Job Embeddedness

Reducing Staff Turnover

Woman thinking about jobs.

Learn how to build "job embeddedness" and decrease staff turnover.

© iStockphoto/kizilkayaphotos

Stop for a minute, and think about why you stay in your job.

You may be respected, or have good friends in the workplace. Perhaps you have a short commute, or your organization has good benefits. Or, maybe, you enjoy your work and your boss appreciates you.

There can be many positive factors that anchor you in your job, and the happier you feel about your work, the less likely you are to look for a position elsewhere.

"Job embeddedness" brings together all of these factors, and determines how committed people are to their jobs. We'll look at it in this article, and we'll explore what you can do to increase it. This is particularly important if your organization struggles to keep hold of good people!

What is Job Embeddedness?

Terence Mitchell, Brooks Holtom, Thomas Lee, Chris Sablynski, and Miriam Erez first introduced the concept of job embeddedness in their 2001 Academy of Management Journal paper, "Why People Stay: Using Job Embeddedness to Predict Voluntary Turnover."

According to the authors, job turnover has traditionally been assumed to relate to job satisfaction or dissatisfaction: if someone believes that another job has more factors of satisfaction and fewer of dissatisfaction than their current role, and if their organizational commitment is low, then they're likely to leave the organization.

However, the researchers say that this is only partly true. The reality is that many things influence whether an employee stays with an organization, and job embeddedness deals with some of these. There are three aspects to it:

  1. Links: The connections that people have with other people or activities.
  2. Fit: How well the job and the working environment suits them.
  3. Sacrifice: How easily links can be broken. What would they give up if they left?

People become embedded in many different ways. The more links that they have with both their organization (on the job) and their outside community (off the job), the more likely they are to remain engaged, positive, and committed to the organization.

Example

When Lana joined her new company, she quickly came to love her job. She had great relationships with her colleagues, she was able to use her skills and strengths in her work, and the company's values aligned closely with her own.

A few years later, Lana got married, bought a home, and had children. The organization supported her with a generous maternity allowance, and it also provided on-site daycare, where she built friendships with other working mothers.

Lana is highly embedded, not just because she loves her job, but also because her organization supported her desire to have children, and made it easy for her to be a working mother. She cares about her colleagues and feels fulfilled in her role; and she owns a home and is involved in her community.

These activities, values, and desires have caused Lana to become attached to her organization and to her role, so it's unlikely that she'll look for another job.

Considerations and Uses

In a later paper, also published in The Academy of Management Journal, the authors argued that off-the-job factors, such as family life and security, can have a bigger effect on voluntary turnover and absence than on-the-job factors.

However, they also argued that on-the-job embeddedness led to a greater feeling of organizational citizenship and higher job performance than off-the-job embeddedness.

In short, you'll retain people best if they have a good quality of life outside work, and you'll get the best from them if their work is satisfying.

In the end, focusing on improving job embeddedness in both areas – job and community – can help you boost morale, strengthen commitment, increase resilience, improve work relationships, and reduce job turnover; as well as increasing feelings of well-being and job satisfaction within your team.

Note:

This idea should be used to increase your team members' job and life satisfaction. You shouldn't use it to persuade people to stay in poorly-fitting roles – this is bad for them, and it's bad for your organization.

Increasing Commitment With Job Embeddedness

To use the concept of job embeddedness, focus on...

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