When a job search becomes turnover: Reasons for why your employees may be on the hunt for a new job

Topic: Turnover
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: Examining the Job Search-Turnover Relationship: The Role of Embeddedness, Job Satisfaction, and Available Alternatives (DEC 2010)
Authors: Brian W. Swider, Wendy R. Bosweel, and Ryan D. Zummerman
Reviewed By: Holly Engler

The active search for a new job is one major predictor of turnover, even more so than a person’s intent to quit. Employees of an organization who spend their time browsing career websites, sending out resumes and attending job interviews for other organizations are active job searchers.  But under what conditions can we predict that a job search will ultimately become job turnover?

Current research suggests that there are three conditions to consider in which a job searcher will actually separate with their current organization: job embeddedness, job satisfaction, and available alternatives.    Embeddedness indicates how “tied” to the organization an individual is. This can mean that they have tenure, comfort, or tangible benefits that may or may not be worth leaving (such as a nice pension plan).  Job satisfaction simply refers to the reaction an individual has to their job and can be based on professional and/or social reasons.
Lastly, job alternatives simply means that there are other jobs available to an employee in which they are qualified for and are willing to accept the position.

It should be no surprise that job satisfaction can be a determining factor of the job search-turnover relationship as unsatisfied employees are not only more likely to search for other positions, but are also more likely to leave.   Similarly, employees who experience low levels of job embeddedness are also more likely than not to turn their job search into physical turnover.  And you guessed right! It so happens that the more availability in alternatives for other positions, the stronger the relationship between job search and turnover.  Managers can use this information to better understand high turnover rates in their organization and focus on retention efforts of performing employees. Monitoring employee attitudes can aid in understanding to what extent an employee feels embedded or satisfied. According to the research, by minimizing job search efforts, an organization will also be able to minimize voluntary turnover.

 Swider, B.W., Boswell, W.R., & Zimmerman, R.D. (2010). Journal of Applied Psychology. Examining the Job Search-Turnover Relationship: The Role of Embeddedness, Job Satisfaction, and Available Alternatives, 95(7)