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How to Build Organizational Commitment

Is low organizational commitment a temporary aftershock or the new normal in the workplace? The crisis-driven events of the past few years shook industry verticals around the world. Businesses defended layoffs and downsizings, telling employees, "it's not personal, it's business, we have to make difficult decisions to survive." In an economy with record-setting low unemployment, employees are now telling leaders, "it's not personal, I have to make difficult decisions in the interest of my family and career." A committed team is a huge competitive advantage in a complex and uncertain environment. While weak leaders blame employees for their lack of organizational commitment, effective leaders know their responsibility is to build it. Here are three proven organizational commitment accelerators that maximize the value of your business and make it uber-attractive to employees.

Why Organizational Commitment Matters

Organizational commitment benefits employees, teams, and their companies. Studies have linked higher levels of organizational commitment with:

  • Increased employee productivity

  • Increased revenue

  • Increased employee retention

  • Decreased operating costs

  • Decreased absenteeism

In addition to the increase in expected behavior, organizational commitment unlocks discretionary effort. Evidence suggests that committed employees are more likely to contribute in unexpected ways. Discretionary effort or organizational citizenship behavior is considered the pen ultimate type of performance. For example, two employees walking down a hall, both seeing a piece of paper on the floor and only one employee stopping to pick it up. Even though it is neither employee's job responsibility, when an employee goes beyond what is expected without being asked, that is discretionary effort.

What is Organizational Commitment?

Organizational commitment is an employee's dedication to an organization resulting in the intent to stay. One of the most popular ways to describe organizational commitment is the Three-Component Model. This framework suggests there are three distinct types of organizational commitment:

  • Affective commitment: An emotional attachment toward the organization.

  • Continuance commitment: A belief that leaving the organization would be too costly (golden handcuffs).

  • Normative commitment: A feeling of obligation to stay because it is the right thing to do.

It is important to recognize that the degree of commitment depends on multiple factors defined by the individual.

For example, consider an employee working for a family-run business with a strong culture and attractive long-term incentives. In this situation, it is likely that the employee would have affective commitment being happy about staying in the company, but also continuance commitment because they don't want to give up the long-term benefits that the job provides. Finally, given the nature of the job, the individual would feel an obligation to the family, which would lead to normative commitment.

What influences organizational commitment?

Research has identified various factors that affect the direction and strength of organizational commitment.

Job satisfaction

Have you ever wondered if your job is right for you? Job satisfaction is your positive or negative feelings and emotions toward your work. When employees have a more significant commitment to their organization, they are more likely to experience a greater sense of job satisfaction. Studies have demonstrated that satisfied employees are more productive, have higher retention rates increase company revenue, and lower costs.

Employee Empowerment

Many leaders can achieve their goals and even increase company revenue. But, in a world of constant change, organizations and leaders need employees who proactively engage in problem-solving, change, innovation, and challenging the status quo. Senior leaders need followers who take charge to create a competitive advantage. Evidence suggests a positive correlation between employee emotional and psychological empowerment, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment.

Workplace Stress

Role ambiguity and role conflict are two typical workplace stressors linked to employee burnout. Role ambiguity is unclear roles and responsibilities. Role conflict is starting your day with a feeling like you cannot win. Research suggests that organizational commitment moderates workplace stressors. When leaders build organizational commitment within the workforce, workplace stressors have a lesser effect on employee stress levels and burnout.

Organizational Commitment Accelerators

Here are a few practical steps you can take today to accelerate organizational commitment within your team without breaking the bank.

Accelerator 1: Leadership style

How you lead matters. Compelling evidence indicates that leadership style moderates company results and organizational commitment. Laissez-faire leadership has a negative correlation with organizational commitment. While servant leadership is shown to increase leader and follower commitment, yielding increased intrinsic motivation that amplifies workforce alignment and business strategy benefits. When employees feel supported by leadership, it significantly enhances organizational commitment. Humility is one characteristic of a servant leader. Here is how you can show humility and vulnerability in a difficult conversation:

  • Being transparent: Keep the conversation genuine, especially when it involves your mistakes. This does not mean sharing personal secrets.

  • Asking for feedback and being willing to learn: Vulnerability is about being weak to defend your point of view and desiring to listen and learn something new.

  • Putting followers first: It is not about winning or having the best answer but caring so much about followers and the desired outcome of the conversation that you are willing to risk failing.

  • Demonstrating selfless love: Selfless love is to will the good of another. As a leader, being vulnerable in a difficult conversation requires showing self-awareness, empathy, and compassion rather than speaking from positional power.

  • Taking action. Difficult conversations are costly when neglected. After you check your motivation, vision, and paradigm for effect, you will want to think about the conversation's what, where, how, and when.

To identify your tendency—to be vulnerable in difficult conversations — take the following free vulnerable leadership quiz.

Accelerator 2: Organizational Culture

A recent study suggests organizational culture is the most potent driver behind the Great Resignation. No leader strives to create a toxic culture. However, when there is a gap between perceived and stated values, the employee's organizational commitment suffers. Especially when the disconnect involves values that are people-oriented or ethical behavior. You can architect a positive company culture that accelerates organizational commitment by:

  • Being the change: Demonstrate good behavior and ask for feedback from followers about what you do that bothers them. Evaluate the ethical consequences of your decisions and create an open-door policy allowing employees to provide input where their voices and concerns can be heard.

  • Architecting a positive culture: Hire and fire employees to create and reinforce the desired company culture. Share stories about how followers should respond in different situations and the costs when they don't. Reinforce and communicate the importance of trust and teamwork. Reward employees that live the desired culture.

Accelerator 3: Development Opportunities

Providing opportunities to participate in training improves skills, job performance, feelings of self-worth, and affective commitment to the organization. Development doesn't have to take the form of sending an employee to an expensive conference to accelerate organizational commitment. Simply letting employees practice and try new tasks or take reasonable risks and make decisions positively affects organizational commitment. Here are a few additional lower-cost, high-impact development opportunities:

  • Coaching: Use existing coaching relationships to provide employee development feedback. Coaching with a development focus leads to improved morale and overall productivity.

  • Social media: Integrating social media and networking into ongoing development is an inexpensive means of supporting employee development.

  • Employee Networks: These networks create an inclusive environment allowing people from diverse backgrounds to collaborate toward attaining mastery.

  • Mentoring: Mentoring creates a reciprocal and collaborative relationship that improves employee performance, sense of value, retention, and internal career progression.

Conclusion: How to build organizational commitment

Depending on your situation, these organizational commitment accelerators may be the most important, or you may need to work on others. It takes time to build organizational commitment but taking steps in this direction is good for everyone—you, your employees, and your customers.

What is your real organizational commitment challenge?


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Bulut, C., & Culha, O. (2010). The effects of organizational training on organizational commitment. International journal of training and development, 14(4), 309-322.

Caillier, J. G. (2013). Satisfaction With Work-Life Benefits and Organizational Commitment/Job Involvement: Is There a Connection? Review of Public Personnel Administration, 33(4), 340–364.

King, R., Sethi, V. The moderating effect of organizational commitment on burnout in information systems professionals. Eur J Inf Syst 6, 86–96 (1997).

Meyer, J.P., & Allen, N.J. (1997). Commitment in the workplace: Theory, research and application. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Ortega-Parra, & Ángel Sastre-Castillo, M. (2013). Impact of perceived corporate culture on organizational commitment. Management Decision, 51(5), 1071–1083.

Ramdani Bayu Putra, & Hasmaynelis Fitri. (2021). The Effects of Mediating Job Satisfaction on Organizational Citizenship Behaviors with Servant Leadership and Human Relations as Antecedent Variables. Andalas Management Review, 5(1).

Walumbwa, F., Hartnell, C., & Oke, A. (2010). Servant-leadership, procedural justice climate, service climate, employee attitudes, and organizational citizenship behavior: A cross-level investigation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(3).

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About Dr. Jeff Doolittle

He is the founder of Organizational Talent Consulting in Grand Rapids, MI, and Program Director of online graduate and continuing business education at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL. Executive leaders who work with Jeff describe him as thoughtful, decisive, intelligent, and collaborative. Jeff is a business executive with over twenty years of talent development and organizational strategy experience working with C-suite leaders in Fortune 100, Forbes top 25 private, for-profit, non-profit, and global companies in many industries.

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