Satisfaction guaranteed? Enhanced impact of trainer competence for autonomous trainees

T. Brad Harris, Wonjoon Chung, Christina L. Frye, Dan S. Chiaburu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose–The purpose of this paper is to investigate the interplay between perceptions of instructor competence and trainees’ motivational orientations (autonomy orientation) as predictor of trainee satisfaction. Design/methodology/approach–Simulating a realistic training initiative, the paper examines survey responses from a sample (n=132) of students enrolled in an introductory business course at a large US university. Findings–Perceptions of instructor competence predict course satisfaction over and above trainees’ motivational orientations. Further, trainee satisfaction is an interactive function of both instructor competence and trainee orientations, with instructor competence being more important for trainees with high autonomy. Research limitations/implications–The results of the present study should be considered in the light of the limitations, including limited generalizability, an exclusive focus on trainee satisfaction as outcome, and a test of only one moderator. Practical implications–This study confirms the need for instructors to be knowledgeable, organized and prepared, and to establish rapport with their trainees in order to promote high levels of satisfaction with the instruction–even for trainees who are often assumed to naturally thrive in training (i.e. those high in autonomy). Social implications–If extended to other contexts and settings, the results point out toward the need to consider multiple venues, including both trainer and trainee-based factors to increase trainees’ course or program satisfaction. In a broader sense, aptitude-treatment (Cronbach, 1957) remains a valid perspective and needs to receive renewed attention. Originality/value–The current literature suggests that positive course reactions (e.g. high trainee satisfaction) can enhance learning, learning transfer, and ultimately application of acquired knowledge and skill. This study provides support for the notion that trainee satisfaction is a function of both instructor competence and trainees’ motivational orientations. Training professionals can enhance training outcomes by emphasizing trainer and trainee factors when designing initiatives. Related, trainee motivational orientations should not be viewed as a substitute for highly competent trainers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)270-277
Number of pages8
JournalIndustrial and Commercial Training
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 1 2014


  • Aptitude-treatment interaction
  • Trainee autonomy
  • Trainee satisfaction
  • Trainer competence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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