A paper just published in the Journal of Organizational Behaviour looks at what makes a difference to new employees’ commitment to the organization.
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Organizational commitment has been positively associated with a range of outcomes like productivity, intention to stay, engagement in organizational citizenship behaviours, for example. A number of previous studies have shown that new employees’ organizational commitment tends to decline significantly over the first few years. However a small number (about 30%) of employees actually strengthen their commitment to the organization over the first three years of their employment.
The question the researchers wanted to answer was what was it that contributes to the growth in commitment to the organization for this minority of people. Was it something that the organization was doing or has this phenomenon got more to do with personal characteristics and personality?
The researchers from universities in Brazil and the Netherlands looked at 154 new employees and followed their progress over three years.
The first thing they found was it was the older new employees that had a higher commitment to the organization at the end of the study, with the younger new employees tending to be the first to reduce their commitment to the organization. Not only that but it was also found, somewhat counter-intuitively, that older new employees also had lower levels of what is known as ‘work centrality’. What this means is that the older employees tended to view work as just a part of their life as opposed to work being a dominant force in their lives which is seen as a factor in growing organizational commitment.
The researchers also found that the more the person’s skills and experience matched the role (high person-job fit) and the more that the tasks and jobs undertaken challenged the skills of the individual the more likely their organizational commitment would grow instead of decline. However there is a balance to be struck because it was found that employees who feel overloaded and overwhelmed by the amount of work with no mechanism for managing the workload correlates with rapidly declining organizational commitment. This last issue, it was found, centered around their relationship with their direct manager. Good managers can have a significant impact on organizational commitment.
Next they found that people who are more likely to work on their own initiative (and where the organization allows them to do so), who make decisions and who feel that they can be productive are also most likely to develop a growing commitment to the organization.
Lastly people who have a sense of progression (promotion or specialization) also tend to have a strengthening commitment to the organization.
So if you are employing people who are in the 30% of employees who strengthen their commitment to your organization over the first three years go for someone:
1. Who is older
2. Who has outside interests and doesn’t live, eat and breathe work
3. Whose skills fit the role closely and is likely to find the job challenging without getting overloaded and
4. Who can work on their own initiative.
But you have to allow them to work on their own initiative and provide good management, not micro-management.
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