Developmental job experiences are challenging job tasks assigned to advance employee skills. They are mostly known for their benefits, such as skill development, career advancement, and positive organizational outcomes. Although developmental job experiences are an important investment for organizations to make in their employees, they can also result in negative consequences. The anxiety and stress associated with new and challenging assignments can lead to employee dissatisfaction, exhaustion, turnover intention, and may even harm skill development. So when are developmental job experiences helpful and when are they harmful? Researchers (Cao & Hamori, 2019) sought to answer this question by examining something called “needs-supplies fit.”
DEVELOPMENTAL JOB EXPERIENCES AND NEEDS-SUPPLIES FIT
Needs-supplies fit describes the match between employee needs and job development opportunities or other rewards. The researchers anticipated that when there is a mismatch in needs-supplies fit, meaning too few or too many job development opportunities are available to an employee, outcomes including affective organization commitment (a strong connection with organization values, willingness to put in effort, and desire to stay in the organization) would decrease and voluntary turnover would increase. The researchers conducted a study using data from multiple organizations to test this hypothesis.
The results demonstrated that when developmental job opportunities provided by the organization match the employee’s needs, affective organizational commitment is higher. This is especially true for a “high-high” fit, where employees desiring high amounts of developmental job opportunities are actually given high amounts. Affective organizational commitment then related to reduced voluntary turnover 14 months later.
The researchers also considered how important a career is to an employee’s self-concept or identity. When employees considered careers to be more important, there was an even stronger relationship between needs-supplies fit and organizational commitment.
Overall, this study shows that there is no ideal amount of developmental job opportunities to have in an organization; the optimal amount varies from employee to employee. Matching the needs of each employee relates to higher affective organizational commitment, which then decreases voluntary turnover. This effect is especially strong for employees who view careers as being integral to their identity.
Developmental job opportunities are an investment in employees made by the organization, so it is important that this investment does not actually end up leading to harmful effects such as anxiety, dissatisfaction, and turnover. To reduce these negative outcomes and increase the positive outcomes of affective organizational commitment and employee development, organizations must consider employee needs before presenting challenging opportunities. If organizations require that employees take advantage of developmental job opportunities, they can evaluate applicant needs during the selection process to ensure a match. Organizations can also consider an applicant’s career identity salience in this process.
WARNING FOR ORGANIZATIONS
Though both over and under supplies of developmental job opportunities can be harmful, undersupply appeared to be four times more common of a situation in organizations than oversupply. This may indicate that many organizations are not currently meeting employee needs.
The results of this study are the same for junior, middle, and senior managers, as well as for nonmanagerial employees. This suggests that employees at all levels may seek out challenging, developmental experiences. Organizations should consider needs-supplies fit for all employees regardless of managerial level.
Cao, J., & Hamori, M. (2019). How can employers benefit most from developmental job experiences? The needs–supplies fit perspective. Journal of Applied Psychology, advance online publication.