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Keep your best employees: Job Embeddedness

What makes an employee stick? Voluntary turnover continues to be an important topic for management due to the direct and indirect costs associated with an employee leaving an organization. The answer to what keeps employees in your organization and what managers should (or should not) do to mitigate turnover has always been complicated. There is a forest of research on turnover aiming to synthesize relationships and causal models of turnover behavior. There are over 50 known and distinct antecedents like personalityengagement, and leadership. We’ve also done some research of our own: employees, across industries, report career change, benefits, and unclear career paths as the biggest motivators to leave. With the sheer volume of predictors and influences, it can be a challenge for organizations to determine where to focus.  

One predictor taking the spotlight is job embeddedness – encompassing a broad constellation of factors and influences on why an employee stays within their job. We’ve touched on job embeddedness in our blog on turnover contagion as being the connections people have with their job, co-workers, and community. These connections can be further broken down into links (the connections employees have to others and activities), fit (compatibility of values, characteristics, and needs of an organization with the employee), and sacrifice (what an employee perceives they would give up if they left the organization). In a way, an individual’s job embeddedness is like a net or web where the number of links (connections) and the strength of those links (what is “sacrificed” when a link is broken) determine how engrained an employee is within an organization.  

Job embeddedness is a better predictor of turnover than both job satisfaction and organizational commitment combined. It is also generalizable across a variety of industries – banking, healthcare, retail, hospitality – making it translate well to any organization. And if companies neglect it, it can spiral out of control and feed turnover contagion 

When employees feel their organization values the complexity of their lives and makes efforts to help them balance conflicting demands, employees are more productive and stay with those organizations longer. To help stem turnover, employers can promote and foster embeddedness to retain employees. Knowing that job embeddedness can happen both on-the-job and off-the-job (surrounding community) organizations have plenty of avenues for providing the foundation for these connections.  

On-the-job 

Career path and promotion opportunities – employees need to be able to not only visualize where they can go in a company but also how they can get there. 

Create shared experiences – offering opportunities for employees to network with their coworkers can reduce the likelihood of turnover by 140 percent 

Delayed and staggered vesting schedules for retirement – offering generous retirement benefits to those who have shown longevity increases loyalty. 

Off-the-job 

Help them find their favorite go-to places - free or reduced memberships to local organizations such as clubs, gyms, and theatres makes it easier for employees to embed themselves in the community. 

Assistance with purchasing homes – seems to be a tall order but helping employees take root near an employer can foster ties to the community through home ownership. Alternatively, some companies shift their focus to recruit primarily from the nearest neighborhoods. 

Professional development opportunities – strategically building and investing in skills may allow employees to develop compatibility and comfort with their organizations, thereby increasing fit. 

Research and anecdotal evidence support using a job embeddedness framework to develop a strong workplace culture that will help keep your people. However, the solutions and retention programs of other organizations don’t always work. Effectively executing this strategy to meet the differing demands of unique organizations often requires a tailored approach that fits their unique employee base. This starts with a deep look and developed understanding of organizational, as well as employees, needs and goals.  

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