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2014, Vol. 28, No. 1.
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Southeastern Louisiana University
How likely is it that any employee at any given
time will elect to say “take this job and shove it?”
This is the principal question when it comes to the
study of voluntary turnover in organizations, which
is a perennial problem across industries and in
both good and bad times. This is especially true in
the service sector, where high turnover rates in ar-
eas such as retail and fast food of 100-200%—or
more—have a signifi cant impact on the ability of
the organization to both deliver quality services to
their customer (Babakus, 2011; Slåtten, et al., 2011)
and profi ts to their investors (Gaur et al., 2005).
Consequently, it may come as a surprise to those
outside of the human resources fi eld that while
more satisfi ed employees tend to be less likely to
voluntarily leave their jobs, no one has empirically
examined whether the power of such satisfaction as
a predictor of turnover truly changes over time.
Likewise, many of us have found ourselves staying
in unsatisfying jobs and in organizations that we
may not necessarily feel an affi nity for. Neverthe-
less, we remain anyway due to factors that some-
how “embed” us in our job—such as having skills
that will not transfer out of the organization, having
relationships with our colleagues and supervisors,
and having “ties that bind” us to the job and the
organization. This fi nal category can include fac-
tors including, but certainly not limited to, fi nan-
cial benefi ts (like health insurance or pension plan
vesting), personal benefi ts (like vacation time), and
symbolic benefi ts (like a plush offi ce or a premium
parking space). Taken together, “job embedded-
ness” has also been shown to be a strong predictor
of voluntary turnover, and yet, no research con-
ducted to date has explored how this relationship
might change over time.
And so, a recent groundbreaking study looking at
how both job satisfaction and job embeddedness
might change over the course of time is particularly
welcome. Conducted by Brooks Holtom (George-
town University), Simon Tidd (University of Texas
at Austin) as well as Terence Mitchel and Thomas
Lee (University of Washington), the study sought to
examine the temporal aspects of the relationship
between job satisfaction, job embeddedness, and
voluntary turnover. Specifi cally, Holtom and his
colleagues sought to determine whether the likeli-
hood that an employee would leave a job on his or
her own would actually decrease over time, making
these stronger “ties that bind” one to his or her job
as the years pass.
To conduct their research, Holtom and his col-
leagues used a longitudinal design. They surveyed
240 employees of a retail bank in central United States
annually for three years to assess both the employees’
job satisfaction and their job embeddedness. While it
would have been ideal to track employee attitudes
from their start with the bank and then annually
thereafter to more accurately measure the temporal
impact of their feelings toward their job and their con-
nection with the organization on their individual de-
cision to stay or go, it was far more practical to survey
all employees. This provided for a larger sample in
the process and allowed Holtom and his colleagues to
use a control variable to take into account the length
of time an employee had been on the job prior to the
three-year survey period.
To further put the focus on the relationship be-
tween job satisfaction and embeddedness as causal
forces in voluntary turnover, Holtom and his col-
leagues also controlled for outside factors that
would cause an employee to stay with a job that he
or she would otherwise choose to leave. Specifi -
cally, these controls included off-the-job embed-
dedness (personal factors that would make an
employee be more “wedded” to his or her current
position) and the local unemployment rate, which,
when higher, would discourage employees from
leaving their present position for another one. Even
though just over half (121) of the bank’s 240 em-
ployees left the organization during the three-year
survey period, the bank did not have an unusually
high rate of either voluntary (43%) or involuntary
(read, termination) turnover (7%).
Academy of Management Perspectives February
The study found that more satisfi ed employees
and more “embedded” workers were less likely to
leave, with this relationship strengthening over
time. Put simply, there was, as expected, an inverse
relationship between both job satisfaction and job
embeddedness and voluntary turnover. Quite sig-
nifi cantly however, by measuring these effects over
the three-year study period, Holtom and his col-
leagues found that the strength of this correlation
increased the longer an employee remained with
the organization.
Holtom and his colleagues did acknowledge that
the design of their study had four signifi cant limita-
tions. First, while the cooperation of the bank and
its supervisors (who actually administered the sur-
vey) was key in providing the data for the study, the
survey focused on a single company and a single
type of service, which limits the generalizability of
the fi ndings. Second, while Holtom and his col-
leagues focused on two leading factors infl uencing
employee decisions to leave a position, these are
not the only forces that come into play in voluntary
turnover. Indeed, Holtom and his colleagues called
for further research that takes into account the in-
uence of other factors such as an employees’ or-
ganizational commitment, the degree to which the
job actually met his or her expectations, and out-
side shocks that might increase the likelihood that
employees would decide to leave their jobs of their
own accord. Third, Holtom and his colleagues ac-
knowledged that their fi ndings could be skewed by
the fact that in this real organization, some employ-
ees made choices to quit their jobs before and dur-
ing the three-year survey period. This may have
resulted in a survey cohort with higher levels of job
satisfaction and job embeddedness than employees
in the bank overall.
Indeed, some disaffected bank employees left the
company voluntarily before taking the fi rst of the
annual surveys, while others took the fi rst and/or
second surveys before quitting of their own volition
before the three-year timeframe of the study was
completed. Holtom and his colleagues concluded
that these departing employees likely had higher
levels of dissatisfaction and lower levels of embed-
dedness than those who were employed for the en-
tire three-year period. As a result, the range of the
key predictive variables in the study could have
been restricted in the survey sample. Nevertheless,
Holtom and his colleagues expressed confi dence
that while this argument is intuitively sound, no
such range limitation was found in their actual
survey results. Finally, the fact that the study was
only three years in length was a potential limitation
as well. While Holtom and his colleagues found
strong correlations between higher employee job
satisfaction and job embeddedness and lower vol-
untary turnover, there was no way of knowing
whether the strength of these linkages would either
continue to build, or conversely, wane, over longer
periods of time.
This study provides new insights on just what
precipitates voluntary employee turnover. It showed
that the relationship between voluntary turnover
and how satisfi ed and/or how embedded employ-
ees are in their position is basically nonlinear. In
essence, the relationships between these key em-
ployee attitudes and their decision to stay or leave
the fi rm are dynamic and changing. At least for the
three-year time span covered by the study, stronger
emotional ties to the organization served to signifi -
cantly lessen the likelihood that employees would
While companies cannot—and would not want
to—eliminate all turnover, reducing voluntary leav-
ing will not only save money and managerial time,
but enable the organization to offer better service to
its customers. Consequently, Holtom and his col-
leagues urged companies to examine systematic
ways they can go about helping new employees get
through the fi rst year while doing more to ensure
that both they and longer-standing workers feel
more connected to their jobs, their co-workers, and
the fi rm. Companies that do so will likely see lower
voluntary turnover both in the initial and subse-
quent years of employment. That said, it remains
unclear whether these ties that bind will increase
or wane over longer periods than the three-year
time frame of the study. However, it is fair to say
that the research conducted by Holtom and his col-
leagues is noteworthy in highlighting that employ-
ees’ concepts of why, when, and how they might
leave their positions are dynamic and changing. So
companies should take steps to proactively retain
their human capital and enable empowered em-
ployees to choose to stay with the fi rm. Doing this
should reduce the risk that employees will tell their
bosses, as the song so bluntly puts it, “to take this
job and shove it!”
Babakus, E., Yavas, U., & Ashill, N. J. (2011). Service
worker burnout and turnover intentions: Roles of
person-job fi t, servant leadership, and customer ori-
entation. Services Marketing Quarterly, 32(1), 17–31.
2014 Wyld
Gaur, V., Fisher, M. L., & Raman, A. (2005). An economet-
ric analysis of inventory turnover performance in
retail services. Management Science, 51(2), 181–194.
Holtom, B., Tidd, S., Mitchell, T., & Lee, T. (2013). A demon-
stration of the importance of temporal considerations in
the prediction of newcomer turnover. Human Relations,
66(10), 1337–1352. doi:10.1177/0018726713477459.
Slåtten, T., Svensson, G., & Sværi, S. (2011). Service qual-
ity and turnover intentions as perceived by employ-
ees. Personnel Review, 40(2), 205–221. doi:10.1108/
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
Purpose – The objective of this paper is to test a selection of hypothesized relationships between: employees' perceived service quality; employees' turnover intentions; role clarity; and empowerment and coaching. Design/methodology/approach – Drawing from theory, this paper develops a set of hypothesized relationships. The data collection is based on a survey with a sample of 1,076 frontline employees in service organizations. Findings – There are indications that employees' perceived service quality has a direct negative effect on employees' turnover intentions. The effect of empowerment, coaching, and role clarity on turnover intention appears to be mediated through employees' perceived service quality. Research limitations/implications – This study is limited to a selection of variables related to employees' turnover intentions. Future research may focus on testing other variables that may be related to employees' turnover intentions. Practical implications – This study stresses the importance for managers in service organizations to measure employees' perceived service quality. The results show that there are both direct and indirect relationships to employees' turnover intentions. The conclusion is that employees' perceived service quality is an important consideration with respect to employee-turnover management. Originality/value – This study has developed and tested a set of hypothesized relationships in the field of service management.
Full-text available
Inventory turnover varies widely across retailers and over time. This variation undermines the usefulness of inventory turnover in performance analysis, benchmarking, and working capital management. We develop an empirical model using financial data for 311 publicly listed retail firms for the years 1987--2000 to investigate the correlation of inventory turnover with gross margin, capital intensity, and sales surprise (the ratio of actual sales to expected sales for the year). The model explains 66.7% of the within-firm variation and 97.2% of the total variation (across and within firms) in inventory turnover. It yields an alternative metric of inventory productivity, adjusted inventory turnover, which empirically adjusts inventory turnover for changes in gross margin, capital intensity, and sales surprise, and can be applied in performance analysis and managerial decision making. We also compute time trends in inventory turnover and adjusted inventory turnover, and find that both have declined in retailing during the 1987--2000 period.
Full-text available
This study examines the effects of customer orientation and servant leadership on frontline employees' burnout and, subsequently, on their turnover intentions. Also investigated in the study is the intervening role of person-job fit in the process. Data collected from 530 frontline bank employees in New Zealand serve as the study setting. Results show that both customer orientation and servant leadership significantly reduce burnout and ultimately turnover intentions. Results also show that person-job fit mediates the influences of customer orientation and servant leadership on burnout and turnover intentions. Implications of the results are discussed and future research avenues are offered. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR] Copyright of Services Marketing Quarterly is the property of Taylor & Francis Ltd and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. This abstract may be abridged. No warranty is given about the accuracy of the copy. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract. (Copyright applies to all Abstracts.)
We theorize about and examine empirically the increase in predictive strength of antecedents of voluntary turnover over the first three years of employment using survival analysis with time-varying covariates and period effects. On the basis of employee survey data gathered from 240 newcomers working in a retail bank and organizational turnover records collected over multiple years, we find that job embeddedness and job satisfaction increase in their ability to predict voluntary turnover as tenure increases. The results of this study emphasize the importance of integrating time into theories to better understand the dynamics of the turnover process. Specifically, additional theorizing about when different effects may be manifest and how long they will persist is critical. Equally important is the development and application of research methods that are suited to dynamic modeling, such as those introduced here.