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Traditional job satisfaction is not sufficient to explain the behaviour of employees

Companies spend vast sums of money on selecting, training and developing their employees, only to see their most talented employees move to other companies, often competitors. Why do satisfied employees leave for other companies, and why do dissatisfied employees stay? Do we need to look beyond traditional job satisfaction to explain the behaviour of employees?
At Research Surveys (through our partnership with the Taylor Nelson Sofres Group), we have some of the answers.

The Global Employee Commitment Survey provides a database of norms for employee commitment
Taylor Nelson Sofres – TNS – one of the world's largest marketing information groups with a network of more than 200 offices in Europe, the America's, the Middle East and Asia Pacific, commissioned a global study in order to gather information on employee commitment worldwide, and provide a global database of commitment norms.

Commitment is the psychological attachment people have towards something, be it their religion, an organisation or a brand. In this case, TNS measured employee commitment both to the organisation that they work for, and to the actual work that they do.

Categorising employees helps managers understand employees' behaviour so that organisational strategies can be developed.
In the matrix below, commitment to company and to type of work are depicted on the two axes to form the Employee Commitment Matrix, comprising four employee types. Employees' behaviour is summarised and a broad strategy per category is provided.

Less than half of employees are Ambassadors for their companies.
Key findings in the global research indicate the following:
  • 57% of full-time employees are committed to their work
  • 51% of employees are committed to the company they work for
  • 43% of employees are Ambassadors, the greatest assets, as they are committed to both the work they're doing and the company they work for. This is in contrast to the 35% of employees who are uncommitted to both.
  • 14% of employees are Career-oriented, while 8% are Company oriented.

Men are more committed than women
In terms of business sectors, those with the highest total commitment either to their work, the company, or both are:
  • Educational services
  • Health and social services
  • Information services
In addition the following trends were observed. Commitment tends to:
  • Increase with age
  • Increase with seniority
  • Increase the longer the employee stays with the company
  • Be higher in national and multinational companies
  • Be slightly higher amongst men

Australia scores highly with both Career oriented and Company oriented employees
  • Israel, the Netherlands and New Zealand have the highest overall commitment.
  • Bulgaria, Japan and Korea have the lowest overall commitment
  • In terms of the matrix above:

    • Israel, Norway and Mexico have the highest proportion of Ambassadors worldwide
    • Bulgaria, Poland, Japan and Korea have the highest proportion of Uncommitted worldwide.
    • France, the Netherlands, Germany, the United States and Australia have the highest proportion of Career oriented employees. These employees are probably quite productive, but their careers take precedence. Companies risk losing these employees to "better offers".
    • Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Germany and Vietnam have the highest proportion of Company oriented employees. These employees are likely to praise the companies they work for but are less enthusiastic about the work they do. They may be more productive in other areas that are more suited to them.

South African trends across major metropolitan areas
  • South Africa has significantly more Uncommitted employees (39%) than the global average (35%)
  • In addition, we have significantly less Career oriented employees than the global average, 7% as opposed to 14%.
  • In terms of Ambassadors, South Africa is above the global average by 5% (48% as opposed to 43%), but does not match up to the leading countries, the highest score coming from Israel at 59%
  • Company oriented individuals for South Africa account for 6%, in line with the average of 8%.
  • English speakers are more likely to be Ambassadors, while Afrikaans speakers are more likely to be Career Oriented.
  • Being Uncommitted is a function of earning power – lower income earners such as labourers are more likely to be Uncommitted.
  • Not surprisingly, young adults are more likely to be Career Oriented – they are often still looking for their niche career-wise, and have not developed a strong bond with any company.

So, what does all of this mean?
  • Uncommitted employees can damage customer relationships and ultimately affect the bottom line.
  • Employees who are satisfied with their current positions may still be attracted to other companies or jobs, and may leave.
  • Companies need to measure Commitment of employees in order to be able to understand and predict their behaviour.
  • Investing in Employee Commitment goes a long way towards retaining a company's greatest assets – its people.
This project was co-ordinated by the Customer Equity Company in South Africa (CEC) - a joint venture between TNS and Research Surveys (South Africa), and home of the Conversion Model, the world's leading measure of commitment.

A total of 19 840 full-time employees were surveyed worldwide via personal, telephone and web-based interviewing. Offices in 33 countries participated in the survey which covered 21 business sectors. Data was weighted so that each country can compare itself with the average.

For more information, please contact either Kim O'Hagan or Neil Higgs at Research Surveys on (011) 712-9700.

Editorial contact
Research Surveys
Kim O'Hagan
(011) 712 - 9722

6 May 2003 06:42


A. Baig
A possible explanation from someone with experience-
Employees don't all start out being uncommitted to the job and the company. Many start out extremely committed to both. The problem lies with the leaders of some of the companies. My experience has been that no matter how dedicated an employee is, the people they report to are not always concerned about the happiness of the employee at work. People still concern themselves with petty issues that may lead to perceptions being created, rather than focus on the realities of the employees dedication, work ethics, commitment, skill, knowledge and application thereof. Employers need to break out of the traditional moulds of the working environment. This is the computer era. Flexibility in the work place needs to be implemented. A person does not necessarily have to be at their desks to be doing work. Trust your staff. Prove to them that they are treated as adults and that the work environment is not the same as school. Don't stifle your employees with petty nonsense. Value your employees and you will get the best out of them. Recognise that the employee who performs outstanding work, but who wants to work according to his / her own rules (which in any objective view need to be reasonable ones), is to be valued. Keep that employee happy. Reach agreement on the rules that employee may work under. You will get the best out of that sort of employee. By stifling that employee, you are destroying his / her spirit. That is when you lose a good employee who used to be committed to the job and the company. Such behaviour from employers destroys the commitment of employees.
Posted on 9 May 2003 10:30

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