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North Central Business Journal News

(February 2001 issue)

by Sandra Kay Neal, Ph.D.

 The labor market continues to be tight.  Employers need to retain good employees because finding new employees of equal ability is difficult.  To increase the likelihood of high retention, employers have tried to increase the commitment of their employees to their company. 

There are two types of organizational commitmentContinuance Commitment means that employees feel obligated to remain with their current employer because they need health care and/or retirement benefits. Affective Commitment means that employees have an emotional attachment to their current employer. 

 While both types of commitment increase the likelihood of employees remaining with their current employer, only Affective Commitment is connected to other aspects which employers value, such as high productivity, high attendance, and willingness to do extra things that benefit the company. 

 Continuance Commitment is achieved by providing high levels of health care benefits or invested pensions.  These now-standard perks help reduce turnover because employees cannot afford to leave their company.  But they do nothing to help achieve Affective Commitment.  In fact, many employees may stay with their company physically but not provide the quality of work which employers desire.  There are many employees who, although physically present, are engaged in poor quality performance or petty theft as means of acting out anger and irritation at their employer.  Increasing health care or retirement benefits will not improve performance nor reduce employee theft. 

 To achieve Affective Commitment, employers need to help their employees value participation in the company.  Employees need to feel pride in helping to achieve the company’s mission.  Improving Affective Commitment does not usually involve added expense to employers.  It requires a change in communication tactics.  Companies need to stress the broad goals for which the company is striving.  The connection between the tasks of employees and the goals of the company needs to be strengthened so that employees can see how important their work is to the total picture.  Managers and supervisors need to go out of their way to demonstrate respect for their employees.   Recognizing exceptional employees in a company newsletter, giving special rewards like close-in parking spaces, or clothing with the company logo, or having an Employee of the Month are useful tactics that increase the likelihood of developing Affective Commitment.  These tactics are most helpful if they are intentionally publicized in connection with the company’s mission.  The more the employees value being part of the company, the more likely they are both to stay with the company and to work hard for the company.  And then everyone benefits. 

Sandra Kay Neal holds a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and has 19 years experience helping organizations solve human resource issues.. Her company, Synergistic Organizational Solutions, specializes in aiding small businesses. Dr. Neal can be reached at sos_hr@localaccess.com.

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