Organizational Commitment: 7 Ways HR Can Contribute

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Organizational commitment helps organizations perform better and achieve their goals because their employees feel connected to the organization, are more productive and dedicated to their work. What exactly is organizational commitment, and how can you foster it at your organization?

Contents
What is organizational commitment?
Types of organizational commitment
Why is organizational commitment important?
What influences organizational commitment?
What can HR do to increase organizational commitment?

What is organizational commitment?

Organizational commitment refers to the connection or bond employees have with their employer (the organization). This is based on industrial-organizational psychology (I/O psychology) and describes the individual’s psychological attachment to the organization.

The level of organizational commitment can help predict employee engagement and satisfaction, performance, and distribution of leadership.

When an employee feels a strong sense of organizational commitment, they buy into the heart and future vision of the company (both professionally and personally), they understand the goals of the organization, they feel as though they fit in and are well respected and compensated for the work they do. 

This is likely to lead to an increase in productivity, engagement, commitment, and morale and will increase an employee’s chances of staying with that organization for a longer period. Given the ever-increasing competitive nature of organizations, this is key to companies retaining their best talent. 

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Committed employees display more positive behavior, more determination and motivation, and are less likely to call in sick. We discuss the importance of organizational commitment in more detail below.

What is the difference between organizational commitment and employee engagement?

The term “employee engagement” is often confused with employee commitment. But there is one crucial difference:

An engaged employee will not automatically be a committed employee. Similarly, a committed employee will not always be an engaged one.

Engagement refers to how happy an employee is in their job, while commitment refers to how much effort an employee puts into their job. 

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So, which one is more important?

They both are. The best thing any organization can do is strive for a delicate balance between both engagement and commitment. 

How commitment affects organizational development

Organizational development is a science-based process that centers on developing and improving various strategies, structures, and operations within an organization, which increases its capacity to change and be more effective.

Organizational development usually aims to increase profits or profit margins, customer satisfaction, cultural values, adaptability or agility, and market share. The central goal here is to improve an organization’s effectiveness and its ability to compete in its industry. To be more effective, a company must have committed and engaged employees.  

Types of organizational commitment

In 1991, Meyer and Allen proposed the first model of commitment consisting of three components – the Three Component Model (TCM) – each of which corresponds to a different psychological state. 

The three stages are:

  1. Affection for your organization (affective commitment).
  2. Fear of loss (continuance commitment).
  3. Sense of obligation to stay (normative commitment).

Affective commitment

Affective commitment is the “desire” component of organizational commitment.

In this state, an employee demonstrates a high level of active commitment to the organization. They’re happy, engaged, participate in meetings and discussions, and offer valuable input and suggestions. They do all of this because they want to and strive to be an integral part of the organization. 

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The chances of an employee at this stage remaining with the organization for a considerable time are high.

Continuance commitment

Continuance commitment is when an employee weighs up the pros of cons of staying versus leaving the organization. There’s a fear of loss at play, and their initial affection has transformed into need.  

They want to remain in the organization because they believe leaving would be costly, and they’ve already invested significant time and energy in it. They feel attached (both mentally and emotionally) to the organization. 

The employee weighs costs such as pension accruals and friendships with co-workers against the benefits of leaving. They also consider the availability of another position elsewhere and the disruption leaving would cause on a personal level.

Normative commitment

At this stage, the employee feels a sense of obligation to stay with the organization.

Regardless of whether they’re unhappy or desire to pursue new opportunities, they believe they have a duty to stay because it’s the “right” thing to do. There could be several different reasons for this. 

They think about the time and resources that have been invested in them by the organization, or family ties with the company are creating extra pressure, or the organization regularly rewards continued commitment. Another factor might be they feel they’ve been treated well by the company and fear the grass may not be greener on the other side. 

Normative commitment is the final stage of organizational commitment.

Types of Organizational Commitment

Critique to the three-component model

A collection of studies have concluded that while the TCM can predict turnover, it mixes an attitude toward a target (the organization) with an attitude toward a behavior (leaving or staying). Researchers believe the study should return to the original understanding of organizational commitment, which is an attitude toward the organization. 

Alice Eagly and Shelly Chaiken later put forward the Attitude-behavior Model (1993), which is a much more general model. However, Meyer and Allen’s three-component model is still regarded as the leading model for organizational commitment today. 

A five-component commitment model

More recently, a five-component model of commitment has been proposed. The two additional stages are habitual commitment and forced commitment. 

Habitual commitment refers to the routines and processes employees become used to, which causes them to develop a latent commitment to the organization, i.e., “I’m here, but I don’t have a meaningful reason to be here.

Forced commitment is where an employee believes they have no option but to remain in their organization, perhaps because they are dependent on the income or think they have no chance of finding an alternative opportunity elsewhere. I.e., “I don’t want to be here, but I have to be here.”

Why is organizational commitment important?

Organizational commitment, especially affective commitment, has multiple benefits for both employees and their organizations. 

Employee productivity

When an employee is committed to their organization, they believe in the company’s shared goals, vision, and mission, which in turn leads to them being more motivated and therefore more productive. They make a greater effort to be autonomous, set more ambitious goals, and get more done.

Organizational commitment boosts productivity. What’s more, committed employees have a knock-on effect on the colleagues’ and team members’ productivity. They want everyone to be putting their all in to achieve shared goals. 

Improved organizational performance

When an employee is heavily invested in an organization, they are increasingly likely to be cooperative, immerse themselves in collaboration and working within teams. Once again, this boosts the team’s morale and productivity,

Employee advocacy

A committed employee is more likely to advocate for their organization because they believe in the larger vision. They have adopted the organization’s goals and values on both a professional and personal level. This means they actively support the organization’s products, services, and policies.  

Lower absenteeism

When an employee is committed, they are much less likely to call in sick than their co-workers. This is because they are more likely to enjoy coming to work, completing tasks, achieving goals, and being a valued team member.

Decreased turnover

When an employee reaches the stage where they identify with the organization’s goals and values, they are far less likely to consider leaving their job, even when they experience inevitable periods of job dissatisfaction. 

What influences organizational commitment?

Several factors can influence organizational commitment within an employee. 

Job satisfaction

Job satisfaction refers to how much an employee enjoys their work. When employees like their job, they are more likely to develop a stronger connection to their organization. 

A study conducted by Dirani and Kuchinke (2011) indicated a strong correlation between job commitment and job satisfaction and found that satisfaction is a reliable indication of commitment. 

In fact, one of the top reasons employees leave their job is job dissatisfaction, which means ensuring employees are happy and enjoying their work should be a top priority in all organizations. 

Managerial support

A study by Hulpia et al. (2009) examined the correlation between the distribution of leadership and leadership support among teachers, with job satisfaction and commitment. The results demonstrated that a higher amount of leadership support and cohesion led to an increase in organizational commitment.

Employees that are well supported are more likely to feel happy at work, and therefore more motivated and productive.  

The study also showed that when leaders distribute leadership responsibilities out to other workers, this increases job satisfaction and commitment instead of all the leadership resting on one person. 

Role stress and role ambiguity

When an employee receives conflicting requests from managers (role conflict comes into play) or experiences a lack of information to complete a task (role ambiguity), this is likely to cause role stress. Stress can lead to a decrease in performance, productivity and satisfaction, and an increase in the probability of the employee leaving the organization. 

Role stress and ambiguity almost always have a negative impact on job satisfaction and organizational commitment.

Empowerment

Empowerment in the workplace refers to motivating and energizing employees towards achieving goals, enhancing self-efficacy by reducing powerlessness, and increasing motivation and commitment. 

There are two main concepts of empowerment:

Structural empowerment: the ability to get things done and to mobilize resources.

Psychological empowerment: psychological perceptions/attitudes of employees about their work and their organizational roles. 

A study by Ahmad et al. (2010) found a positive correlation between empowerment and job satisfaction and commitment. 

Job insecurity and employability

A study by De Cuyper research (2009) found that workers on fixed-term contracts, or anyone seen as a “temporary” worker, reported higher levels of job insecurity compared to permanent workers. 

Job insecurity negatively correlates with job satisfaction and affective organizational commitment. When an employee believes their job is secure for the long-term, they are more likely to become invested in their role and the organization.

What Influences Organizational Commitment

What can HR do to increase organizational commitment?

It’s clear that higher job satisfaction leads to improved organizational commitment. 

So, what can HR do to increase satisfaction and commitment among employees?

1. Foster transparency and clear communication

For an employee to align with an organization’s goals and vision, it must be made clear what these are. This includes how employees fit into this picture, how they can contribute, and also their role today and in the future. 

Letting employees participate in the company’s growth helps make them feel more invested and a part of the overall mission. This means being transparent with profits (and losses) and strategies. When an organization does this, it helps build trust, employees feel valued, and their performance is more likely to increase.

Additionally, when goals and objectives are clear, employees can make better decisions on a day-to-day basis and cooperate more effectively within their team. 

Ways to achieve this include holding monthly profit meetings, sending out a newsletter to employees with essential updates, and ensuring top management are all on the same page. That way, your organization can communicate goals clearly across the board. 

2. Employ job design strategies to improve job satisfaction

Job design refers to creating a job that simultaneously enables the organization to meet its goals and motivates and rewards the employee. A well-designed job will lead to improved job satisfaction, lower absence and turnover rates, and increased organizational commitment. 

Job design strategies include: 

  • Job rotation: creating more variety and allowing employees to experience other roles within the organization. 
  • Job simplification: simplifying complex tasks and streamlining processes.
  • Job enlargement: widening the scope of responsibilities and opportunities for development and progression.
  • Job enrichment: investing in training and team bonding.
  • Job crafting: individuals proactively making small changes to their job.

When you and your employees use some of these strategies, the work is likely to feel more exciting and meaningful, and the employee will feel more responsible and better equipped to do their job.

3. Promote an inclusive environment at work

It’s in our nature as human beings to crave a sense of belonging and want to feel respected and heard by others. The larger an organization is, the more likely there will be certain majority and minority groups, where minorities are unintentionally made to feel excluded and like outsiders.

According to a McKinsey survey, 39% of the respondents decided against a job because they perceived the organization to lack an inclusive environment. 

Without a sense of belonging, employees are less likely to be engaged and happy in their role and committed to the organization. In contrast, when employees feel included, respected, and heard, they are much more likely to thrive at work and be committed. 

Here are some ways to promote an inclusive environment at work

  • Conduct an employee survey and act on the findings  
  • Review recruiting and compensation practices
  • Reassess employee policies
  • Make inclusion part of the onboarding process
  • Evaluate how daily practices affect everyone

4. Demonstrate your commitment to employee wellbeing

It’s clear when an organization is (or is not) genuinely committed to the wellbeing of its employees. This should go beyond working conditions and safety.

Think about how you can improve employee wellbeing.

A great place to start would be to conduct a survey to collect feedback directly from employees on how they believe wellness could be improved at work. You can also help gradually implement recurring themes where possible.

Perhaps you could create a break-out space for your employees or set up a cafeteria with subsidized healthy food and drinks. Maybe you could connect with local businesses and arrange discounts for specific services and products (e.g., a gym membership). You could also implement a rule where if an employee is regularly staying late to complete their work, a member of management checks in to discuss why they’re continually working overtime and how to help reduce their workload or streamline processes if needed. 

When you demonstrate a genuine commitment to your employees’ wellbeing, they will feel taken care of, and their job satisfaction is likely to rise. 

5. Measure organizational commitment

Organizational commitment is measured through organizational commitment questionnaires (OCQ) initially developed by Porter et al. (1974) and codified by Mowday et al. (1979). 

Today, the most widely accepted tool to measure organizational commitment is a 24 item questionnaire by Alan and Meyer (1990). This includes eight items in each of the three stages: the affective commitment scale, continuance commitment scale, and normative commitment scale. Participants are asked to rate how they feel on a scale. 

Statements included:

  • This organization has a great deal of personal meaning for me.
  • Right now, staying with my job at this organization is a matter of necessity as much as desire.
  • This organization deserves my loyalty.

OCQs are an effective way to determine how happy and committed employees are to their job and organization. You can use the results to create specific strategies to target problem areas within the organization and improve overall job satisfaction. 

6. Strive for pay equity and fairness

In a Payscale survey, a quarter of respondents indicated that higher pay was the primary reason they sought employment outside their current organization.

When your employees believe they receive fair compensation for the work they do, they are likely to feel happier, and overall team morale will likely be higher. On the other hand, if your employees feel they are being (or feeling) underpaid and exploited, this can lead to a lack of motivation, increased absenteeism, and a toxic work environment.

Think about how you can effectively communicate about pay equity and fairness with your employees.

Estimate the current fairness of pay within the company. Survey employees to see how they feel about it. Based on your findings, work on improving your pay practices and communicate what you’re doing transparently. 

7. Focus on employee development

Job design strategies are one way to increase development within your employees. Still, there are many other ways to do this that will lead to increased competency, and therefore satisfaction and commitment at work. 

Ensure that you provide internal promotion opportunities and sufficient training and development to help employees reach the next stage of their career.

Offer continual opportunities for skill training so that employees can feel more competent and confident in their role at work and increase their productivity.

Provide regular constructive feedback to highlight to employees where the opportunities are for improvement and celebrate their achievements. Create opportunities for them to set and achieve their personal goals in a desired time frame, and ensure they are adequately challenged and rewarded.  

For example, career pathing tools can help you plan, implement, and keep track of all of the above and more. Focusing on your employees’ development will certainly lead to a more empowered workforce, higher team morale, and increased organizational commitment.  

Committed employees offer plenty of benefits to any organization.

The benefits of committed employees are far-reaching. This is why every organization must ensure employees are happy in their role by having a solid people strategy in place and fostering commitment.

Committed employees are likely to be more productive, perform better, remain in an organization longer, and therefore help an organization thrive and maintain its competitive edge within an industry. 

If you don’t have a plan to increase organizational commitment, now is the time to create one. 

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