Training and turnover: the mediating role of commitment.

Author:Ismail, Hussein Nabil
Position:Contributed Article - Report


Studies exploring the linkages between training and turnover have produced inconsistent results. That inconsistency suggests a path for further study into the variables that might be confounding this relationship. The main purpose of this research was to test the mediating effect of organisational commitment in the relationship between training and turnover intentions. A sample of 124 participants took part in this study. Training was initially found to have a significant inverse relationship with turnover intentions. However, when organisational commitment was entered into the model as a mediating variable, the effect of training on employee turnover intentions became insignificant, suggesting full mediation. The impact of training on turnover intentions is not straightforward, but works first through the effect of training on attitudes, that is on commitment. The results demonstrate the importance of increasing the commitment of employees to the organisation through training, which can help companies to reduce turnover intentions.

  1. Introduction

    The constant change in the global market and in technological advancement makes training a key strategy for organisations that wish to stay competitive (Pineda 2010). Indeed, institutions are tending to invest more in training a greater number of their employees (Welsh et al. 2003) to help them to acquire new essential skills (Dooney and Esen 2009). Several industrial reports have suggested an increase in training. According to the Bersin-Deloitte 2014 Corporate Learning Factbook, investment in training for employees increased by 15 percent to more than $70 billion in the United States, which was considered to be the highest in seven years. Moreover, on a global scale corporate training increased to more than $130 billion in 2013, according to the same report. The Association for Talent Development 2015 State of the Industry Report also confirmed an increase in training. Organisations spent an average of $1,229 per employee on training and development in 2014--an increase of 1.7 percent from the previous year. Further, the number of hours that employees spent on training and development rose to 32.4 hours from 31.5.

    Training improves employee attitudes and behaviour (Tannenbaum et al. 1991; Bhattiand Kaur 2009), which in turn improves an organisation's performance and profits. Training investment is only transformed into profits, though, when the trained employee actually stays in the organisation, and is not lost to a competitor (Mello 2015). Otherwise, the investment of one organisation simply becomes the profit of another. Indeed, managing the risk of turnover intentions after costly training programs represents one of the biggest challenges that organisations face (Leonard 2001; Cappelli 2008). For employers, turnover intentions in this case represent the loss of direct investment in training and development programs, in addition to the indirect costs pertaining to searching for and retraining new employees (Flint, Haley, and McNally 2013; Dalessio, Silverman and Schuck 1986).

    The question whether training will increase or decrease turnover intentions has been a subject of debate. One school believes that training encourages employees to stay in their current job, while the other school argues that training motivates workers to look for another job (Hequet 1993).Theformerschool suggeststhattraining will improve the satisfaction and attitudes of employees and hence reduce turnover intentions, while the other argues that employees may view training as an opportunity to lookforanotherjob, asthey become more attractive to head hunters. In fact, empirical studies have shown mixed results (Sieben 2007); some indicate that training reduces employee turnover (Newman Thanacoody and Hui 2011; Ferris and Urban 1984), while others report a positive relationship between training and turnover (Veum 1997; Lynch 1991; 1993), or no relationship between the two variables (Levine 1993; Arvin 1993; Green et al. 2000). Evidence is still inconclusive (Haines, Jalette, and Larose 2010); more research is required to understand the relationship between training and turnover more accurately. Hence, due to the lack of clear evidence, and in line with our theoretical justifications offered in this article, we maintain that training is negatively related to staff turnover, as supported by many researchers in the field.

    The training--turnover relationship is 'tangled in a convoluted web of variables' (Hequet 1993, p. 82). Many intervening variables which seem to influence this relationship (Landeta, Barrutia and Hoyos 2009) remain neglected as subjects of study (Cheng and Waldenberger 2013). Organisational commitment has been depicted as playing an important role in understanding the effects of organisational practices on employee outcomes (Gillespie and Dietz 2009; Agarwala 2003). Organisational commitment has been linked to many important employee behaviours, including employee turnover (Elangovan 2001). Despite its presumed importance as an attitudinal variable, studies investigating the mediating role of organisational commitment in the relationship between training and employee turnover remain scarce (Juhdi, Pa'wan and Hansaram 2013; Guchait and Cho 2010). One exception is Cheng and Waldenberger (2013). However, our research overcsmes two limitations, namely, country and (or) context and measurement methods. Cheng and Waldenberger (2013) focused on companies based in China, which may limit their generalisation to other contexts. We take this analysis to a non-Chinese context in response to their calls for research in different countries. In addition, they assess training 'expectations' of respondents, which reflect a psychological measure; we measure employee training across various common training areas using well-established training scales.

    Further, most of the studies in this field have so far focused on Western organisations (Cheng and Waldenberger 2013) with few, if any, research studies conducted in the Middle East, or in Lebanon in particular. In fact, employee turnover is becoming a serious concern for organisations in Lebanon (Hejase et al. 2016) and the Middle East in general (Suliman and Obaidli 2011). A number of factors may be responsible for the high turnover rates in Lebanon, including poor career management by local employers for employee advancement within their organisations (Hejase et al. 2012), and, according to official reports, due to many employees seeking better pay in other countries in the region, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. For companies based in Lebanon, especially large and multinational companies that are currently reported to be investing in training programs, the turnover problem is not good news. There is a lack of official documentation of actual training investments across firms in the country, apart from a few company reports and small-scale studies. For example, using data from HR professionals from 30 medium to large organisations in Lebanon, Hejase et al. (2016) reported that the vast majority (93 per cent of companies surveyed) claimed that they provide adequate training to their employees. Against this background, it is important to understand the relationship between training and turnover intentions, and the factors that may influence this relationship. The results may suggest important implications in administering the training process to manage employee turnover more effectively. To the author's knowledge, no studies have explored the relationships between training and turnover intentions and the mediation role of organisational commitment in Lebanon or the Middle East. The objectives of this study are, first, to explore the direct effects of training on turnover intentions and organisational commitment, and second, and more importantly, to establish whether organisational commitment mediates the relationship between training and turnover intentions.

  2. Literature Review

    Relationship between Training and Turnover

    Training has been defined as the 'systematic acquisition and development of the knowledge, skills and attitudes required by employees to adequately perform a task or job or to improve in the job environment' (Tharenou, Saks and Moore 2007, p. 252). From an organisational perspective, it is a planned effort aimed at assisting the learning process for specific skills and knowledge, leading to the employees' success in their job (Goldstein and Ford 2002). Most experts have agreed that the purpose behind training is basically to enhance employees' capabilities, attitudes, and behaviour towards the organisation itself--such as lowered turnover (Davis and Davis 1998). However, earlier theoretical models such as human capital theory (Becker 1964) distinguished between two types of training--general and firm-specific training. Becker argued that the latter provides a higher return on investment to employers, given that firm-specific training does not increase workers' employability at other firms, while general training is riskier as it may increase employees' intentions to leave their existing employers. In reality, however, making the distinction between general-skills training and firm-specific training is quite difficult (Becker 1964; Loewenstein and Spletzer 1999; Haines, Jalette and La rose 2010). Moreover, training programs provided by employers often include a mix of general and specific elements (Leping 2009). Therefore, as in other studies (for example Haines, Jalette and La rose 2010), we focused on employer-provided training per se without separating firm-specific and general-skills training.

    Turnover is when an employee, for some reason, leaves their organisation or changes to another (Peterson 2009). It is additionally defined as the rate at which workers leave the company (Hernandez, Ramirez Escamilla and Wobeser 2013). A high turnover rate has a negative impact on the organisation because it is...

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