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"DETERMINANTS OF EMPLOYEE TURNOVER INTENTIONS: A

REVIEW"
Shweta Jha1
ABSTRACT
Employee turnover has always been a matter of concern for organizations. A large
degree of employee turnover is highly detrimental to both the organization as well as the
employees. Turnover has an impact over the organizations costs relating to recruitment
and selection, personnel process and induction, training of new personnel and above all,
loss of knowledge gained by the employee while on job. Additionally, it results in
understaffing which in turn lead to decreased effectiveness and productivity of the
remaining staff. Turnover may have a negative impact on the employee as well. The
individual may loose non-vested benefits and may be a victim of the grass looks
greener phenomenon. Most often, turnover intention is consequential to actual quitting
behavior. Hence, it is imperative to understand the determinants of turnover intentions so
as to arrest the outflow of key personnel and retain competitive edge. This paper reviews
existing literature on employee turnover and turnover intentions in order to develop a
composite view on the subject and suggest a remedial plan of action to defuse employees
intentions to quit and augment their effectiveness.

Senior Lecturer, Apeejay School of Management, New Delhi

I.0

INTRODUCTION

Employee turnover may be understood as the employee leaving the organization or


profession voluntarily. It has been observed that voluntary turnover is an interdisciplinary
and multidimensional construct. The problem of voluntary turnover stretches beyond the
gamut of employee and organization. The concept of voluntary turnover can be
explicated only when it is accepted as a combination of social, economic, and
psychological processes (Udechukwu et al., 2007). Further, studies indicate that
voluntary turnover is an upshot of employee initiating the termination of their employeeorganization relationship (see Lambert, 2001, for example). Additionally, various models
on turnover behaviour indicate the multistage nature of the term and suggest that it
includes attitudinal, decisional, and behavioural components (Parasuraman, 1989; Price
and Muller, 1981; Weisman et al. 1980).

Academics have been interested in turnover intention of employees as precursor of


turnover behaviour for the last six decades. Early literature on turnover behaviour
indicated that the employees would initiate the process of termination of their relationship
with their employee/ organization/ profession only when there is perceived desirability to
do so and there is a perceived possibility of such ease of movement (March and Simon,
1958). This perceived desirability of termination of employee-employer relation is known
as turnover intention. Turnover intention may be defined as the individuals intention to
voluntary quit the organization or profession. Intentions are important to study as they
predict an individuals perception and judgement (Mobley et al., 1979). As such,
intentions are the most immediate determinant of actual behaviour (Ajzen and Fishbein,

1980). Researchers have testified that the turnover intention comprises of a sequence of
process viz., thinking of quitting, intentions to search, and intention to quit (Mobley
1982; Mobley et al. 1978). Thus, proactive measures may be adopted by the organization
to control the actual turnover, if it is aware of the turnover intentions of its employees.

Various studies, over the years, have been conducted and different models have been
proposed to explain turnover of employees. Different factors have been quoted in the
models to reason out the quitting behaviour of employees. However, every model
indicates one common factor turnover intention as the antecedent of actual turnover
behaviour. It is thus, imperative for the organizations to find out the reasons that trigger
turnover intention amongst its employees. An individual may have an intention to
immediately quit the organization or he may have intentions to quit the organization in
the near future. Similarly, an individual may have the intentions to quit the job, or quit
the organization, or quit his profession. Whatever be the intention, it is essential for the
organizations to understand the reasons for quitting behaviour of their employees so as to
curb their voluntary quitting behaviour.

Mobley et al. (1979) observed that the intention to quit is influenced by a battery of
factors namely organizational factors, individual employee characteristics, job-related
and labour-market expectations, and individual values. The intention to quit then
ultimately influences the actual quitting behaviour. The present paper intends to study the
various factors influencing turnover intentions amongst employees by classifying them
into two broad categories viz. individual factors and organizational factors. Factors

moderating the relationship between individual/organizational factors and turnover


intentions have also been examined at length.

II.0

INDIVIDUAL FACTORS

Individual factors leading to turnover intentions refer to the personal characteristics of an


employee. These characteristics could be those which are ingrained in the individual,
such as personality, or those which are learnt, such as skill, ability etc. Studies indicate
that various cognitive and non-cognitive factors do influence, directly or indirectly, an
employees intention and then finally the decision to actually quit the organization.

Stagner (1948) defines personality as the organization within the individual of those
perceptual, cognitive, emotional and motivational systems which determine his or her
unique responses to the environment. Friedman & Rosenmans (1959) theory of Type A
& Type B personality motivated researchers to unearth the relationship between
personality and turnover intentions among individuals. However, no significant
relationship between personality and turnover intentions could be established (Dole et al.,
2001).

However, further researches on personality traits showed a considerable relationship


between dispositional traits and turnover intentions (Chiu et al., 2003). Here,
dispositional traits may be understood as the orientation through which an individual
evaluates and responds to a situation using a uniform and a constant way of thinking,
feeling and behaving. Judge et al. (1977) have confirmed that dispositional traits of
positive and negative affectivity can be considered as personality traits. The study

provided evidence indicating that positive affectivity is negatively associated with


turnover intention whereas negative affectivity is neither positively nor negatively
associated with turnover intentions.

Different studies bear out that personality influences the perception of an individual.
Perception in turn may be defined as the process of obtaining, choosing, sorting,
interpreting, checking and reacting to sensory stimuli or data (Pareek, 2008). Academics
have tried to investigate the relationship between perception and employees intentions to
quit the organization. Perceived organizational support (POS) is found to be a definite
antecedent of employee turnover (Eisenberger et al. 1986). A further research on this
issue confirmed that individuals scoring high on POS have a low tendency to look out for
new jobs or accept jobs in other organizations (Eisenberger et al. 1990). Even though
POS is found to be negatively associated with employee turnover intentions, the
relationship established is minimal and further research on this issue needs to be done
(Allen et al. 2003; Griffet et al. 2000; Rhoades et al. 2001Wayne et al. 1997).

Organizational justice an upshot of individuals perception also plays an important role


in quitting intention of an employee. Organizational justice refers to the overall
perception of what is fair in the workplace and is composed of distributive justice,
procedural justice, and interactional justice. Researchers have tried to investigate the
relationship between organizational justice and turnover intentions of employees. A few
studies reveal that individuals tend to discontinue their relationship with their employer/
organization if they perceive that there is low distributive justice i.e. they feel that the
employer/ organization is practicing inequity (Hendrix et al., 1998; Hom et al., 1984). In

fact, distributive justice was observed to have a significant effect on the employees
quitting intentions (Fields et al. 2000). Additionally, procedural justice was found to be
negatively related to actual turnover (Cohen et al. 2001; Dailey et al. 1992). However, a
few studies indicated contrary to be true, that is, there existed negative relationship
between turnover intention and both procedural and distributional justice (Loi et al.
2006). Another study disclosed that the perception of organizational justice had an
influence on work outcomes. A low degree of turnover intention was observed on
employees who showed positive feelings towards procedural and distributive justice
(Elanain Abu, 2010).

Going beyond the cognitive factors, researchers tried to find out the relationship between
non-cognitive factors like ability, gender, number of years of experience, etc on the one
hand and turnover intentions amongst employees on the other. Ability refers to the
capacity of an individual to perform tasks on a job. The overall ability of an individual is
essentially composed of two sets of factors: intellectual ability and physical ability.
Jackofsky & Peters (1983) hypothesized that ability has an indirect and multifaceted
effect on the desirability of movement. Further, the model hypothesized that as people
with high ability are dissatisfied working on routine tasks, they have a high desirability to
move to an alternative job. However, a further study on Jackofsky & Peters (1983)
model showed that ability has only a marginal effect on an individuals perceived
desirability of movement from his current organization (Rosse, 1987).

Scholars have also attempted to explore a connection between ethnicity, gender,


personality, and hierarchical position on the one hand and turnover intentions on the

other. The obtained results however negated any such connection (Dole et al. 2001;
Mynaatt et al. 1997).

III.0

ORGANIZATIONAL FACTORS

Gone are the days when people worked in the organizations to satisfy their financial
needs. People need more than pay giving, credence to the dictum man does not live by
bread alone. Herzberg (1966) in his two-factor theory of motivation, mentioned an array
of factors like achievement, recognition, work itself, responsibility, possibility of
advancement, salary, possibility of growth, job security, interpersonal relationship,
technical supervision, agreement with company policy, administration, work condition,
and personal life, that impacts job satisfaction, which in turn influences an employees
intentions to stay or quit his organization. Obviously, organizational factors play a crucial
role so far as employees turnover intentions are concerned.

Job stress is a major organizational factor that augments quitting intentions of employees.
Job-stressors, such as role ambiguity, role-conflict, work-over-load, and work-family
conflict, create stress among employees. Wunder et al. (2001), in his research found jobstressors to have a direct and negative effect on the managers job satisfaction, which,
resulted in reduced organizational commitment that led to intentions of quitting and
finally the actual quitting from organization. Further, Firth et al. (2004) found that the
intentions to quit were highly influenced by job dissatisfaction, lack of commitment to
the organization, and feeling of stress. These factors were influenced by job-stressors.
However, Igbaria et al. (1992) observed that stressors do not have a direct influence on
intentions to quit. They indirectly influence turnover intentions through experience of job

stress, lack of social support, job dissatisfaction, and lack of commitment to the
organization. This result was reinforced by several other scholars (Armstrong-Stasen et
al. (1994); Koeske & Koeske, 1993; Tinker & Moore, 2001).

Maslow (1954) in his need hierarchy theory of motivation introduced the concept of
social needs. An employee in his organization looks towards his superiors, subordinates,
and peer group to satisfy his social need or for social support. Studies have found social
support to play an important role in mitigating intentions to quit. Moore (2002) observed
that social support from supervisors reduced their burnout levels, and this effect,
indirectly diminished their turnover intentions. A further study on nurses proved that
supervisory support not only reduced the two components of burnout, namely
depersonalization and emotional exhaustion, but also directly or indirectly, reduced their
turnover intentions (Kalliath & Beck 2001). The relationship between supervisory
support and turnover intention was also testified by a few researchers (Hatton et al., 1998;
Munn et al., 1996). Additionally, a research on retail salesmen also consolidated the
relationship between support from managers and turnover intention (Firth et al. 2004).
However, a few studies have also observed that social support had no moderating effect
in the relationship between-job stressors and intention to quit (Rahim et al. 1996).

Even the gender of supervisor was found to have a significant impact on employees
intentions to quit. In a large-scale survey of 12,000 young working Americans, it was
observed that employees, who had a female manager perceived relatively reduced job
responsibility and had higher job search intentions as compared to those employees who
had a male manager (Valentine et al. 2001). There is a greater need to look at the issue of

turnover intentions vis--vis gender in Europe, Australia and Asia as well where we do
not have enough literature available.

Social comparison is another organizational factor that might fuel turnover intentions as
well. Festinger (1954) in his self-comparison theory expounded the motive of an
individual to compare his abilities with those of others. Major et al. (1984) defined social
comparison as a group to which an individual refers to while comparing issues
concerning his career. Employees tend to compare himself with people above him and
below him in the hierarchy in order to evaluate his own performance (Major et al. 1991;
Sheppard et al. 1992). A study on association between social comparison and turnover
intentions revealed a negative relationship between downward comparison and turnover
intentions. Additionally, downward comparison was found to be positively related to
career satisfaction. Conversely, upward comparisons were observed to be positively
associated with both turnover intentions and career satisfaction (Eddleston, 2009).

McGee (1971) observed that the job changing decision of individuals was largely
influenced by intrinsic factors namely nature of work opportunities for professional
growth that could be obtained through compatible work activities and colleagues.
Additionally, a study done on Norwegian university staff revealed that the factors which
influenced an individuals decision to change job were collegial relations (relations
between colleagues), nature of work, and opportunities for professional development. Out
of the three factors, collegial relations had a major influence on the quitting decision of
staff. Further it was also established that the staff who found his work relatively less

intrinsically satisfying had a high intention to leave the organization. Job satisfaction also
had a major role to play in predicting intention to leave (Manger et al., 1990).

Pay satisfaction, turnover intentions and actual turnover are also connected to some
extent although such associations have been vehemently opposed as well. Motowidlo
(1983) observed that pay has an influence over turnover only through its effect on pay
satisfaction, which in turn, impacts turnover only through its effects on turnover
intentions. Additionally pay satisfaction was observed to affect turnover intention both
directly as well as indirectly (Lum et al. 1998). Although Herzbergs two-factor theory on
motivation mentioned salary as hygiene factor, the absence of which would produce
dissatisfaction, not may studies portray significant relationship between pay and turnover
intention. Finkelstein (1984) observed that quitting decision was not influenced by
extrinsic factor like income.

Newman (1974) in his study on nurses, found an

insignificant relationship between pay satisfaction and turnover intentions. Various other
studies on nurses reflected that factors like satisfaction with work, coworkers, and
supervision had a significant effect over commitment, which in turn influenced turnover
intentions, whereas pay satisfaction had no role to play in influencing organizational
commitment (Bateman & Strasser 1984).

Organizational culture is an important factor having tremendous bearing on employees


turnover intentions. Denison (1996) defines organizational culture as the embedded
structure of organizations, which is rooted in the values, beliefs, and assumptions held by
organizational members. Organisational culture has five dimensions viz., job challenge,
communication, trust, innovation, and social cohesion (Zeitz et al. 1997). Indeed,

employees withdrawal behaviour and turnover intentions, to some extent, are the
consequential to organizational culture. Organizations having a culture of providing
challenging job reduce employees burnout and thus diminishes their turnover intentions
from job, organization, and occupation. Additionally, organizations providing a culture of
innovation also has a decreased number of employees who intend to quit the organization
(Carmeli 2005).

IV.0

MEDIATING FACTORS

Different studies on turnover intentions show that in most of the cases individual and
organizational factors affect variables like commitment, job satisfaction, personal agency,
self-esteem etc, which in turn influences the turnover intentions. These factors may be
considered as mediating factors.

Mobley (1977 first proposed a model explaining the relationship between job satisfaction
and thoughts of quitting which, ultimately led to actual turnover. Later Price & Muller
(1981) observed that job dissatisfaction influenced actual turnover indirectly through its
direct effect on turnover intention. The variables that affect job satisfaction are pay,
promotion opportunities, immediate supervisor, fringe benefits, contingent rewards, rules
and procedures, relation with co-workers, type of work done, and communication within
the organization (Spector 1997). In his research Weisman et al. (1980), observed factors
like understaffing and inflexible work schedules as reasons behind job dissatisfaction.

Williams and Hazer (1986) differentiated between job satisfaction and commitment by
explaining the former as an emotional reaction to specific aspects of job and the latter as

an emotional reaction to the whole organization. Both the individual factors as well as the
organizational factors influence organizational commitment which eventually influences
turnover intentions amongst employees.

Personal agency is found to mediate the relationship between job-stressors and turnover
intention. Personal agency may be understood as a personal factor that includes concepts
such as powerlessness, locus of control and personal control. An employee having a
higher sense of personal agency has lesser risk of negative outcomes succeeding a major
negative life events and role related stress (Turner and Roszell 1994). Locus of control
mediates the relationship between job-stressors and turnover intentions (Rahim et al.
1996). Locus of control is also found to be positively related to job satisfaction (Sujan,
1986).

Further, self esteem is also found to be a mediating factor between job-stressors and
turnover intention. Self esteem may be understood as the assessment that an individual
makes and maintains about himself. Individuals scoring low on self esteem are prone to a
variety of psychological problems, unemployment, and subsequent maladaptive
behaviour (Kaplan 1975, 1980; Silverstone 1991; Waters and Moore 2002). Subsequent
studies on self esteem reveals that it is correlated with job satisfaction (Greenhaus and
Badin, 1974; Inkson, 1978; Kohli 1985; Teas 1981, 1982)

V.0

CONCLUSION

Employees are asset to an organization who can actually make all the difference so far
firms competitive edge is concerned. Employee turnover to some extent is desirable and

accepted as it brings about a constructive change in the organization. However, too many
employees intending to leave the organization is undesirable. Voluntary quitting of start
performers is dysfunctional turnover which the firms always want to stop. Intentions
reveal a lot about an individuals perception, judgment, and behaviour. Studies show that
turnover intentions precede the actual turnover behaviour of employees. If the
organisations want to reduce turnover, then it is imperative for them to understand the
factors which trigger turnover intentions or quitting intentions in employees.

In this review paper, individual, organizational and mediating factors contributing to


employee turnover intentions have been analyzed. Whereas no single factor can be
attributed to turnover intentions, it is advisable to take a holistic approach towards
handling employee turnover issue in any organization. None of the factors can influence
turnover intentions in isolation. Hence remedial measure should also have a composite
framework.

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