Turnover is linked to job involvement and organizational commitment

Martin, Thomas N

Past research on voluntary turnover has produced very extensive and sophisticated models; however, a recent and more parsimonious model of turnover utilizes only two employee work attitudes to predict turnover propensity.(1) These two attitudes are job involvement and organizational commitment. The premise discussed here is that job involvement and organizational commitment interact jointly to affect turnover. For example, the job employees do helps them meet their intrinsic needs, such as satisfactorily performing a challenging job, which, in turn, increases their sense of competence. This leads to increasing employees’ job involvement attitude. Likewise, the organization helps employees meet their social and other extrinsic reward needs, such as pay, fringe benefits and promotions. This leads to increasing employees’ organizational commitment attitude.

In order to reduce the turnover propensity of employees, a manager’s goals should be to get employees to identify with and care about their jobs. The greater the success at this, the more the job becomes important to each employee’s self-image, which reflects the basic definition of job involvement.(2) It is important to get employees feeling positively about the organization that employs them so they identify with particular organizational goals, values, and culture, and want to maintain membership in it. This is defined as organizational commitment.(3) Employees with both high job involvement and organizational commitment should, therefore, have the most positive attitudes and the lowest propensity to quit because they are attracted by both the job and the organization. These employees feel they have a relationship with the company; the employee and company are part of the same whole.

Telemarketing sales employees develop both job involvement and organizational commitment attitudes. The operations of telemarketing firms are strongly characterized by a job/task environment where focused attention must be directed at performing detailed responsibilities for extended periods. The sales transaction performed by telemarketing sales employees always occurs over the phone with a faceless customer and, generally, occurs by following a computer-scripted sales presentation. This job and environment provide employees with limited autonomy to do the job outside the boundaries of the required format.

Telemarketing sales employees also develop attitudes about their employing organization, its goals and whether they wish to maintain membership in that organization. In a telemarketing firm, there are a variety of physical and psychological factors influencing an employee’s attitude about organizational commitment. Physically being around other employees, or having more opportunities to coalesce in social groups, or having more opportunities for participation, autonomy and/or empowerment are a few factors that create a positive organizational commitment attitude. Thus, employees develop attitudes about both their job and their organization and these two attitudes have been found to interact in a person’s decision to stay or leave the organization.(4)

Based upon their levels of job involvement and organizational commitment, employees could be classified as stars, corporate citizens, lone wolves or apathetics (see Table 1). (Table 1 omitted) Stars have high job involvement and organizational commitment and should have the lowest turnover propensity. Their jobs are important to their self-image and they strongly identify with their organization. Alternatively, apathetics have low involvement and commitment and should have the highest turnover propensity because their jobs are not important to them and they do not strongly identify with their organization. Lone wolves have high involvement, but low commitment. They are expected to have higher turnover propensity than corporate citizens, who have low involvement and high commitment, but not as much as apathetics. Lone wolves view their job as being important, but they do not strongly identify with their organization. They may leave if a more attractive job is offered to them by another organization, i.e., highly skilled TSRs feel they can switch organizations because of the transferrable nature of their skills. Corporate citizens do not identify with their jobs as much as they do with their organization. Their high organizational commitment makes staying with the company, in any reasonable capacity, their primary goal. This commitment can come from an ardent identification with and support for the organization’s values, managers, its method of operation, or from accrued retirement, stocks, perks and seniority that have economic as well as intrinsic value.

Telemarketing firms have traditionally relied on a large proportion of part-time employees to fill phone sales jobs, which presents the opportunity to investigate the proposed model across both full- and part-time employees. A study was undertaken consisting of both part-time and full-time telemarketing sales employees employed in eight locations of a major, national telemarketing firm. There were 387 part-time employees and 114 full-time. Part-time was defined as anyone working less than 35 hours per week, and full-time as working more than 35 hours per week. Sixty-three percent of the part-time salespeople were females, 57 percent had completed high school, and 69 percent had worked for their organization less than three months. The average age was 27 years. In the full-time portion of the group, 60 percent were females, 59 percent had completed high school, and 67 percent had worked for their organization less than three months. The average age was 29 years.

Employee responses were collected via a questionnaire administered during the employees’ lunch hour and then returned by mail. Job involvement was measured by 10 questions, each measured by a seven-point Likert scale. Organizational commitment utilized a seven-point Likert scale and contained 13 questions. Turnover propensity was measured by three questions. The turnover score could range from a positive value (indicating high propensity to leave) to a negative value (indicating low turnover propensity).

The model was tested first to determine if the interaction of job involvement, organizational commitment, and part-time versus full-time employment status predicted turnover propensity. The result supported this three-way interaction, thus signifying that the model acted differently for the part-time versus full-time employee samples.

To investigate the nature of this difference, four subgroup analyses were run on part-time and full-time TSRs. Employees were partitioned into stars, corporate citizens, lone wolves, or apathetics based on splitting the employees at their mean scores on job involvement and organizational commitment, respectively. The turnover propensity score of each employee category was then compared to other employee categories within each sample by means of statistical t-tests.

Part-time star employees had the lowest turnover propensity, whereas part-time apathetic employees had the highest turnover propensity. Part-time lone wolf employees had the next highest turnover propensity. Finally, part-time corporate citizen employees had lower turnover propensity than lone wolf employees, but not as low as star employees. These mean score comparisons were in the expected direction of the proposed model.

The statistical comparisons of these mean scores revealed that the turnover propensity of stars was significantly different from citizens, lone wolves and apathetics. Likewise, the turnover propensity of apathetics was significantly different from lone wolves, citizens and stars. There was no significant difference between corporate citizens and lone wolves in the part-time sample.

The mean scores indicate that full-time star employees had the lowest turnover propensity and the highest turnover propensity occurred with the full-time apathetic employees. Furthermore, the corporate citizen had a lower turnover propensity compared to the lone wolf employee. These findings suggest that the full-time sample seems similar to the part-time sample. However, the three-way interaction indicated differences between the two employment groups.

The statistical comparisons reveal the differences. The turnover propensity of stars was significantly different from lone wolf and apathetic employees, but not corporate citizen employees. The turnover propensity for corporate citizen employees and lone wolf employees is significantly different from apathetic employees.

The overall results indicate that apathetic employees, whether full-time or part-time, have the highest turnover propensity. Employee results for the lowest turnover propensity are not as clear cut. Part-time star employees have the lowest propensity, but full-time, corporate citizen employees have no significant differences compared to full-time star employees in their turnover propensity.

Implications Of The Model

Job involvement and organizational commitment are the two principal work attitudes used in this model and both attitudes can be influenced by management. To positively impact employee job involvement attitudes, management would need to redesign the job itself to allow more autonomy to the employee. Management should give serious consideration to this option, but in the mean time, management has already invested in specific computerized technology and have based their costs on using this technology to minimize “talk time” with the customer. Therefore, the ability to influence the job involvement attitude of employees seems constrained by the technical and economic aspects of the job environment.

The remaining option is to focus on building organizational commitment if management wants to reduce turnover propensity. Of course, management may initially want to foster the exodus of apathetic employees. However, the reality of severely constrained labor force pools might cause management to reexamine this approach in favor of the retention and refocus of all employees through building greater organizational commitment.

Telemarketing organizations already have a number of organizational commitment-building strategies in place, especially for their part-time employees. Many part-time employees are students who view their jobs as stop-gap employment opportunities that allow them to obtain some additional income, to have scheduling flexibility to take classes and/or vacations, and to find jobs close to home or school.(5) They are willing to trade off better wages and fringe benefits for convenience, flexibility and shorter work weeks. Seasonal or special-project employees find the flexible scheduling and/or limited duration opportunities to be some of the more attractive aspects of working for their telemarketing firm.

Establishing different management-employee leadership relationships offers additional means of building organizational commitment. These leadership patterns can be characterized by reciprocal influence, mutual trust, respect and liking, and a sense of common fate or alternatively by unidirectional downward influence, role-defined relations, and a sense of loosely coupled fates.(6) Managers get “close” to some employees and “distance” themselves from other employees. These types of leadership patterns are expected to influence employees’ attitudes of organizational commitment. For instance, employees who receive greater attention and resources would be more likely to exhibit a greater desire to retain membership in that organization. Furthermore, employees who receive more inside information and discretion would develop a stronger belief in the organization’s goals and values. Finally, employees who receive greater autonomy and support would be willing to work harder on the organization’s behalf.(7) Managers secure greater commitments by partnering with employees. These “close” partners or cadre members have higher job satisfaction, less role conflict, role ambiguity, and job stress, and are more satisfied with their managers than are the “distant” employees.(8)

For managers who understand and can apply the findings presented here there are unique opportunities to develop more productive employees who are less likely to quit. Employees who already have high organizational commitment — stars and corporate citizens — see very positive attitudes associated with their membership in the organization. The factors contributing to this attitude may include the flexible scheduling or limited employment duration or the treatment by their managers. Employees with low organizational commitment — lone wolves and apathetic — initially see little opportunity to change their organizational commitment attitudes. If management is interested in reducing their turnover propensity, management needs to devote more efforts to enhancing these employees’ organization commitment attitudes. This may be particularly true of lone wolve employees. These employees, though having low organizational commitment, are often considered experts at doing their jobs. They are a valuable asset to the company in that they act as problem solvers for their peers. They are sought out by other employees for advice and instruction rather than going to the manager. The departure of lone wolves can effectively create an expertise void which will then have to be filled by either managers or star employees.

Research has shown that building organizational commitment will enhance retention faster and more effectively than will job involvement. It should be remembered that in each of the subgroup categories, there is a distribution of people. For example, there are apathetics who are beyond conversion, they hate the job and company and will quit the minute something better comes along. However, there are apathetics who are somewhat close to corporate citizens in their involvement and commitment attitudes. For them, a little extra attention from management could pay off significantly and move them into the ranks of corporate citizens. Obviously, not all these employees will change their organizational commitment attitudes; however, management’s real problem may be developing better retention strategies and these employees, the lone wolves and borderline apathetics, definitely need to be considered as important elements for this strategy.


The principal attitude telemarketing management can use to reduce turnover propensity of both their part- and full-time employees centers on instilling more organizational commitment compared to trying to build more job involvement. Building organizational commitment means devoting energy to group maintenance and creating loyalty and devotion to the organization and its goals. Management would like to have its members conform to the organizational norms and to carry out their prescribed roles and behavioral expectations.

However, the partitioning of employees based on their job involvement and organizational commitment attitudes produces four categories of uniquely different employees. These differences are further illustrated by the part-time/full-time employment status of these employees. Both the part- and full-time apathetic employees had the highest degree of turnover propensity. Beyond this the similarities between the part- and full-time employees disappear. Part-time star employees have the lowest turnover propensity, whereas, full-time star and corporate citizen employees have no significant difference in their low turnover propensity.

Building organizational commitment through a variety of strategies was offered as the principal way to reduce turnover propensity. The challenge for management, in building employee organizational commitment, will be to design a work and organizational environment in which the social and leadership aspects of working are more balanced with the strong concentration on the technical components of job performance technology. This challenge is further complicated because of the relatively large number of part-time employees working in this industry.


1. Blau, Gary J. and Boal, Kimberly B. (1987). “Conceptualizing How Job Involvement and Organizational Commitment Affect Turnover and Absenteeism.” Academy of Management Review, 12 (2), pp. 288-300.

2. Lodahl, T. and Kejner, M. (1965). “The Definition and Measurement of Job Involvement.” Journal of Applied Psychology, 49, pp. 24-33.

3. Porter, Lyman, Steers, Richard, Mowday, Richard, and Boulian, P. (1974). “Organizational Commitment, Job Satisfaction, and Turnover Among Psychiatric Technicians.” Journal of Applied Psychology, 59, pp. 603-609.

4. Blau & Boal (1987).

5. Feldman, Daniel C. (1990). “Reconceptualizing the Nature and Consequences of Part-Time Work.” Academy of Management Review, 15, pp. 103-112.

6. Duchon, Dennis, Green, Stephen G., and Taber, Thomas D. (1986). “Vertical Dyad Linkage: A Longitudinal Assessment of Antecedents, Measures, and Consequences.” Journal of Applied Psychology, 71, pp. 56-60.

7. Nystrom, Paul C. (1990). “Vertical Exchanges and Organizational Commitments of American Business Managers.” Group and Organization Studies, 15, pp. 296-312.

8. Lagace, Rosemary R. (1990), “Leader-Member Exchange: Antecedents and Consequences of the Cadre and Hired Hand.” Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, Vol. X, no. 1, February, pp. 11-19 and Tanner, John F. Jr., Mark G. Dunn and Lawrence B. Chonko (1993). “Vertical Exchange and Salesperson Stress.” Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, Vol. XIII, no. 2, Spring, pp. 27-35.

Dr. John Hafer is chair of the marketing department at the University of Nebraska — Omaha. His research interests include selling and sales management. He is the author of numerous articles in those areas and the author of a selling text and a forthcoming sales management book.

Dr. Thomas Martin is chair of the management department at the University of Nebraska — Omaha. He has been studying employee turnover and organizational commitment since 1977 and has published extensively on the topics.

Copyright Technology Marketing Corporation Jun 1995

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved

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