Academic journal article Management Revue

The Organisational Commitment of Workers in OECD Countries**

Academic journal article Management Revue

The Organisational Commitment of Workers in OECD Countries**

Article excerpt

The degree to which workers identify with their firms, and how hard they are willing to work for them, would seem to be key variables for the understanding of both firm productivity and individual labour-market outcomes. This paper uses repeated cross-section ISSP data from 1997 and 2005 to consider three of measures of worker commitment. There are enormous cross-country differences in these commitment measures, which are difficult to explain using individual- or job-related characteristics. These patterns do, however, correlate with some country-level variables. While unemployment and inflation are both associated with lower commitment to an extent, economic and civil liberties are positively correlated with worker effort and pride in the firm.

Key words: commitment, reciprocity, well-being (JEL: J21, J28, J3, J6, J81, L26)

1. Introduction

There is a literature without number dealing with the issues of employee performance and worker motivation. We here consider something that has perhaps attracted less empirical attention, at least in Economics: the commitment that workers express vis-àvis their employer. Workers' organisational commitment can be defined as the relative strength of an individual's identification with and involvement in a particular organization (Bishop et al., 2000), or as a mixture of a) a strong belief in and acceptance of the organization's goals and values, b) a willingness to exert considerable effort on behalf of the organization, and c) a strong desire to maintain membership in the organization (Mowdayetal., 1979).

While research on worker productivity has identified a number of important factors, it is undoubtedly true that the largest part of workers' effort, and thus their productivity at work, remains to be explained. Understanding the nature of the relationship between the worker and the firm would seem to be important in this context. In addition to any positive effect on firm outcomes (productivity, quits), a feeling of commitment at work is also likely to be important in the context of worker well-being. In addition to simply being satisfied at work, individuals may value the interest, recognition and competence involved in their job.1 Some of the results that we consider below will indeed show that worker commitment and job satisfaction are not synonyms.

In this context, instead of appealing to information on wages, incentive packages, hours of work, or other observable characteristics of the work "package" to describe the quality of the firm-worker relationship, we here consider novel information, currently available for a number of OECD countries at three different points in time, on the degree of identification that workers report with respect to their firms. The approach taken will thus be subjective: to measure commitment, I will use the answers given by individuals to questions asking them explicitly to evaluate the extent to which they identify with their firm.

Although there is nothing like a consensus in Economics about the usefulness of such subjective measures, it is fair to say that it is not otherwise immediately obvious how worker commitment could be measured. A defence of subjective measures has equally been mounted by showing that they are able to predict individuals' future behaviours. A flourishing literature in Psychology has examined the links between measures of job satisfaction or employee engagement, on the one hand, and firm performance on the other (where this latter includes profitability, productivity, turnover and absenteeism): see, for example, Patterson et al. (2004) and the meta-analyses in Harter et al. (2002 and 2006) and Judge et al. (2001). One criticism of subjective questions is that the answers to them are so coloured by individual idiosyncrasies as to render the answers incomparable in cross-section data. However, the fact that observable behaviours can be predicted from such cross-section distributions suggests that the latter do contain at least a certain amount of comparable information. …

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