experiences
possessed by faculty members. If trained employees are not utilised properly, the desired
impacts of their accumulation are most likely to be wasted (Al-Yahya, 2010). These are just
some of the potential detriments arise as universities fail to effectively utilise the skills and
abilities of their foreign-trained faculty members.
The results of the study also suggest that competence underutilisation has further negative
consequences for both foreign-trained faculty members and universities alike. From the
foreign-trained faculty member‟s perspective, poor utilisation of their skills, abilities and
capabilities are associated with lower job satisfaction. Competence utilisation creates
problems from the perspectives of universities, too, in that foreign-trained faculty members
who are not well utilised in their work are more likely to feel less committed to the their
universities, and more likely to have turnover intention. In cases of competence or skills
underutilisation, then, universities may accrue significant losses due to waste of skills and
productivity, reduction in satisfaction and commitment, and increases in turnover (Heller &
Wilpert 1981; Humphreys & O'Brien 1986; Karasek & Theorell 1990; Al-Yahya, 2010), not to
mention the considerable costs associated with training and competence development.
Although the competence or skill utilisation literature is still quite limited, researchers have
consistently predicted negative personal and organisational outcomes for those employees
who are underutilised (e.g., Burris, 1983; Feldman, 1996; Khan & Morrow, 1991; Feldman &
Bolino, 2000). Findings of this study are generally consistent with those of previous studies
indicating that competence underutilisation is related to poorer job attitudes (e.g., Feldman et
al., 2002; Feldman & Turnley, 1995; Johnson & Johnson, 2000; Khan & Morrow, 1991;
O'Brien, 1980; Maynard et al., 2006). However, as with previous research, the present study
has limitations in terms of its sampling, its research instrumentation and its research design.
Proceedings of 29th International Business Research Conference
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In terms of sample size, the present sample is larger than many previous self-report
research studies on skill utilisation area. However, in terms of representativeness, the
methods used for recruiting participants for both the web-based and paper-based surveys
may have meant that certain groups of individuals, although no data are available on them,
were excluded. For example, because university-provided e-mail address lists had
substantial errors and incomplete data in them, the web-based survey was not accessible to
all potential participants, which could have limited some responses that might have been
received. In addition, because the present study relied on nonprobability sampling
technique, population generalizability (e.g., the extent to which findings from the sample are
generalizable to all Saudi foreign-trained faculty members) is limited and should be
undertaken with caution.
In terms of instrumentation, all data were collected from the same source via a self-report
survey. As such, there is a possibility that common method bias impacted the results.
However, the fact that the relationships examined here are largely consistent across the
different measures and supported by previous studies might argue against such an
With respect to research design, the present study used a cross-sectional design. As a
result, the findings on the impact of competence utilisation on individuals' attitudes must be
interpreted conservatively. Incorporating a longitudinal design would allow to make stronger
statements about the causal direction of these relationships.
6. Conclusions
While increasing numbers of university trainee academics are being sent overseas for
further education and training, Saudi universities may continue to experience quantitative
improvements in terms of additional qualifications and increase in skill accumulation.
However, consistent with past research, the results of this study suggest that without
effective competence utilisation mechanisms, investments in foreign scholarships may fall
short of meeting their purpose and fail to bring desired improvements in performance and
productivity. It cannot be taken for granted that improvements in productivity or performance
will automatically follow as investments in human capital resources increase. Competence
underutilisation is obviously a critical problem because it presents the wasteful investment of
scarce resources. In particular, underutilisation of foreign-trained faculty members is a costly
error for universities. It is more likely to result in lower return from foreign scholarships
investment and accordingly lower benefits accruing to universities. Indeed, as result of
competence underutilisation, universities may experience great losses because they
eventually pay for such expensive investments, but do not benefit adequately from the
accumulation of those highly educated faculty members (Feldman & Bolino, 2000; Al-Yahya,
2010). This study supports the argument that traditionally there has been little attention paid
to the issue of competence utilisation, and points to the need to rethink the human capital
development policies and practices to support the growing recognition in some developed
countries that if skills and abilities are to deliver, they have to be utilised effectively in the
Proceedings of 29th International Business Research Conference
24 - 25 November 2014, Novotel Hotel Sydney Central, Sydney, Australia, ISBN: 978-1-922069-64-1
End Notes
1. This research paper is based upon a PhD thesis that will be submitted by the first author
to Monash University.
2. All required permissions to use and reproduce the scales in the current study were
Author biographies
Mohammed A. Alzubaidi is a PhD candidate at the Monash University and a member of the faculty
at King Abdulaziz University. He received his B.Ed. in Mathematics from Umm Al-Qura University
and M.Ed. in Leadership, Policy and Change from Monash University. His research interests include
skill utilisation, underemployment, learning organisation, human capital development, economics of
education, and higher education policy and governance.
Paddy O’Toole, PhD, is a Senior Lecturer at Monash University and a Fellow and Former State
President of the Australian Institute of Training and Development (AITD). She was the 1998 winner of
the AITD National Award for Excellence in Program Design. When embarking on her Ph.D., O‟Toole
won the coveted Award for Research in Lifelong Learning and Development Scholarship, funded by
the South Australian Government. She has conducted research with the Australian Defence Science
and Technology Organisation (DSTO) on organisational learning in the Australian Army; in university
science faculties across Australia for the Australian Council of Deans of Science; in corporate
organisations and in schools. Her broad research interests include organisational structures and
knowledge, organisation culture, organisational learning, organisation remembering, and
organisational routines.
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