There have been several different answers to ‘what is employee engagement?’ over the years. All of which shed light on why staff commitment is so important to organisations.
What is Employee Commitment?
Employee commitment has been defined as, “The strength of an individual’s identification and involvement in a particular organisation. ”*
The authors who provide this definition developed a questionnaire-based tool in order to measure this construct. It describes employee commitment using three distinct components:
● A strong belief in and acceptance of an organisation’s goals;
● Staff motivation or willingness to exert considerable effort on behalf of the organisation they work for;
● A strong desire to maintain membership to the organisation.
This definition and measurement has been used as the basis for a wealth of research since the late 1970s. These have demonstrated that employee commitment is strongly related to a whole raft of positive effects and outcomes.
At an individual level, those who are more committed to the organisation also experience more job satisfaction, higher levels of motivation and lower stress levels. They also tend to perform better and manifest less job-searching behaviour.
At an organisational level higher employee commitment is related to lower levels of staff turnover, absenteeism and tardiness. There’s also significantly higher customer satisfaction and profitability.
Further meta-analysis has replicated these findings, based on a sizable sample size of 50,000. Yet, they argued that there’s a further two types of employee commitment that need to be considered.
Read: What is Employee Engagement.
Types of Employee Commitment
1. Affective (Emotional) Commitment
This type of employee commitment is the closest to what one might intuitively consider commitment to be. It encapsulates the idea of an emotional identification with the organisation. This leads to an increased desire to contribute and perform, as well as maintain citizenship of the organisation.
There is an enormous amount of research demonstrating the positive benefits of affective staff commitment, both to the organisation and the individual. It is for this reason that we concentrate on this type when considering what gives rise to employee commitment.
2. Normative Employee Commitment
This refers to a perceived obligation to remain with the organisation. An employee can experience an obligation to perform work activities in the absence of a personal desire to do so.
This type of employee commitment typically has weaker positive relationships with staff motivation, job satisfaction etc. Though, cultural variation plays a part in the strength of the relationships between normative commitment and work behaviours.
Norms and social obligations exert more power over actual behaviour in more collectivist cultures (e.g. Turkey). This is compared to relatively individualistic contexts (e.g. the USA) where incidentally, the majority of the psychological research takes place.
3. Continuance Commitment
This is bound up in a very idiocentric and calculative decision-making process. Essentially, this involves the individual considering what they stand to lose should they leave an organisation. Their perceived sacrifices, together with the alternatives open to them.
Unsurprisingly, this type of employee commitment has less positive outcomes and is in fact related to higher stress. There may be increased work-family conflict and poorer performance.
Combating staff turnover with salary raises and other incentives may increase affective employee commitment through perceptions of personal competence. Yet, it could also in some instances accentuate what employees stand to lose, adding to a feeling of being ‘trapped’ (high continuance commitment), with all its negative associations.
The Importance of Employee Commitment
In summary, organisational commitment is now regarded as a key part of investigating the health of organisations. This is done both by occupational psychologists and HR professionals.
Moreover, affective employee commitment (identification and emotional involvement with the organisation) is known to have the most positive effect on work-related behaviour and staff turnover intentions.
Monitoring this variable can give early warnings of imminent employee turnover problems. It also provides an excellent benchmark for evaluating interventions aimed at reducing staff retention difficulties (e.g. job redesign, induction and socialisation processes).
* Mowday, R.T., Steers, R.M., & Porter, L.W. (1979). The measurement of organizational commitment. Journal of Vocational Behaviour, 14, 224-247.
(Main image from HOUNÖ)