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Linking complex problem solving and general mental ability to career advancement: Does a transversal skill reveal incremental predictive validity?

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Transversal skills, such as complex problem solving (CPS) are viewed as central twenty-first-century skills. Recent empirical findings have already supported the importance of CPS for early academic advancement. We wanted to determine whether CPS could also contribute to the understanding of career advancement later in life. Towards this end, we conducted a study (n = 245) at a large German automobile company in which we predicted career advancement and related criteria with CPS in addition to general mental ability (GMA). A computer-based assessment served as a measure of CPS. The dependent variables were the participants’ job level in accordance with the international standard classification for occupations (ISCO-08) and the number of professional training days as a proxy for lifelong learning efforts. The data were analysed using a structural equation modelling approach. CPS and GMA showed correlations (from .18 to .26, p < .01) with indicators of career advancement. All regression models showed good fit and indicated that CPS explained incremental variance in one of two indicators (β was .14 for trainings, p < .05). Our findings suggest an increment of CPS for predicting career advancement beyond GMA. Hence, CPS could complement GMA in methodologies for the study of professional development.
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Keywords: career advancement; complex problem solving; general mental ability; lifelong learning; predictive validity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg

Publication date: July 4, 2015

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