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Previous work experience not always good

india Updated: Feb 24, 2009 18:41 IST

Previous work experience is not always good for a new job, according to a new study.

Employees with previous work experience bring valuable knowledge and skills to their new jobs - but some of what they learned may actually hurt their work performance.

Workers may keep some old habits and ways of doing things that hurt performance in their new roles.

"Organizations pay a premium for workers with job experience that will allow them to just step in and start contributing immediately. But what employers don''t realize is that some of what their employees learned in previous jobs will end up being a negative," said Steffanie Wilk, co-author of the study and associate professor of management and human resources at Ohio State University''s Fisher College of Business.

Wilk said that while employers have always assumed that it is good for new employees to have prior experience, previous research has not always found such a clear advantage.

And the new study is one of the first that has been able to explain why, by separating the positive and negative effects of prior employment experience on a current job.

Wilk and colleagues conducted the study with data from 771 employees and job applicants of two call centers for a major U.S. insurance firm.

They examined the employees'' job performance evaluations and separate ratings of the employees'' work-related skills and knowledge.

The researchers compared these performance and skills evaluations with the employees'' prior work histories and experience at the current firm, to find any relationships.

The results showed that prior work experience at other firms did lead to higher levels of skill and knowledge, which led to better performance reviews at the insurance company.

However, the researchers also found that the longer employees were with the insurance company, the less that experience from previous jobs helped with their performance.

According to the findings, the negative effects from previous experience lingered much longer.

And once the researchers took into account the higher levels of skill and knowledge brought from former jobs, previous experience actually led to lower performance at the insurance company.

In other words, the positive effects of knowledge and skill brought by experienced employees were being at least somewhat balanced by negative factors, the authors concluded.

The study appears in the current issue of the journal Organization Science.