This study evaluated the influence of organizational factors (namely, the organizational commitment to learning and a competitive psychological climate) on goal orientations and found that, apart from (1) There was no significant and positive influence of the organizational commitment to learning on proving goal orientation, nor a significant and negative influence on avoiding goal orientation; and (2) There was no significant and negative influence of competitive psychological climate on avoiding goal orientation; the other effects were significant and positive. It must be noted that the personal factors of computer self-efficacy (computerSE) and gender-based goal orientations may influence computer anxiety (CA) and the learning outcomes [4
]. Therefore, the participants’ computerSE and gender were introduced into the research framework as control variables. In addition, with regard to the association of goal orientations on CA, with the exception of the absence of a significant positive influence of proving goal orientation on CA, computerSE and learning goal orientation had a significant negative effect on CA, while avoiding goal orientation had a significant positive influence on CA. This study also verified that (1) The Organizational commitment to learning indirectly affects the employees’ e-learning outcomes through their learning goal orientation; (2) A competitive psychological climate indirectly affects the employees’ e-learning outcomes through their learning and proving goal orientations; and (3) The employees’ learning and avoiding goal orientations indirectly affect their e-learning outcomes through the mediator variable of CA. Furthermore, further comparisons (see Table 7
) showed that learning satisfaction was most strongly influenced by the organizational commitment to learning and competitive psychological climate, followed by knowledge acquisition and skill enhancement. Theoretical and empirical studies have suggested that organizational environment-related factors play an important role on the influence of goal orientations. Even though a handful of studies argued that a competitive psychological climate may have a negative effect on employees. However, while the findings of this study were in line with such arguments, there were some inconsistencies. Empirical studies similar to this study also had the same viewpoints, which could be due to the differences in the theories applied and the directions of research (such as the types of goal orientation, personal traits, participants, and environments). Therefore, the explanations were offered according to the findings of this study. The results showed that a competitive psychological climate can increase the employees’ learning propensity (i.e., learning goal orientation) and desire to perform well (i.e., proving goal orientation), thereby positively influencing their e-learning outcomes. This indicates that a competitive psychological climate has a correlative influence on the learning outcomes. If an organization is able to incorporate a competitive psychological climate into their work environment in a progressive and timely manner, they will reduce the stress of their employees, which will initiate or contribute to the generation of positive effects on the employees’ learning behavior.
5.1. Results and Discussion
5.1.1. Learning Goal Orientation on CA
Employees’ learning goal orientation has a significant negative effect on CA (β = −0.230, t-value = 2.974); employees’ avoiding goal orientation has a significant negative effect on CA (β = 0.375, t-value = 5.414). Therefore, Hypotheses 1a and 1c were supported. These results corresponded to the findings of Dweck and Leggett [17
] and VandeWalle et al. [43
]. It was confirmed that employees with learning goal orientation invest more effort when faced with a challenge, which reduces their CA. On the contrary, employees with proving goal orientation care about winning and gaining more praise, which results in lower CA [42
]. Employees with avoiding goal orientation are concerned about making mistakes when they face challenges, which results in higher CA [37
]. Overall, the employees’ avoiding goal orientation is more able to predict the degree of their CA compared to their learning goal orientation.
5.1.2. Influence of Organizational Commitment to Learning and Competitive Psychological Climate on Goal Orientations
(1) Although the organizational commitment to learning was found to have a positive effect on employees’ proving goal orientation (β = 0.082, t-value = 0.985), this effect was not significant; furthermore, the organizational commitment to learning was found to have a positive effect on employees’ avoiding goal orientation (β = −0.111, t-value = 1.204), and this effect was not significant either; the organizational commitment to learning was found to have a significant positive effect on learning goal orientation (β = 0.329, t-value = 4.581). Thus, Hypotheses 2b and 2c were not supported, while Hypothesis 2a was supported. (2) A competitive psychological climate was found to have a significant positive effect on employees’ learning goal orientation (β = 0.247, t-value = 3.754) and proving goal orientation (β = 0.354, t-value = 4.485), and thus Hypotheses 3a and 3b were supported. A competitive psychological climate was found to have a negative but not significant effect on avoiding goal orientation (=−0.106, t-value = 1.21), and thus Hypothesis 3c was not supported.
The organizational commitment to learning communicates to employees that learning is important, that the organization supports the improvement of employees’ competence via learning, that mistakes made in the learning process can be tolerated, etc. Owing to this information function, employees perceive the importance of their learning outcomes for the company and their personal value in future work, which affects their goal orientations. With regard to the influence of organizational environment factors on personal goals, Farr et al. [30
] indicated that, in addition to personal differences, the setting in question must also be considered as a factor that can influence individuals’ learning and proving goals. However, some studies maintained, drawing upon the theory of goal orientation used in educational psychology, that competition hinders learning among an organization’s members [64
] and may even promote proving goal orientation in employees [63
]. In this study, in addition to promoting employees’ proving goal orientation, a competitive psychological climate was found to have the same effect on learning goal orientation. Why would a competitive psychological climate encourage learning goal orientation in learners? A study conducted by Kohli, Shervani, and Challagalla [73
] indicated that a results-oriented organizational environment promoted employees’ learning goal orientation. They suggested that these findings could be attributed to the positive environment created by results-oriented competition, which encouraged employees to search for information and strategies and strengthened their learning goal orientation [88
]. Clearly, the use of competition-induced pressure to explain the negative effects of intra-organizational competition (e.g., suppressed learning, encouragement of avoidance behaviors, etc.) is too simplistic an approach. When exploring the effects on intra-organizational competition on employees’ learning attitudes, motivations, and behaviors, researchers must also consider the necessity and importance of differences in employees’ individual characteristics and needs [139
5.1.3. Influence of Goal Orientations, CA, and computerSE on Learning Outcomes
(1) Employees’ learning goal orientation was found to significantly and positively influence learning satisfaction (β = 0.534, t-value = 7.368), knowledge acquisition (β = 0.531, t-value = 8.698), and skill enhancement (β = 0.486, t-value = 7.051). Thus, Hypotheses 4a, 4b, and 4c were supported. Employees’ proving goal orientation was found to significantly and positively influence learning satisfaction (β = 0.222, t-value = 3.630), knowledge acquisition (β = 0.154, t-value = 3.066), and skill enhancement (β = 0.111, t-value = 1.753). Thus, Hypotheses 5a, 5b, and 5c were supported. The influence of employees’ avoiding goal orientation on learning satisfaction (β = −0.074, t-value = 1.131) and skill enhancement (β = −0.032, t-value = 0.473) was not significant not negative; employees’ avoiding goal orientation was found to significantly and negatively influence knowledge acquisition (β = −0.139, t-value = 2.275). Thus, Hypotheses 6a and 6c were not supported, but Hypothesis 6b was supported.
(2) The influence of employees’ CA on learning satisfaction (β = 0.075, t-value = 1.018) and skill enhancement (β = −0.069, t-value = 0.892) was not significant. Thus, Hypotheses 7a and 7c were not supported. However, employees’ CA was found to have a significant negative effect on knowledge acquisition (β = −0.139, t-value = 2.275). Thus, Hypothesis 7b was supported.
This study indicated that employees’ personal goal orientations (learning and proving goal orientations) had a significant and direct positive effect on the learning outcomes, while avoiding goal orientation had a partially significant and direct positive effect on the learning outcomes. These findings corresponded to the ideas proposed by Albert and Dahling [106
] and Dweck and Leggett [17
]. Employees with learning goal orientation aim to improve their self-efficacy, focus on learning-related progress, and usually perform well in learning. In contrast, employees with proving goal orientation focus on demonstrating their competence and receiving positive evaluation from significant others; they tend to have an adaptive reaction to the difficulties they encounter. On the other hand, employees with avoiding goal orientation are concerned that their poor learning skills will reflect their incompetence, and consequently develop feelings of anxiety and avoidance. Therefore, employees with proving goal orientation may also have a good learning performance [16
]. The present study indicated that goal orientation influences learning outcomes, which is a finding that is consistent with those reported by Dweck and Leggett [17
] and VandeWalle [37
The next question concerns why employees’ CA would affect their learning outcomes. First, with regard to the effect of CA on learning satisfaction and skill enhancement, it was found to be insignificant, meaning that CA did not affect learning satisfaction and skill enhancement. A possible reason for such findings is that most employees have sufficient experience dealing with computers, since computers are widely used today. As a result, there are few situations that may generate CA, which reduces its effect on users’ learning satisfaction and skill enhancement. Secondly, the significant influence of CA on knowledge acquisition should be discussed. According to Wadsworth, Husman, Duggan, and Pennington [140
] and Warr and Downing [141
], learning anxiety is negatively related to learning strategies. From the viewpoint of educational psychology, learners’ learning strategies ultimately affect learning outcomes. The use of learning strategies belongs to more in-depth learning. Hence, CA may negatively affect more in-depth learning outcomes (e.g. knowledge acquisition).
Finally, with regard to the effects of the control variables, employees’ computerSE was proven to have a significant positive effect (skill enhancement) on learning outcomes. This result corresponded to the findings of previous related studies [51
]. On the other hand, the employees’ gender had no effects whatsoever on the research framework of this study.
5.2. Managerial Implications
In order to achieve goals and increase core competitiveness, a company must implement constant learning to promote its competitive advantage and sustainable management. Moreover, an organization must grasp every opportunity to implement perpetual learning and rely on the continuous and effective learning of its employees to strengthen its own learning abilities. In this IT-dominated era, many companies incorporate e-learning that is not bound by any time and space constraints to help employees improve their professional competencies. However, the question is what can be used in addition to e-learning integration to improve the employees’ learning outcomes after their educational training. This has been a focus of attention among department managers, human resource managers, and high-ranking executives, as well as in academic circles. The following suggestions were made in this study, based on the empirical results. They provide a reference for high-ranking executives, department managers, and human resource departments in small and medium-sized businesses.
1. Establishing an organizational environment that values perpetual learning. In the face of a rapidly changing and highly competitive economic environment, organizational members’ learning and knowledge assimilation are important sources of competitive advantage [68
]. However, employees’ learning may be encouraged or hindered by the organizational culture or intra-organizational environment. As found in this study, the organizational commitment to learning can promote employees’ learning goal orientation. Moreover, a competitive psychological climate was found to promote employees’ proving and learning goal orientations. According to previous studies, enterprises’ understanding of the changes in the organizational environment has been proven to have a correlative effect on their employees. Therefore, a company can implement the following measures: (1) Instruct and encourage employees in a timely manner, so as to enable them to understand and perceive the company’s goals, which does not create large psychological stress and counter effects; (2) Utilize progressive methods to give employees time to adapt to the impacts caused by changes in the environments; and (3) Systematically plan and adjust the organizational environment with the goal of consolidating the organization in mind, so as to reinforce the employees’ motivation to develop learning goal orientation and reduce the potential negative effects of avoiding goal orientation. Timely assistance to employees can also help achieve the learning outcomes.
2. Increasing employees’ motivation to participate in learning. As pointed out by educational psychologists Dweck and Leggett [17
], learners’ personal motivations affect their learning behaviors, which results in different learning results. With regard to employees, the expectation of certain results from the learning process has a substantial influential power. Furthermore, employees may rely on their own learning experience to increase learning motivation, which improves their learning outcomes and the achievement of learning goals. This study showed that employees’ learning and proving goal orientations had a considerable effect on the learning outcomes. Learning motivations always play an important role in the learning outcomes. Therefore, the cultivation of good learning motivations in employees helps to improve their learning efficiency and performance, which affects the learning outcomes [143
]. The implementation of e-learning can start with the explanation of its value to employees, in order to increase their expectations and motivations. Managers can show their care and support to increase employees’ learning confidence and, consequently, their desire to learn, which will ultimately generate positive learning motivations and contribute to the output-related learning outcomes.
3. Increasing employees’ computerSE and reducing their CA. ComputerSE is an important factor for IT use or learning [6
]. Past studies indicated that computerSE and CA might have an interaction effect on the use of IT [6
]. This study showed that, in addition to reducing employees’ CA, an increased computerSE also significantly contributes to skill enhancement.
A study by Coffin and MacIntyre [120
] revealed that computer experience has a significant effect on computerSE. Enhanced computer training can promote computerSE and improve the learning of the training content. Thus, it is suggested that companies conduct user training by providing employees with the procedural knowledge required for system operations and demonstrating the use of systems. This will advance the company’s goals, as well as individual work competence and efficiency goals, and reduce or eliminate the feelings of uncertainty and anxiety among users. Moreover, computerSE confidence can be increased and hindering motivations can be reduced through the provision of technical support, which includes the solution to technical problems, system adjustment, response to users’ inquiries and needs, and continuous training aimed at increasing employees’ proficiency in using computer technologies.
4. Selecting the right employees. This study showed that learning and proving goal orientations had a significant positive effect on all types of learning outcomes. However, employees with learning goal orientation outperformed those with proving goal orientation with regard to the learning outcomes. Therefore, it is suggested that department managers should favor employees with learning goal orientation when selecting trainees, which will promote hard work and active learning among employees. Furthermore, despite its significant effect on personal goal orientations, the organizational environment had limited explanatory power, indicating the presence of other factors that affected employees’ goal orientations. Therefore, this study suggested that while companies should improve their organizational environment to promote employees’ goal orientations, the human resources department and unit managers should also focus on computerSE, and not only strong learning goal orientation, when recruiting new employees. Companies may refer to the scale used in this study to select employees with strong learning goal orientation and, afterward, run on-site computer tests to select candidates familiar with computer and software operations. These measures will help companies build an environment for perpetual learning, foster talents, and increase their competitive advantage.
5.3. Limitations and Directions for Future Studies
This study had certain limitations due to limited time and resources, leaving some room for further testing and discussion in future studies. First, the participants in this study were recruited only from small and medium-sized businesses in the manufacturing industry, which limits the generalizability of the results. It is suggested that future studies include employees from other industries (e.g., the service industry and large-scale manufacturing industry) as their participants, to test the external validity of the theoretical model used in this study. Second, all the questionnaire survey data were cross-sectional. Future studies could collect longitudinal data to verify the effects of employees’ personal factors (e.g., personal beliefs, computerSE, etc.), organizational environment factors (e.g., organizational commitment to learning, shared vision, open-mindedness, competitive psychological climate, etc.), and factors related to important people (e.g., superior leadership behaviors, leader-member exchange theory, etc.) on employees’ goal orientations. In addition, with regard to measuring the learning outcomes, methods apart from self-assessment should be taken into account, such as the supervisor’s assessment of employee outcomes, which is able to reflect their learning outcomes in a better way. Measurement of the results level should be based on the collection of relevant data with the organization as a unit. In practice, if information such as the changes in organizational performance can be collected, the actual benefits of training toward the company can be further elucidated. Third, this study only used a single-factor model to test the mediation effects. Multi-factor models could be applied in future research to explore related mediation effects. Fourth, only three constructs of goal orientations were used in this study. Future studies could add the fourth construct. Fifth, further research can be conducted on organizational factors such as the organizational commitment to learning and a competitive psychological climate, so as to examine whether these factors affect learning outcomes through CA or other variables. Sixth, this study explored organizational factors on an individual level, and other factors on an organizational level can be included in subsequent empirical research. Finally, learning motivations and learning strategies are closely related and can have an interaction effect on learners’ internal cognitive processes, which affects their external learning performance. Thus, it is suggested that related studies examine the influence of goal orientations on the learning outcomes via learning strategies.