The influence of task challenge on skill utilization, affective wellbeing and intrapreneurial behaviour

2016 – This article in Economic and Industrial Democracy reports of a study executed in the Dutch and Belgian civil services. The central research question of this study was: ‘What are the short-term longitudinal effects of real life task challenge on skill utilization, affective wellbeing and intrapreneurial behaviour among civil servants?’

This question was explored by investigating the effects of a bottom up organized real-life assignment for civil servants (‘Train Your Colleague’)  after five weeks, in which participants developed and provided training for colleagues in a work-related subject.  


The researchers proposed and developed the idea that the performance of a challenging perceived assignment would positively impact skill utilization (Hypothesis 1), affective wellbeing (Hypothesis 2) and intrapreneurial behaviour (Hypothesis 3).  


The used definitions are based on the literature..

Challenging work assignments are usually described in quite specific task characteristics as tasks and assignments that (a) are novel and include non-routine skills and behaviours, (b) test abilities or resources, (c) provide autonomy to determine how to accomplish the task, and (d) have high levels of responsibility and visibility. The term skill utilization, means the level of match between an individual’s skills and the opportunity to use these skills in that person’s work role.

Affective wellbeing is often operationalized as positive mood. Intrapreneurial behaviour, or intrapreneurship, is defined as the identification and exploitation of opportunities by individual workers to (also) advance their organization, which is characterized by employees’ innovative, proactive and risk-taking behaviours


The first hypothesis is supported by the empirical data: challenging tasks indeed seem to enhance skill utilization as theoretically presupposed. Hypothesis 3 is supported as well and herewith provides empirical support for the authors’ reasoning that task challenge leads to more intrapreneurial behaviours of employees. Hypothesis 2 is unexpectedly not supported; there was no empirical proof for the idea that performing the perceived challenging task improved affective wellbeing in the long run. 

Practical implications

A first and straightforward piece of advice for practitioners and (governmental) organizations that want to enhance the intrapreneurial behaviour and optimal skill use of their employees is to facilitate employees in performing challenging assignments, as in this study.

Challenging work tasks should be perceived as useful tools to enhance employees’ individual development and quality of working life, but also a good practice to increase the performance and innovative and entrepreneurial capacities of organizations. 


Preenen, Paul,T.Y.; Dorenbosch, Luc; Plantinga, Edo; Dhondt, Steven. (2016). ‘The influence of task challenge on skill utilization, affective wellbeing and intrapreneurial behaviour’.

Economic and Industrial Democracy (EID, SAGE), I – 12. The article can be bought via this link: