Effective HR Strategies for Enhancing the Organizational Commitment of HIV-Positive Employees

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this paper is to provide insight into the effective management and retention of employees who are HIV-positive. A focus group of employees who were HIV-positive was assembled and asked what HR policies would enhance their organizational commitment. A mail survey was then conducted asking HIV-positive employees to rank and rate the impact of each of the 18 policies resulting from the focus group on their organizational commitment.

Respondents felt that all 18 policies, if implemented by their respective employers, would enhance their organizational commitment. The policies felt to be the most influential relative to the others were ensuring confidentiality and non-discriminatory treatment; both of which can be implemented at little or no cost to the organization.

This paper is one of a handful to address the issue of enhancing the organizational commitment of a specific group of employees; it is also the first, to our knowledge, to specifically address the HIV-positive employee population. It offers something for both academic and practitioner audiences alike.

INTRODUCTION

Since the discovery of the HIV virus and AIDS in the early 1980's, the issue of employing those who are HIV-positive in the hospitality industry and other high-customer- contact service industries has been a controversial one. On the one hand, co-workers and customers have a fear (unwarranted) of becoming infected through casual contact with HIV-positive employees. On the other hand, HIV-positive employees already play a significant role in service organizations, a role which these organizations can no longer afford to ignore. While recognizing that not all HIV-positive individuals are gay or lesbian, a recent Nation's Restaurant News article discussing the employment of gays and lesbians says "hospitality companies must realize that the same gays and lesbians who patronize their businesses also make up an extremely valuable segment of their workforce. Those companies must assure that their workers are treated equitably and given paths to promotion that help reflect the growing diversity of their markets. It's not just profitable; it's good employment practice" (Allen et. al.; p. 20). For those organizations seeking to more effectively manage diversity, increasing the organizational commitment of all employees should be the goal.

ORGANIZATIONAL COMMITMENT

Organizational commitment refers to the psychological state of identifying with and involving oneself with their organization (Angle & Perry, 1981; O'Reilly & Chatman, 1986; Steers, 1977). Research has shown that organizational commitment is positively related to employee retention; simply stated, employees committed to an organization are less likely to leave. Such commitment benefits both employees and organizations. Employees achieve greater job stability; the organizations achieve experienced, motivated workers, higher levels of service quality, and reduced employee turnover costs (Cohen, 2000; Hartline & DeWitt, 2004; Rhoades & Eisenberger, 2002).

While there exists a vast body of literature on alternative sources of labor, and substantial literature on enhancing the organizational commitment of employees in general (see Riketta, 2005), there is relatively little published information on enhancing the commitment of specific employee groups (e.g., women, teens, ethnic minorities, gays) or of alternative labor sources (e.g., seniors, legal immigrants, and the disabled, including HIV-positive employees). There are several reasons why HIV-positive employees in particular have been neglected in this regard:

* HIV-positive employees are not readily identifiable. Many do not divulge their condition for fear that other employees will react negatively or that they will be terminated by their employer. Thus, it is difficult for researchers to learn much about the employment/management of HIV positive employees. …