Understanding Is Worker Turnover Decisions: Is It Job Satisfaction or Job Fit with Quality of Life Goals?

Article excerpt


Over 12,000 academic and practitioner studies have been performed relating job satisfaction with voluntary turnover. However, researchers have been frustrated in explaining more than 20 percent of the variance in turnover. This paper presents the notion that traditional measures of job satisfaction may not fully capture the reason for staying or quitting. A new construct is presented that examines the congruence of fit between the job and the person's quality of life goals. By utilizing a PLS structural equation model on a sample of 135 Information Systems workers, this construct is empirically shown to be a better predictor of various measures of turnover decision (i.e., thoughts of quitting, expectation of quitting, and intention to quit) with an average explained variance of 0.50.


The prominent paradigm in the field of voluntary turnover research is that job satisfaction is related to the decision to leave an organization. The purpose of this study is to evaluate whether or not job satisfaction is a broad enough measure of a person's overall feelings about their job or whether a new construct that measures the congruence of fit between the job and the person's goals for quality of life would be a better predictor of turnover.

Understanding the turnover decision is a relevant topic regardless of where an organization is in its business cycle. Even in times like the present when the number of Information Systems job seekers exceeds the number of open positions in the U.S., practitioners are still concerned with attracting the right people and avoiding dysfunctional turnover. Dysfunctional turnover results when the organization loses the personnel that it can least afford to lose such as those with specific skills and/or abilities (Hollenbeck & Williams, 1986). Additionally, a recent ComputerWorld job satisfaction survey of Information Systems workers (ComputerWorld 12/8/2003), determined that 42 percent of IS employees were dissatisfied with their companies. Such a large amount of dissatisfaction potentially results in increased turnover when the job market improves.


Most studies of voluntary employee turnover trace the genesis of the field to the work of March and Simon in 1958. March and Simon introduced the notion of voluntary turnover resulting from an employee's perception of ease of movement and desirability of movement. During the last four decades, job satisfaction and employee turnover have become one of the most studied topics in both academic and practitioner research with over 12,400 studies by 1991 (Hom, Griffeth & Sellaro, 1984; Hom, Caranikas-Walker, Prussia & Griffeth, 1992; Spector, 1996; Brief, 1998; Lee, Mitchell, Holtom, McDaniel, & Hill, 1999).

A significant step forward was taken when Mobley (1977) introduced the notion that turnover was actually a process. "The actual event of quitting is merely the final act following some series of mechanisms that leads to an intent and decision to resign. Thus, the sequence and duration of these mechanisms become of particular interest for the study of turnover." (Dickter, Roznowski, & Harrison, 1996). Mobley started the turnover process with job dissatisfaction being the catalyst. This catalyst then initiated thoughts about quitting and job searching, ultimately leading to an intention to quit and actually quitting. Until Mobley's work, turnover theory and research had not advanced much beyond the general framework of March and Simon (Muchinsky & Tuttle, 1979). Extensive research has followed, refining and expanding Mobley's model, but has still only resulted in explaining less than 20 percent of the variance in turnover (Healy, Lehman, & McDaniel, 1995; Mobley, Griffeth, Hand, & Meglino, 1979). Observed correlations between job dissatisfaction and turnover seldom exceed 0.40 (Hom, Griffeth, & Sellaro, 1984). In fact, in a meta-analysis of 47 studies, Carsten and Spector (1987) revealed a corrected correlation between job satisfaction and turnover of -0. …


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