Human Resource Management: Reduce Turnover? It Depends…

Topic(s): turnover

Topic: Human Resource Management, Turnover
Publication: Personnel Psychology (SUMMER 2011)
Article: The Impact of Motivation, Empowerment, and Skill-Enhancing Practices on Aggregate Voluntary Turnover: The Mediating Effect of Collective Affective Commitment
Authors: Timothy M. Gardner, Patrick M. Wright, Lisa M. Moynihan
Reviewed by: Mary Alice Crowe-Taylor, Ph.D.

The greater the use of motivation-enhancing practices such as pay raises and promotions, and empowerment-enhancing practices, such as quality-improvement and problem-solving groups, the less group-level turnover the organization will have, as shown in this longitudinal study with variables aggregated to the group level. The HR practices’ impact is partially indirect, through collective organizational commitment.

These results support SDT (Self Determination Theory) which explains that people need autonomy; they need to feel competent; and, thirdly, they need to feel as though they belong to the group. HR executives know that by meeting these needs, the organization is able to increase intrinsic motivation and positive work attitudes (including commitment to the organization). In contrast, the greater use of skill-enhancing practices (like tuition- reimbursement and formal training programs) was not linked to less turnover, rather it was linked to greater turnover, and the level of commitment to the organization didn’t make a difference.

This study found these results using 20 stand-alone business units of a large food distribution company. 1, 748 employees and 93 job groups under 20 HR Managers provided the data. The HR practices, commitment and turnover were all measured at the group level, rather than at the individual level. This macro-level of study provides evidence to support macro theories regarding optimization of organizational functioning.

So what are the key takeaways for HR executives? One is that the greater use of motivation and empowerment-enhancing practices leads to lower group turnover rates. For example, the authors give the following estimate for this sample, using model results: one could expect that a one standard deviation increase in motivation- enhancing practices will be associated with a 19.64% decrease in voluntary turnover.

Another key takeaway is that to offset or control aggregate voluntary turnover, organizations might also increase the use of motivation and empowerment-enhancing strategies that might directly impact voluntary turnover, such as merit pay, promotions and other incentives.

Gardner, T. M., Wright, P. M., & Moynihan, L. M. (2011). The Impact of Motivation, Empowerment, and Skill-Enhancing Practices on Aggregate Voluntary Turnover: The Mediating Effect of Collective Affective Commitment. Personnel Psychology, 64, 315-35.

human resource management,organizational industrial psychology, organizational management