The relationship between career growth and organizational commitment
⁎, James C. McElroy
⁎, Paula C. Morrow
, Rongzhi Liu
Xi'an Jiaotong University, Fuzhou Command College of the CAPF, Xi'an, Shanxi Province 710049, PR China
Department of Management, Iowa State University, 2350 Gerdin Business Building, Ames, Iowa 50011-1350, USA
Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, Hubei Province, 430074, PR China
article info abstract
Received 27 April 2010
Available online 7 May 2010
This research examines the relationship between employees' career growth and organizational
commitment. Career growth was conceptualized by four factors: career goal progress,
professional ability development, promotion speed and remuneration growth, while
organizational commitment was conceptualized using Meyer and Allen's (1997) three
component model. Survey data, collected from 961 employees in 10 cities in the People's
Republic of China, showed that the four dimensions of career growth were positively related to
affective commitment, and that three of the facets were positively related to continuance and
normative commitment. Only three of eighteen two-way interactions among the career growth
factors affected organizational commitment, suggesting that the career growth factors
inﬂuence commitment in an additive rather than a multiplicative manner.
Results focus on how career growth can be used to manage organizational commitment.
© 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Career goal progress
Professional ability development
The new economy has changed the way organizations are structured and managed (Arthur, Inkson, & Pringle, 1999). It has also
modiﬁed employee–organization relationships (Coyle-Shapiro, Shore, Taylor, & Tetrick, 2004) and raised questions about how
career development activities now ﬁt into the exchange relations between employees and organizations. Gone are the days when
one's career was tied to a single organization, as career change and job mobility have become common phenomena (Rousseau,
1998). These changes have inﬂuenced both individuals and organizations. Research has shown that career growth is one of the
most important factors cited by students in their job choice decision (Hu, Weng, & Yang, 2008). Today, however, individuals
seeking to gain personal career growth can do so across different organizations, if such opportunities are lacking within their
current employer, making organizational commitment less salient to these individuals. Loss of such talent, on the other hand, is
detrimental to organizations, so organizations strive to prevent such talent loss by developing a committed workforce. The
purpose of this paper is to investigate the relationship between individuals' career growth and the organization's desire for a
Bits and pieces of research suggest that career growth has a bearing on organizational commitment. Alvi and Ahmed (1987),
in a study of 2000 Pakistani employees, found that employees who perceive high promotional opportunities in their
organization have higher levels of organizational commitment. Personal development opportunity (Liu & Wang, 2001),
promotion equity and training (Long, Fang, & Ling, 2002) and opportunity for learning (Ng, Butts, Vandenberg, DeJoy, & Wilson,
2006) have independently been shown to affect employees' commitment to their organizations. Such research suggests that, in
general, the ability of employees to personally grow and develop within their places of employment affects their psychological
attachment to employers. Moreover, this research suggests that organizations can inﬂuence employee commitment by
Journal of Vocational Behavior 77 (2010) 391–400
⁎Corresponding authors. Fax: +1 515 294 7112. (J.C. McElroy), Fax: +86 029 82665045 (Q. Weng).
E-mail addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org (Q. Weng), email@example.com (J.C. McElroy).
0001-8791/$ –see front matter © 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Journal of Vocational Behavior
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recognizing and rewarding such growth. What is less clear are the speciﬁcs associated within this relationship. For example,
organizational commitment is a multi-dimensional concept, so the question of which dimensions of commitment are affected
by career growth remains. Moreover, career growth can also be viewed as a multi-dimensional construct. Weng and Hu (2009)
suggest that career growth consists of meeting career goals, developing one's professional abilities and receiving promotions
and compensation commensurate with those abilities. These aspects of career growth may differentially affect organizational
Career growth and organizational commitment
Much of the research on career growth examines the process of growing in one's career, e.g., career self management
(Guterman, 1991; Sturges, Guest, Conway, & Davey, 2002; Weng & McElroy, 2009) rather than on the results of such efforts. Career
growth captures the results of one's efforts by deﬁning it as one's perceptions of the chances of development and advancement
within an organization (Jans, 1989). Unfortunately, little attention has been paid to the speciﬁc ways in which employees might
judge their chances for development and advancement. Weng and Hu (2009) recently proposed that employee career growth
could be captured by four factors: career goal progress, professional ability development, promotion speed, and remuneration
growth. This multi-dimensional conceptualization implies that career growth is both a function of the employees' own efforts in
making progress toward their personal career goals and acquiring new skills and the organization's efforts in rewarding such
efforts, through promotions and salary increases. This multi-dimensional view of career growth can also be construed as
fulﬁllment of promises on the part of the employer implied by the psychological contract, which in turn has been found to be
positively related to employees' organizational commitment (Coyle-Shapiro & Morrow, 2006).
Rousseau (1998) has suggested two speciﬁc ways in which organizations can strengthen employee-organizational
commitment: (1) organizations can enhance perceptions of the value of organizational membership and (2) demonstrate to
employees that they are valued by the organization. It would seem that fostering employee assessments of career growth by
assisting employees in meeting career goals, acquiring new skills and then reinforcing these activities by promotions and salary
increases would achieve higher levels of organizational commitment.
Career growth and affective commitment
Affective commitment refers to employees' psychological attachment to their organizations caused by their identiﬁcation
with the objectives and values of their organizations. In other words, employees are loyal to and choose to remain with their
organizations because they want to (Meyer, Allen, & Smith, 1993). One reason for wanting to remain with the organization is
related to the ability of individuals to satisfy their needs at work (Hackman & Oldham, 1976). As deﬁned here, career growth
encapsulates need satisfaction at a number of levels; suggesting that career growth would be positively related to affective
organizational commitment. This argument is supported by Meyer et al.'s (1993) contention that affective commitment will be
higher for employees whose experiences in their organization satisfy their needs than for those with less satisfying
organizational experiences. Meeting career goals and achieving professional ability development exemplify higher order need
satisfaction while promotion and remuneration provide measures of how one is viewed by their organization. Organizations
that allow employees to experience career growth create a mutual investment type of employee-organizational relationship
(Tsui, Pearce, Porter, & Tripoli, 1997). Hom et al. (2009) assert that such a relationship leads to the employee feeling greater
compatibility with the organization leading to higher affective organizational commitment. Consequently, individuals who
experience career growth by working on tasks that are related to their career goals, and allowing them to learn new things and
grow professionally, and who perceive that the organization is willing to reward them for their efforts, will have higher levels of
affective commitment. Conversely, employees whose career goals are difﬁcult to achieve, who are assigned tasks that do not
allow for growth, and who perceive little connection between their efforts and organizational rewards, will have lower affective
commitment. Thus, we propose the following:
Hypothesis 1. Career growth is positively associated with affective commitment.
H1a. Career goal progress is positively associated with affective commitment.
H1b. Professional ability development is positively associated with affective commitment.
H1c. Promotion speed is positively associated with affective commitment.
H1d. Remuneration growth is positively associated with affective commitment.
Career growth and continuance commitment
Continuance commitment is a function of the perceived cost of leaving an organization, due to what Becker (1960) refers to
as “side bets.”In other words, people feel a sense of commitment to their organization because they feel they have to remain
(Meyer et al., 1993). To do otherwise would be to forgo favorable levels of personal status, seniority, remuneration, work
schedule, pension, and other beneﬁts acquired. Consequently, any factor that increases the perceived costs of resigning can be
392 Q. Weng et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 77 (2010) 391–400
seen as a predictor of continuance commitment (Meyer & Allen, 1991). The perceived cost of leaving the organization may be
organization or job related, such as seniority or an organizational-speciﬁc job skill that is not transferrable, or may be
independent of the organization, such as relocation of family or distancing of friendship networks (i.e., job embeddedness,
Hom et al., 2009).
People who perceive that their current job helps them attain their career goals are likely to attach a higher cost to leaving the
organization; e.g., by interrupting career goal progress or, at minimum, risking such interruption since ﬁnding another job that
equals one's current career goal progress may be difﬁcult. These employees should have high levels of continuance commitment.
Conversely, employees perceiving low career goal progress in their present job see little to no risk in leaving for potentially equal
or greener pastures and ought to express lower levels of continuance commitment.
Perceptions of professional development being provided by the employer are thought to be similarly related to continuance
commitment. Simply put, opportunity for learning at work has become an important determinant of employee job attitudes and
behaviors (Lankau & Scandura, 2002). If the present job is allowing the employee to develop more/better job skills, then
continuance commitment should be high as there is potentially much to be lost by pursing a job change. On the other hand, people
who perceive little professional development within their current job have little to sacriﬁce by leaving and are likely to exhibit low
With respect to the third and fourth facets of career growth, organizations can build on continuance commitment by providing
ample promotion opportunities and pay raises. Doing so will make leaving that organization more costly to the employee which
should increase their levels of continuance commitment. On the contrary, people who perceive little opportunity for promotion or
remuneration growth have little to give up in terms of leaving the organization. These arguments lead us to propose the following:
Hypothesis 2. Career growth is positively associated with continuance commitment.
H2a. Career goal progress is positively associated with continuance commitment.
H2b. Professional ability development is positively related to continuance commitment.
H2c. Promotion speed is positively associated with continuance commitment.
H2d. Remuneration growth is positively associated with continuance commitment.
Career growth and normative commitment
Normative commitment refers to the employee's psychological attachment to the organization based on either socialization
experiences that emphasize the appropriateness of remaining loyal or a moral obligation to repay the organization for beneﬁts
received from the organization (Meyer et al., 1993). Stated differently, employees with high normative commitment stay in the
organization because they believe it is the right and moral thing to do (Wiener, 1982). Normative commitment is based on norms
of reciprocity; people should help and not hurt those who have helped them (Gouldner, 1960). Consequently, employees who
believe that the organization is contributing to their career growth will feel a moral sense of obligation to give back to the
organization in return. Wiener (1982) notes that one of the bases for developing an employee's moral obligation is the
organization's ﬁnancial support of employee education. Meyer and Herscovitch (2001) also contend that normative commitment
comes from the norms of reciprocity associated with accepting the beneﬁts of the organization. While these beneﬁts are typically
viewed in terms of things like educational beneﬁts and mentoring programs, we propose that they extend to the receipt of
promotions and raises as well. Based on the analysis above, we infer that when the organization provides a good career growth
platform for their employees, by helping them meet career goals and enhance their professional abilities, and rewards them in
return via promotions and remuneration, those employees are more apt to reciprocate and develop a sense of moral obligation
toward the organization. Therefore, we propose the following hypotheses:
Hypothesis 3. Career growth is positively associated with normative commitment.
H3a. Career goal progress is positively associated with normative commitment.
H3b. Professional ability development is positively associated with normative commitment.
H3c. Promotion speed is positively associated with normative commitment.
H3d. Remuneration growth is positively associated with normative commitment.
In summary, organizations can strengthen each form of organizational commitment by providing opportunities for individuals
to grow and by reinforcing such growth with appropriate rewards. This is consistent with Meyer and Allen (1997) contention that
some human resource management practices may work to inﬂuence all three components of organizational commitment. In order
to determine whether these career goal factors can be combined to obtain an extra boost in organizational commitment, we offer
the following exploratory hypothesis:
Hypothesis 4. High levels of career growth factors will interact to enhance affective, continuance, and normative commitment.
393Q. Weng et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 77 (2010) 391–400
A total of 1200 surveys were distributed to 176 companies operating in 9 cities of China. Of the 1109 surveys returned, 961
were complete enough for use, resulting in a usable response rate of 80%. The cities and number of usable questionnaires are as
follows: Shenzhen, 108, Zhongshan, 101, Hangzhou, 204, Ningbo, 81, Wuhan, 86, Zhengzhou, 70, Kunming, 113, Luoyang, 97, and
Fuzhou, 101. To avoid any one city or company skewing the results, between 10 and 25 organizations in each city were chosen
with no more than 10 respondents from any given company. Sample characteristics are shown in Table 1.
The survey consisted of measures designed to capture the various facets of the two concepts being investigated in this research,
career growth and organizational commitment. All of the items in the questionnaire employed a ﬁve-point Likert scale format (1 =
strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree, unless otherwise indicated).
Scales developed by Weng and Hu (2009) were used to measure the four dimensions of career growth: career goal progress,
professional ability development, promotion speed and remuneration growth. Career goal progress was measured by four
questions: (1) “my present job moves me closer to my career goals,”(2) “my present job is relevant to my career goals and
vocational growth,”(3) “my present job sets the foundation for the realization of my career goals,”and (4) “my present job
provides me with good opportunities to realize my career goals.”Professional ability development was measured by four
questions: (1) “my present job encourages me to continuously gain new and job-related skills,”(2) “my present job encourages
me to continuously gain new job-related knowledge,”(3) “my present job encourages me to accumulate richer work experiences,”
and (4) “my present job enables me to continuously improve my professional capabilities.”Promotion speed was measured by
four questions: (1) “my promotion speed in the present organization is fast,”(2) “the probability of being promoted in my present
organization is high,”(3) “compared with previous organizations, my position in my present one is ideal”and (4) “compared with
my colleagues, I am being promoted faster.”Finally, remuneration growth was measured by three questions: (1) “my salary is
growing quickly in my present organization,”(2) “In this organization, the possibility of my current salary being increased is very
large,”(3) “Compared with my colleagues, my salary has grown more quickly.”All scales showed good evidence of reliability with
coefﬁcient alphas for career goal progress, professional ability development, promotion speed and remuneration growth being .85,
.86, .86, .80, and .78, respectively.
Six-item scales developed by Meyer and Allen (1997) were used to measure the three dimensions of organizational
commitment. Sample items for affective commitment include: (1) “I would be very happy to spend the rest of my career with this
organization”and (2) “I really feel as if this organization's problems are my problems.”Sample continuance commitment items
include: (1) “Right now, staying with my organization is a matter of necessity as much as desire,”(2) “It would be very hard for me
to leave my organization right now, even if I wanted to.”Finally, items representative of normative commitment include: (1) “Ido
not feel any obligation to remain with my current employer”(reverse coded). (2) “Even if it were to my advantage, I do not feel it
would be right to leave my organization now.”Coefﬁcient alphas for the three scales were .86, .84, and .78, for affective,
continuance, and normative commitment, respectively.
Classiﬁcation Variable N%
Gender Female 636 66.2
Male 304 31.6
Education Below the diploma 223 23.2
3 years certiﬁcate/diploma 281 29.2
Bachelors of BSN 360 29.2
Master's degree/Ph.D. 759 7.9
Age(year) 25 or younger 251 26.1
26–30 319 33.2
31–45 226 23.5
Older than 45 142 14.8
Position held Senior manager 86 8.9
Middle manager 138 14.4
Frontline manager 253 26.3
Professional personnel 105 10.9
Technician 348 36.2
394 Q. Weng et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 77 (2010) 391–400
Data were also collected on respondent gender, age and education level. Age was operationalized using four categories: (under
26 years old, 26–30, 31–45 and over 45 years old). Education was grouped by less than a college education, some college, a
bachelor's degree, and graduate degree. Finally, the relationship between career growth and organizational commitment does not
take place within a vacuum. The idea of the boundaryless career (Arthur & Rousseau, 1996) means that individuals can pursue
career growth opportunities outside of their employing organizations, if they think they exist. Meta-analytic data support a
negative association between perceived alternate employment opportunities and organizational commitment (Griffeth, Hom, &
Gaertner, 2000). Consequently, in this study we also controlled for the existence of perceived opportunities. Perceived
opportunities was measured using a four-item scale adapted from scales reported by Griffeth and Hom (1988), Hui, Law and Chen
(1999), Steel and Griffeth (1989), and Wheeler, Gallagher, Brouer and Sablynski (2007) The items were: (1) “It would not be
difﬁcult for me to ﬁnd a new job after leaving this organization.”(2) “I feel there are many opportunities for development outside
my current organization.”(3) “With my skills and competence, it is very easy to ﬁnd another suitable job.”(4) “If I leave this
organization, there are many available new jobs for me to choose from.”The internal reliability estimate for this scale was .72.
Validity test of the career growth and organizational commitment scales
In order to establish the validity of operationalizing career growth as a four component model, conﬁrmatory factor analysis was
used to compare the ﬁtness of the one-dimensional model (all items share the same factor), two-dimensional model (career goal
progress and professional ability development share a factor, and promotion speed and remuneration growth share another
factor), three-dimensional model (promotion speed and remuneration growth share a factor) and four-dimensional model. The
results show that the ﬁtness of the four-dimensional model is the best (Chi-Squares/df= 1.505, GFI = .93, AGFI =.91,
RMSEA= .064, NNFI = .97, CFI = .98). Similarly, conﬁrmatory factor analysis was used to assess the validity of operationalizing
organizational commitment as a three component model. Following Chen and Francesco (2003) and Lee, Allen and Smith (2000),
the ﬁtness of the one-dimensional model (all items share the same factor), two-dimensional model (affective and normative
commitment share a factor), three-dimensional and four-dimensional model (continuous commitment being divided into two
factors) were assessed. Results showed that the three-dimensional model was the best ﬁt (Chi-Squares/df=2.16, GFI = .89,
AGFI= .85, RMSEA = .071, NNFI = .95, CFI=.96).
The means, standard deviations, and intercorrelation matrix for the study's variables are shown in Table 2. Affective
commitment is positively related to the four dimensions of career growth, with the correlation coefﬁcient of career goal progress
the highest (r= .61, pb.01), followed by promotion speed (r=.49, pb.01), remuneration growth (r= .47, pb.01) and professional
ability development (r=.43, pb.01). Continuance commitment is positively related to each of the four dimensions of career
growth with correlations ranging from r= .36 for promotion speed and remuneration growth to r= .09 (pb.05) for professional
ability development. Normative commitment is also positively related to all four dimensions of career growth with correlations
with the strongest association being with promotion speed (r= .44, pb.01), and the weakest with professional ability
development (r=.23, pb.01).
With respect to the control variables, gender is signiﬁcantly related to remuneration growth (r=−.10, pb.05) and normative
commitment (r=−.03, pb.05). The latter two associations likely reﬂect the pay disparity between men and women in China and
the fact that women may feel less obligated to their employers as a result. Age is positively correlated with affective commitment
(r=.10, pb.05), while education is positively correlated with career goal progress (r= .17, pb.01), professional ability
development (r=.18, p≤.01), affective commitment (r= .10, pb.05), and perceived opportunities (r= .17, pb.01). Perceived
Results of correlation analysis.
Mean SD 1 2 3 45678910
2 Age 29.11 7.54 −.05
3 Education level
2.32 .92 .06 .04
4. Perceived opportunities 3.19 .66 −.06 −.00 .17**
5 Career goal progress 3.30 .77 .00 −.02 .17** .14**
6 Professional ability development 3.67 .74 .04 .01 .18** .16** .45**
7.Promotion speed 2.88 .84 −.01 −.01 .00 .13** .34** .33**
8Remuneration growth 2.91 .88 −.10* −.02 .02 .14** .40** .27** .48**
9Affective commitment 3.41 .72 .01 .10* .10* .23** .61** .43** .49** .47**
10Continuance commitment 2.94 .75 −.08 .05 −0.04 .01 .28** .09* .36** .36** .41**
11Normative commitment 3.14 .73 −.03* .09 .03 .11** .39** .23** .44** .39** .45** .47**
Notes: *pb.05, **pb.01; a:1—Male, 2—Female; b: 1—no college, 2—some college, 3—bachelors, 4—masters and above.
395Q. Weng et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 77 (2010) 391–400
opportunities were signiﬁcantly correlated with education, with each of the four career growth factors and to affective and
normative organizational commitment, but not to continuance commitment. Given these associations, perceived opportunities
and the demographic variables were used as controls in the remaining analyses.
Regression analysis was used to investigate the inﬂuence of career growth on each of the separate forms of organizational
commitment. For each of the three forms of commitment, the control variables were entered in the ﬁrst step. The career growth
factors were subsequently entered into each model in steps two and three. Step 2 added the two aspects of career growth that deal
with personal development, career goal progress and professional ability development, while step 3 added the degree to which
organizations followed through with appropriate rewards, promotion speed and remuneration growth. Doing this allows us to
assess the role of organizational reward follow-up on organizational commitment over and above that achieved through personal
development activities. Finally, the two-way interactions among the four career growth factors were entered in step 4 to test the
exploratory hypothesis that combining career growth factors can enhance organizational commitment. Table 3 shows the
regression results using standardized beta coefﬁcients.
Results of regression analysis.
Equation 1 Equation 2 Equation 3
Affective commitment Continuance commitment Normative commitment
Independent variables Beta Beta Beta
Step 1 Gender .01 −.09 −.01
Age .09 .03 .08
Education level .09 −.07 .01
Perceived opportunities .22*** .03 .14**
F6.67*** 1.61 2.40*
) .06 (.05) .02 (.01) .02 (.01)
Step 2 Gender .02 −.08 −.00
Age .11** .04 .09*
Education level −.05 −.13* −.08
Perceived opportunities .11 −.01 .07
Goal progress .51*** .33** .40***
Ability development .17*** −.02 .04
F45.74*** 8.31*** 15.06***
ΔF116.19*** 21.40*** 39.44***
) .41 (.40) .11 (.10) .19 (.17)
Step 3 Gender .03 −.07 .01
Age .12** .04 .09*
Education level −.02 −.09 −.04
Perceived opportunities .07 −.06 .02
Goal progress .37*** .16** .22***
Ability development .16*** −.02 .03
Promotion speed .16** .15* .24***
Remuneration growth .14** .22*** .13*
F42.18*** 11.77*** 18.21***
ΔF19.02*** 19.78*** 22.72***
) .46 (.45) .19 (.18) .27 (.26)
Step 4 Gender .02 −.07 −.01
Age .11** .04 .09
Education level −.03 −.08 −.04
Perceived opportunities .06 −.09 .00
Goal progress .40*** .20** .25***
Ability development .16*** −.05 .04
Promotion speed .14** .23*** .15*
Remuneration growth .15** .17** .24***
GP×AD .02 −.12 −.11
GP×PS .17* .15 .22*
GP×RG −.05 −.07 −.08
AD×PS .10 .03 .25**
AD×RG −.11 .01 −.12
PS×RG −.06 .10 −.05
F25.12*** 7.75*** 12.21***
ΔF1.74 2.13* 3.35**
) .48 (.46) .22 (.19) .31 (.28)
Notes: *pb.05, **pb.01, ***pb.001.
396 Q. Weng et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 77 (2010) 391–400
Affective commitment as the dependent variable
Equation 1 shows the results of the regression analysis involving affective organizational commitment. Entering the control
variables in step 1 had a signiﬁcant effect on affective commitment (R
= .06; F=6.67, pb.001), primarily as a result of the effect of
perceived opportunity (β=.22, pb.001. Results of step 2 shows that entering career growth progress and professional ability
development adds signiﬁcantly to the model (R
=.41; ΔF= 116.19, pb.001). Career goal progress had the greatest effect (β=.51,
pb.001), followed by professional ability development (β= .17, pb.001). Adding the career growth dimensions that focus on the
organization's rewards also adds signiﬁcantly to the model as shown in step 3 (R
=.46; ΔF= 19.02, pb.001). Both promotion
speed (β=.16, pb.01), and remuneration growth (β= .14, pb.01) were positively associated with affective organizational
commitment. The four components of career growth explain 40% of the variance in affective commitment over that explained by
the control variables. These results support hypotheses H1a through H1d.
Step 4 shows that adding the two-way interactions among the four career growth factors did not add signiﬁcantly to the model
=.48; ΔF= 1.74, ns), as the only signiﬁcant interaction was “career goal progress by promotion speed”(β= .17, pb.05).
Consequently, no support exists for Hypothesis 4 in terms of the interaction effects for career growth factors on affective
Continuance commitment as the dependent variable
The same procedure outlined above was used to examine the effects of career growth and perceived opportunities on
continuance commitment. None of the control variables are signiﬁcant predictors of continuance commitment. The results of step
2 shows that the addition of career goal progress and professional ability development adds signiﬁcantly to the model (R
ΔF=21.40, pb.001). Career goal progress is positively associated with continuance commitment (β= .33, pb.001), while
education level was negatively related to continuance commitment (β=−.13, pb.01). The addition of the remaining career goal
factors, promotion speed and remuneration growth in step 3, also adds signiﬁcantly to the model (R
=.19; ΔF= 19.78, pb.001).
Remuneration growth had the largest association with continuance commitment in this step (β=.22, pb.001), followed by career
goal progress (β=.16, pb.01), and promotion speed (β= .15, pb.05). The effect of professional ability development is not a
signiﬁcant predictor of continuance commitment. Therefore, only H2a, H2c and H2d are supported.
The addition of the two-way interaction effects in step 4 produced no signiﬁcant effects on continuance commitment.
Therefore, no support exists for Hypothesis 4in terms of the interaction of career growth factors on continuance organizational
Normative commitment as the dependent variable
Entering the control variables in step 1 had a signiﬁcant effect on normative commitment (R
=.02; F= 2.40, pb.05), with
perceived opportunities being the lone signiﬁcant predictor (β= .14, pb.01). The addition of career goal progress and professional
ability development in step 2 added signiﬁcantly to the model (R
=.19; ΔF= 39.44, pb.001), due solely to the presence of career
goal progress (β=.40, pb.001). Entering promotion speed and remuneration growth in step 3 also adds signiﬁcantly to the model
=.27; ΔF= 22.72, pb.001). In this step, three of the four career growth factors are signiﬁcant predictors of normative
commitment, with promotion speed having the largest effect (β= .24, pb.001), followed by career goal progress (β=.22, pb.001)
and remuneration growth (β=.13, pb.05). These ﬁndings support hypotheses H3a, H3c and H3d but not H3b.
Entering the two-way interactions among the four career growth factors in step 4 adds signiﬁcantly to the prediction of
normative commitment (R
=.31; ΔF= 3.35, pb.01). The interactions of “career goal progress by promotion speed”(β= .22,
pb.05) and “professional ability development by promotion speed”(β= .25, pb.01) contributed to this effect. While this ﬁnding
suggests that the combination of career goal factors has some added effect on normative commitment, the fact that only two of the
six possible two-way interactions were signiﬁcant, coupled with the observation of only one signiﬁcant two-way interaction
ﬁnding on the other two forms of commitment, suggests that the four career growth factors affect the various forms of
organizational commitment in an additive not a multiplicative manner. Therefore little support exists for Hypothesis 4.
The effect of career growth on organizational commitment
The results of this study provide strong support for the use of the Meyer and Allen (1997) three component model of
commitment in China and for the effects of career growth on organizational commitment. Speciﬁcally, all four forms of career
growth, career goal progress, professional ability development, promotion speed and remuneration growth, positively inﬂuenced
affective organizational commitment. This is consistent with Meyer and Herscovitch (2001) ﬁnding that affective commitment is a
function of employees' perception of how their work is valued and their task identity. It also supports early work by Ogilvie (1986)
showing a high correlation between pay level and affective commitment and Rhoades, Eisenberger and Armeli (2001) who found
promotion practices and training and development to be determinants of affective commitment.
With the exception of professional ability development, the use of career growth factors as HR practices has implications for the
remaining two forms of commitment, as suggested by Meyer and Allen (1997). That is, the career growth factors of career goal
progress, promotion speed and remuneration growth were found to be related to both continuance and normative commitment,
in addition to affective commitment. This suggests that these three factors are effective means of building up side bets and norms
of reciprocity, making leaving the organization both more costly and morally problematic for employees. It also is consistent with
397Q. Weng et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 77 (2010) 391–400
Shouksmith's (1994) ﬁnding that promotional opportunities are an important predictor of continuance commitment. The fact that
professional ability development was related to affective commitment but not to continuance or normative commitment suggests
that the development of employees' professional abilities may help them identify with the goals and values of the organization,
thus building affective commitment. However, employees may see these abilities as transferrable and the organization's
willingness to develop them as a normal business activity, which explains the lack of a connection between professional ability
development and continuance and normative commitment, respectively.
A signiﬁcant ﬁnding in this study is the fact that organizations need to do more than simply develop their human resources
through providing jobs and experiences that allow employees to accomplish their career goals and develop their professional
abilities. While doing so will enhance affective commitment and to a lesser degree continuance and normative commitment,
organizations that are also able to follow-up and develop reward structures that reinforce these activities are able to leverage all
three forms of commitment.
The lack of a signiﬁcant number of interaction effects among the various factors of career growth suggests that career growth
progress, professional ability development, promotion speed, and remuneration growth have separate, additive effects on
organizational commitment rather than multiplicative effects. More practically speaking, each of these career growth factors plays
an important and unique role in enhancing organizational commitment.
Finally, it is also interesting to note that, while perceived opportunities were a signiﬁcant predictor of both affective and
normative commitment, its effect was negated by the presence of career growth factors. This suggests that, in China at least, what
an organization does for its employees in terms of career growth is independent of the marketplace.
Meyer and Allen (1997) suggested that HR practices could be used to manage commitment. While they identiﬁed promotion
and compensation as key factors in securing organizational commitment, they focused more on recruitment, socialization,
assessment, and beneﬁts practices as promising vehicles for building commitment among employees. Our study suggests that
career growth is a viable subset of practices that should be considered by managers seeking to build a committed workforce. It may
be particularly useful in that many commitment enhancing strategies have been directed toward newcomers rather than longer-
term employees. Career growth may be a very viable way for managers to maintain or perhaps re-establish organizational
commitment after difﬁcult periods in an organization's history (e.g., layoffs, restructuring).
Because career goal progress is linked to all three forms of commitment, managers would be advised to consider employee
career goals during the recruitment, selection and placement processes. Doing so would enable them to place a candidate into the
position that best ﬁts into his/her career goals. Conversely, should any employees not have clearly developed career goals, helping
them develop one could pay dividends later on. Moreover developing employee professional skills and abilities is vital not simply
to promote affective commitment but to meeting the needs of the employee and organization alike. This study also suggests that
employers, who back up their HR practices with a reward system that recognizes the worth and contribution of employees to the
organization, build additional commitment from their employees. Employees who are reinforced through promotions and pay
raises identify more with their employers' goals, ﬁnd it harder to leave their organizations and develop a moral bond with their
Limitations and future research
As is common in survey research, data are cross-sectional and self-report (i.e., subject to common method error variance).
Common method bias can work in either direction, however. That is, it can either attenuate or inﬂate correlations among variables,
so one should not automatically assume inﬂated relationships (Spector, 2006). In addition, Meyer and Allen's (1997) continuance
commitment scale has two items (“One of the few negative consequences of leaving this organization would be the scarcity of
available alternatives.”“I believe I have too few options to consider leaving this organization.”) that overlap with the concept of
perceived opportunities. This was mitigated somewhat in this study by positioning the six continuance commitment items
together and asking subjects to think about these items in terms of their cost of leaving the organization. Priming respondents to
think in terms of the cost of leaving rather than perceived alternatives resulted in the two measures being uncorrelated with one
another (r=.01). An additional limitation involves the nature of the sample. These data come solely from the large, developed
cities of China, so there is no guarantee that these results are generalizable to other regions within or outside of China. Finally,
there is no guaranty that the four factors utilized in this study to capture career growth are all-inclusive measures of this concept.
Future research should focus on the further articulation of this concept and its measurement.
With so little research on the relationship between career growth and organizational commitment, this area is ripe for future
research. Among potential topics is the notion of how career growth interacts with other determinants of organizational
commitment, such as person–job ﬁt, job design, leadership style, etc., and the role played by individual differences in the career
growth—organizational commitment relationship. Moreover, of interest is whether career growth predicts other outcomes
directly, such as organizational citizenship behaviors, turnover intentions, and performance.
This study demonstrates that the three component model of commitment is not a uniquely American phenomenon and
supports the work of Chay and Aryee (1999) and Aryee and Chen (2004) showing the importance of career growth in a
collectivistic culture. However, it begs the questions of what other factors, particularly those related to cultural differences,
moderate the relationship between career growth and organizational commitment. For example, in China commitment to family is
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a strong cultural value (Li, 2007). It would be interesting to examine whether familial ties enhance or interfere with building
organizational commitment through career growth.
In conclusion, management is often deﬁned as the utilization of organizational resources in order to accomplish organizational
goals efﬁciently and effectively. This study reinforces the idea that if individuals can achieve their own personal goals and are
reinforced by the organization for doing so, they will be more committed to accomplishing the goals of the organization to which
This work has been supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (Project No. 70121001; Project No. 70872034;
Project No. 70571061).
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