The Four Most Important Factors of Staff Commitment

Staff Commitment

From employee research, we list the most important factors of staff commitment and how these effect organisations’ workforce.

The Four Most Important Factors of Staff Commitment

The Overall Retention Index (ORI) measures twelve work-related areas known to impact on organisational commitment and turnover intentions. These areas evolved from the qualitative analyses of open-ended exit questionnaire responses, a review of the psychological literature and subsequent empirical work.

The employee is required to prioritise areas in terms of importance for maintaining their commitment. In addition, they have to indicate the level of satisfaction in each area they are (or were able) to attain within the organisation.

The key idea is that staff commitment is a result of a symbiotic interaction between the individual and the environment. This involves the extent to which an employee is happy (or not) with various aspects of their working life and how that interacts with the different priorities they accord those areas.

great{with}talent asked 1500 employees, across 19 different organisations. The results showed that the three most important factors for maintaining organisational commitment are ‘Personal Growth’, ‘Job Satisfaction’ and ‘Cooperation’. Whilst ‘Salary & Rewards’ is fourth.

This does not mean the other factors are not important; they are simply less important overall. Applying factor analytic techniques, it was possible to reduce these twelve areas into four empirically robust and conceptually distinct factors. These are used as a framework for introducing the key drivers behind employee retention.

1. Intrinsic Needs

Job satisfaction and opportunities to develop personally revolve around the psychological need of the individual to learn and grow. Plus, the associated need to experience a degree of autonomy and belief in the purpose of the role.

Boredom and stagnation are not only problems in terms of productivity; they have also been linked with stress and poor health. The key principle for creating a satisfying and fulfilled workforce is to maximise opportunities to experience ‘self-efficacy’.

This term was coined in 1969 by the famous social-cognitive psychologist Albert Bandura but simply means how good you think you are at your job. Clearly an element of judicious selection is involved, as an individual without the requisite skill set for a particular role is unlikely to experience much self-efficacy.

However the concept is much more profound than simply matching someone to a job. The perception of one’s own competence derives from a continual process of learning, developing, trying new challenges and experiencing feedback to inform one’s self-assessment. Self-efficacy is not a static entity but a process.

Performance management is the key to developing the self-efficacy of the workforce as a whole. By using training, development and appraisal systems organisations can create a continuous cycle of self-development.

Neither does this have to be extra-curricular i.e. expensive in terms of administration and opportunity costs. The leading motivation theorist Frederick Herzberg spent many years carrying out studies to demonstrate the impact of redesigning jobs to benefit from the uniquely human need to achieve and through this experience psychological growth.

Basic principles, such as removing controls while retaining accountability (and therefore increasing autonomy), enrich jobs. It does this by encouraging the individual to construe the workplace as somewhere where they can learn, improve, and deliver. High correlations between self-efficacy, motivation and commitment are the norm.

Finally, an individual will only feel that they can fulfil their potential if they believe in the wider purpose of the organisation. For example, an article in People Management (September 2003) describes how a government agency has reduced staff retention problems by introducing a culture preference tool to match candidates to the public sector ethos. Those who prioritise job satisfaction and concern for the environment are considered more suitable.

2. Extrinsic Factors

This cluster revolves around the transactional relationship between employee and employer. Both parties bring to the relationship expectations to form a psychological contract. If the individual feels this is violated, staff commitment levels are likely to be adversely affected.

Whilst an employee who feels organisational promises have been met is likely to respond with increased loyalty and employee commitment. This is the essence of the ‘Loyalty & Trust’ area.

A good example comes from the graduate recruitment sector. There’s a mismatch between graduate expectations and the reality of the modern career mean many employers find it difficult to retain their recruits for any length of time.

On average, 50% of graduates leave their employer within five years. However some organisations hang on to over 80%, whilst others lose over 90% in the same period, suggesting a fair amount of scope for intervention.

These studies also show that graduates tend to hold outmoded notions of hierarchical advancement, loyalty and single organisation careers. At the same time, the graduate recruitment market is highly competitive and organisations are pressured to oversell themselves in terms of job content, training programmes and career management.
Clearly organisations would do well to monitor and if necessary moderate such expectations, with a view to establishing a relationship based on loyalty and trust.

Integral to this idea of exchange are the reward contingencies of pay and promotion, and likely increments in these areas in line with job performance and increasing tenure. This is why the areas of ‘Salary & Reward’ and ‘Career Progression’ also fall into this factor, together with confidence in the organisation. This helps individual employees to assess the ability of the organisation to come good on their promises as well as provide a secure and prosperous future.

Read: Be Honest with Potential Employees.

3. Social Experience

This factor revolves around the social and affiliated needs of employees. It will come as no surprise to most that relationships with colleagues and immediate supervisor or line manager figure highly in most people’s priorities. In fact an important part of the ‘sense of belonging’ that characterises affective staff commitment to an organisation comes from cooperation and teamwork both horizontally and vertically.

Survey work and exit data generally suggests that the social and interpersonal aspects of working life are relative positives for the majority of employees in the UK. Across our data sets, approximately 80% describe being part of a cooperative and reliable team, and working for an approachable supervisor or manager with whom they have a good working relationship.

In fact, a significant proportion of open-ended responses to the question ‘What you enjoy most about working for the organisation, and what you would miss the most if you were to leave?’ referenced working relationships.

Given the importance attributed to these areas and the acknowledgement that work relationships usually form a significant part of employees’ social lives, these findings are encouraging rather than unexpected. However, this does not mean that the social fabric of an organisation should be left entirely to its own devices.

An effective organisation-wide induction process, together with extra-curricular opportunities will help to ensure employees integrate effectively into the society of the organisation. In addition, it should be noted that for the small proportion of employees that do experience negative work relationships. This is particularly evident with their managers. It’s often a key reason behind their departure (although this may not come to light during a face-to-face exit interview).

4. Environmental Context

The quality of the everyday experience of the employee is determined by the working conditions. At a base level, physical contingencies (light, noise, equipment, safety) are important. However these tend to be satisfactory in the majority of industries, with little variance within sectors.

A more deciding factor concerns how the organisation allows the individual to maintain a healthy work-life balance. This generally increases in importance for workers over 30, as family commitment and health issues become more prevalent.

It is difficult to refute the logic that employers who can accept that their employees need to work flexibly around family and community commitments will inevitably be repaid in terms of loyalty and performance. Despite this, the culture of ‘presenteeism’ (long-hours) remains particularly endemic in the UK.

To date the business case is fairly equivocal, although research is confounded by the fact better performers are more successful in demanding and receiving flexible working arrangements.

It is worth noting that stress and a compromised work-life balance are not the logical or inevitable outcomes of working hard or putting in long hours. If an employee is highly committed to an organisation in the affective (emotional) sense, then they are more likely to work harder (‘go the extra mile’). They’re also more prepared to make sacrifices in terms of their personal life. The point is this should be their choice, supported by flexible work arrangements where possible.

Contact great{with}talent and find out more about their TalentEngage staff engagement surveys.


(Main image from Fierce)

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