Help manage employee turnover within organisational environments



Motivation is defined in the literature as 'forces acting on or within a person, these engage the individual to behave in a specific and goal-directed manner' (Wright, 1989). Similarly, other literature reinforces the assumption 'workforce motivation' as being affected by a number of several factors, mostly inherent to each individual's definition of motivation. The aim of this bibliography is to build upon the arguments and theoretical factors identified in the literature that aid in configuring an organisations retention practices, specifically in terms of the links to strategic human resource management (HRM) perspectives.

For the most part, theories on employee began to attract attention in the late 1960's, and much of it focused on Maslow's 'need hierarchy theory', where it stated 'people had five needs, the primary goal was to satisfy (1) lower needs, (2) physiological and (3) security before an individual is able to satisfying their much higher order needs of (1) affiliation, (2) esteem and (3)self-actualisation' (Latham & Ernst, 2006).

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Herein, the case almost entirely prepared with human resource practitioners in mind, whereby they may be able to utilise some of the literature findings to help manage employee turnover within their organisational environments, both with a short-term and long-term view. The literature provides a further summary to human resource (HR) practitioners on a responsive and preventive point of view.

In principle, the theories identified are grounded almost entirely at the satisfaction of 'higher' needs or 'self- fulfilment needs'. However, some theorists have found it more useful to concentrate on the physiological aspects, since people are motivated by a large variety of needs, and these may accordingly vary in order of importance and time: for practitioners, understanding these basic underlying human needs 'is the first step towards influencing workplace behavioural paradigms' Wright (1989).

Article #1


Latham, G. P., & Ernst, C.T. (2006). Keys to motivating tomorrow's workforce. Human Resource Management Review, Vol. 16, Issue 2, (181-198) 


Article seeks to peer inside the door to what might or should be the motivational sources of tomorrow's workforce.


Theoretical critique.


Up and until the 1960's, psychologists knew the importance of:

'Accounting to a person's needs', ie. Maslow's need hierarchy theory, Hackman and Oldham's job characteristics theory,

'Workplace environment's may facilitate self-motivation', ie. Herzberg's job enrichment theory, Hackman and Oldham's job characteristics theory, and

Organisations may influence 'employee behaviours by administering environmental reinforcers and punishers' ie. (Skinner's contingency theory).

At the time, attitude surveys made comparisons and generalisations about employee behaviours in the workplace.

Thus, the article provides a compelling argument to the various theories and applications of workplace employee motivation, resulting in a highly motivated workforce.


Three key areas emerge within the literature:

Experiments identified a generalisation of goal setting amongst researchers ie. Latham & Lee, 1986; Latham, Mitchell, & Dossett, 1978),

Bandura (1977, 1997a) presented the 'social learning theory', which was later re-named the 'social cognitive theory' (Bandura,1986),

Greenberg's (1986) provided an answer to the question: 'what should be done with equity theory', aptly naming it the 'principles of organisational justice'.

Relevance: these principles provided an empirical basis that revolutionised research and theory at the time, one that would render research applications and frameworks 'timeless'. This helped ensure future researcher relevant in ensuring workplace motivation was as relevant now and into the future.


A 5-stage motivational framework was adapted, in addition to the preceding six motivational principles.

Latham & Ernst (2006) suggested four-new principles, these would comprise the initial pioneering work on the discovery of motivational principles likely to be relevant well into the future, these principles are:

By 'changing the outcomes people expect, researchers would be able to change behaviour', and

A 'person/group efficacy may be modelled by one or more combinations of three methods' ,

Influencers may utilise 'feelings/perceptions of procedural justice among the workforce to ensure specific behavioural outcomes',

'feelings/perceptions of interactive justice' may help ensure specific behavioural outcomes are achieved.

These four-new principles had their foundations upon Bandura's social cognitive theory and Greenberg's organizational justice theory).

The literature thus states 'at the close of the 20th century, organisational decision makers had a wealth of knowledge for ensuring a motivated workforce' (Latham & Ernst, 2006).


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In the 21st century, leadership themes are no longer be viewed as set of unique characteristics bestowed upon a single individual, rather these are based on the dynamic processes through which subordinate people relate to one other, both within an organisational and social environment.

The theories discussed in the literature provide a scholarly themed application of the trends placed on motivating, recognising, and rewarding behaviours among groups, teams and the individuals within these.


Identifies 'workplaces as increasingly being made-up of social identity groups',

Highlights the advent of 'technology (virtualisation) as increasingly linking people together',

Theoretically 'provides an appraisal framework of personal well-being',

Adopts 'theoretical frameworks' in terms of emotional, social, and physical factors,

Informs 'leadership is consistent to a collective of activities',


(1) 'leaders' have an influence over group/organisational members (2) 'leaders' are able to enforce commitment and (3) alignment of group/organisational membership goals.


Very theoretical and somewhat difficult to both understand and implement for HR practitioners without some level of thorough understanding of the theoretical implications,

Effects of personality traits aren't necessarily well understood, due to the fact that people tend to choose tasks and work environments/situations that are congruent with their traits.

Article #2


Cadwaller, S., Jarvis, C.B, Bitner, M.J. & Ostrom, A.L. (2010). Frontline employee motivation to participate in service innovation implementation. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 38 (219-239)


Contributes to motivation research in marketing by adapting and extending a hierarchical conceptualisation from psychology.


Research article.


The study coincided with a pilot test of a new customer self-service technology innovation.

Written survey's where conducted across 16 participating dealerships, questionnaires were administered to 328 sales and service employees with an assigned 'customer-contact' responsibility.

It assumed a convenience sample of employees: based on those who were working the day. Most items were collected on seven-point Likert.


The service innovation was an online (computer) system designed to enable the dealerships' customers to schedule their own auto service appointments, view maintenance schedules and pricing, and check for any manufacturer recalls.

These were all functions that previously required either telephone or personal interaction with a service department employee.

In previous exploratory interviews, service managers, customer sales and service employees indicated that customer adoption of the technology innovation proved to be significantly dependent on the involvement - or lack of involvement - of employees in the implementation process.


Four motivation variables - (1) global motivation, (2) contextual motivation regarding technology, (3) contextual motivation regarding work, and (4) situational motivation regarding participation in implementation - were measured scales representing self-determined motivation indices.

The research study helped dispel the suggestion 'global motivation (in the motivation hierarchy) has a significant influence on employee motivations' toward work and technology.

In practice, the findings suggest 'if managers want to control employee motivation and behaviours' their most successful approach would be to 'select and hire for it'.

This conclusion suggests this is particularly relevant in service industries such as retail, hospitality etc. since it is the 'people who are the product' and are often the immediate 'representation or face of an organisation'.


The study contributes some theoretical applications for practice in relation to marketing strategy implementation: this is viewed as an important topic often receiving little attention in marketing-related literature.

The study reinforces the underlying forces of motivation among 'frontline employees', the 'motivations and incentives' required towards empowering these employees to champion new service initiatives: as 'brand champions'.

The article has helped to further understand 'frontline employees', in terms of the complex motivations required and those that relate to an organisations marketing strategy implementation.

Specifically, the article articulates 'customer-focused service strategies' and its place in the academic literature, and to those staff whose tasks would be

charged with implementing organisational changes in real time for customers.


Study 'conducted with real employees involved in an actual service innovation implementation',

The 'theory was applied across a real-life marketing strategy implementation; this serves to value-add the interconnected levels of motivation and provides a better understanding of individual employee behaviours in a work context,

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Introduces into the 'marketing literature a richer conceptualisation of motivation: across the (1) global, (2) contextual and (3)situational level,

Little research on 'motivation theory research in service innovation' had occurred to this point. This research opens up future research opportunities on theoretical and managerial implications.


Study was 'conducted within a single context and in a single industry',

Testing across industries and contexts may have provided alternative contextual and situational motivations,

Article #3


Spief, E. & Wittman, A. (1999). Motivational phases associated with the foreign placement of managerial candidates: an application of the Rubicon model of action phases. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 10 (891-905)


Investigates the theoretical Frameworks in respect of the decision-making process involved in accepting a foreign job assignment.




Sample comprised employees at the beginning of their careers, and who had been working for about one to two years in their present companies.

The data were collected at three different time intervals:

(t1) just before the completion of the participants' studies,

(t2) one year after the start of their careers, and

(t3) a third time thereafter.

The value of the Rubicon model lies particularly in creating a starting-point for empirical analysis of the functional differences between the phases of selection and goal attainment (Kuhl, 1996).


The issue of 'foreign assignment placement' has been previously analysed primarily from the company's perspective. However, in related literature researchers have conceded that the 'employees' as well, have their own individual goals in pursuing a 'foreign assignment placement', to some degree towards an accelerated career advancement.

It is this point that has never previously been considered in greater detail: the Rubicon model provides a starting point to this form of investigation.

In the Rubicon model: it is assumed each 'planning phase' is distinct from the goal and intention, rather each phase represents a determinant of action ie. by accepting a 'foreign placement will fast-track my career', 'foreign placement will lead to higher financial incentives/rewards' etc.


On completion of the study: at (t3) 53 people continued with a goal of 'stay abroad', whilst another 53 people had already given up this goal.


Upon joining the organisation (t2), 112 people had expressed an intention to pursue the goal of a 'foreign placement/stay abroad',

Study results suggest: 'once a goal is formulated, two outcomes may be possible', they are

the goal will be pursued (planning phase occurs),and/or

the goal may be abandoned over time depending on motivational forces.

The significance to an organisation: work-related values offer little to no effect towards abandoning or retaining the goal of a 'foreign assignment/stay abroad'.

Organisations may provide incentives to employees such as 'foreign assignments', however it is almost expected employees would seek some level of reward for undertaking a 'foreign assignment/stay abroad': that is a 'promotion upon completion' of 'foreign assignment' or 'associated financial and social gain/rewards' due to undertaking the foreign assignment.


With many organisations expanding into foreign markets, and the narrowing gap internationalisation and globalisation, employees within these large organisations view 'foreign job placements' as an alternative to career progression.

The 'Rubicon model of action phases', provides an initial theoretical framework that clarifies those specific motivational aspects associated with foreign placement of employees.


Longitudinal nature of survey is prone to increased drop-out rates,

The article strengthens the literature through the use of a much less utilised Rubicon model.


The 'Rubicon model' has not been tested widely, thus the jury on its validity and reliability remains out,

'stay abroad goal' only help to identify employees who are seeking new professional experiences/challenges, not necessarily promotional opportunities,

The identifiers 'experience abroad' and 'information' can be viewed to take on different meanings, depending on the context of the survey instrument (Gollwitzer, 1991),

The article concludes, 'findings contradict results from previous literature' (ie. Kammel and Teichmann, 1994; Scherm, 1995).

Article #4


Ramlall, S. (2004). A Review of Employee Motivation Theories and their Implications for Employee Retention within Organisations. The Journal of the American Academy of Business, September (52-63)


An explanation of how employee motivation affects employee retention and other behaviours within organisations.


Conceptual synthesis.


Whilst there are many employee retention practices within organizations, they are seldom developed from sound theories. Swanson (2001) emphasized that theory is required to be both scholarly in itself and validated in practice, and can be the basis of significant advances.

In addition to explaining why it is important to retain critical employees, the author described the relevant motivation theories and explained the implications of employee motivation theories on developing and implementing employee retention practices.

Motivational theorists differ on where the energy is derived and on the particular needs that a person is attempting to fulfil, but most would agree that motivation requires a desire to act, an ability to act, and having an objective.

The concept of human capital and knowledge management is that people possess skills, experience and knowledge, and therefore have economic value to organizations. These skills, knowledge and experience represent

capital because they enhance productivity (Snell and Dean, 1992).

In essence, there are more to a manager's role in motivating employees other than compensation, good working conditions, and similar factors.


Perhaps the most popular current perspective on job design is that which has been developed by Richard Hackman, Greg Oldham.

Their approach is similar to that of Herzberg's, insofar as it proposes a set of features that should be built into jobs in order that they be satisfying and motivating, although the two approaches differ somewhat with regard to the specific characteristics of work that make it desirable.

the employee must feel personal responsibility for the outcomes of the job,

the work must be experienced as meaningful by the employee,

the employee feels that her/his contribution significantly affects the overall effectiveness of the organization, and

the employee is aware of how effective she/he is converting her/his effort into performance.

Hackman and Oldham (1980) proposed that jobs which require the use of multiple talents are experiences as more meaningful, and therefore more intrinsically motivating, than jobs that require the use of only one or two

types of skills.

Having synthesized and critically analysed the motivation theories, the author compiled the major factors from the respective theories and explained how they could affect employee retention efforts.


Need theories attempt to pinpoint internal factors that energize behaviour.

The author identified the most relevant theories and explained the respective theories of motivation and how motivation may impact employee commitment in an organization.

In this motivational theory effort, the following motivation theories were selected (1) need theories, (2) equity theory, (3) expectancy theory, and (4) job design model given their emphasis and reported significance on employee retention.

Thus, human (and motivation) needs vary over time and place.


Given the emphasis within organisations on retaining its critical employees, the author has summarized some of the most widely used employee retention practices as cited in the respective literature sources and the causes for employee turnover in great depth.


Given the extent of the existing literature, there is a notion that a combination of employment practices can reduce the employee turnover within organisations, however the article does not offer any new or ground-breaking theoretic explanations.

Article #5


Smola, K. W. & Sutton, C.D. 2002). Generational differences: revisiting

generational work values for the new millennium, Journal of Organizational Behaviour, 23 (363-82)


The workplace of the new millennium faces the entrance of another generation of workers into the changing world of work; managers are encouraged to deal with the generational differences that appear to exist among workers.

The article seeks to explore possible differences among the generations by investigating work values and beliefs.


Conceptual essay.


Data were obtained from more than 350 individuals who responded to a request to complete a survey. Current generational differences in worker values are analysed and the results are compared to a similar study conducted in 1974. Results suggest that generational work values do differ.


As a society, we have labelled the generations of the 20th Century, the two generational groups prevalent in today's workforce are called the Baby Boomers (Boomers) and Generation X (Gen X-ers).

Values define what people believe to be fundamentally right or wrong. It could be said, then, that work values apply the definition of right and wrong to the work setting. Work values have been described narrowly, such as a worker's attitudes about what one should expect from the workplace and how he should go about reaching those expectations.

The modern worker's job requires decision-making, problem-solving,

trouble-shooting, and managing. The solution may not be clear-cut, but instead the decision may require a prioritizing of options to select the best, considering the circumstances.


The subject of work value differences is an important one in today's organizational environment.

As managers respond to the changing values of their employees, those value systems may ultimately affect organisational values.

Continued enquiry in this field is important to business leaders as they

attempt to understand, motivate and successfully lead the individuals in their organizations and function as good corporate citizens


This study attempts to examine the relationship of generational differences in today's workforce, as well as investigate changes in work values over time.


The findings suggest that workers' values do change as they mature.

findings strongly suggest that work values are more influenced by generational experiences than by age and maturation.

The the sample was heavily weighted with individuals associated with the military or the government.


The general research concept is relatively new, thus quite difficult to find other literature with which to compare findings.

Longitudinal studies are valuable in helping us to better understand trends and changes in our subject matter. However, they are usually difficult to accomplish, particularly in a mobile society and a work world where employees jump from company to company

Researchers studying work values have often identified the need for longitudinal studies (often time consuming).


Motivation in the workplace is affected by several factors as each employee has his or her own individuality. There are several sources of motivational need, needs being anything that is required, craved or useful: theorists have spent years studying motivation and in doing so they determined that there are several sources of motivational needs. Some of these sources are:

Spiritual - understanding ones purpose in life.

Cognitive - problem solving and decision making abilities.

Behavioral - reaction to stimulation.

External - related to behavioral.

Affective - relates to self esteem (enhance feeling good and reduce feeling bad about oneself).

Social - the need to interact with other individuals.

Employee retention strategies, in some shape or form, have been a topic of interest for about as long as business itself, but studying the psychological nuances of the issue began gaining prominence in the early part of the 20th century as theorists began linking motivation to meeting needs. Since then, as competition in the business world has intensified, motivation and employee retention have been under the microscope ever since to get a leg up on enhancing workforce support for key corporate initiatives.

Six major approaches that have led to the modern understanding of motivation and its affects are Maslow's need-hierarchy theory, Herzberg's twofactor theory, Vroom's expectancy theory, Adams' equity theory, Skinner's reinforcement theory, and David McClelland Achievement Motivation Model. According to Maslow, (Wilson, 2005), "employees have five levels of needs: physiological, safety, social, ego and self-actualizing." The lower level needs has to be satisfied before the next higher level need would motivate employees.

Motivation can take several forms, but the sooner employers realise this, the happier and more productive their employees will be, since individuals differ in their personal needs, attitudes, interests and values thereby making it obvious that motivation might be recognized or appreciated differently by each person. Ultimately, the success of any business rests in the hands of its employee's, ranging from profitability and productivity to recruitment and retention.