John Patrick and his team from Cardiff University recruited as study participants 232 military instructors from across the British armed forces, themselves about to receive training on how to be a more effective instructor. For 161 participants, instructor was their job of choice, whereas the 72 remaining participants had this job assigned to them. Prior to training, they completed a questionnaire identifying their motivation for the course; after training they indicated their intention to apply the learning in the workplace. On both occasions (pre- and post-training) the instructors also provided ratings of self-efficacy - their confidence in their ability to carry out their instructor duties - and completed items testing their knowledge of the topic areas covered by the training.
Patrick's team built and tested a model wherein being in one's chosen job would cascade through pre-training attitude into post-training outcomes. They found that being in a job of choice was associated with higher pre-training motivation, which had the post-training benefits of greater knowledge acquisition and greater intention to apply the learning in the workplace. Being in a job of choice was directly associated with intention to apply learning, regardless of motivation. Although post-training self-efficacy was also higher for this group, this is less remarkable as the mechanism was unrelated to motivation, but simply that these individuals tended to have higher self-efficacy from the beginning.
The authors conclude that "it is important, whenever possible, to grant employees their choice of job when being moved within an organization" - not just for the sake of long-term aspirations, or their immediate performance, but in terms of their capacity and willingness to improve over time.