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Commitment In The Workplace Is A Two-Way Street

Posted by Insightlink on 12/17/14

One of Insightlink’s 4Cs of Employee Satisfaction and Engagement

When we first established Insightlink and were in the process of designing our “standardized” employee survey, we did a lot of research on the factors that appeared to motivate employees to feel positive and energized about their jobs. As part of that research, we could see that the idea of “commitment” was very important to understanding employees and what kind of effort they were going to be making to their employers.

Based on this extensive review, we developed our 4Cs “model” as a hierarchy of employee motivations, with Compensation at the base of the hierarchy, followed by Communications as more of a functional component of the work environment, Culture as an important “umbrella” characteristic, with Commitment fixed firmly at the top of the hierarchy. Why? Because commitment is really the epitome of factors that motivate employees to give their best every day. It’s clear that committed employees work more productively than uncommitted employees and organizations with large proportions of committed employees perform better than those with fewer committed employees. For these reasons, we included a question in our standard survey to assess how committed employees felt both to their jobs and to their careers.

However, as we started to collect and analyze employee survey findings, we found that knowing how committed employees are to their careers did not really help us understand how they felt about their work environment. At the same time, we realized that we were only looking at one side of the equation – we were seeing how committed employers were to their employers but we were missing whether those same employees believed that their employers were equally committed to them. This discovery led to an important refinement to our standard survey, as we began ask both “commitment to” and “commitment from” their employers.

A Large Commitment Gap

After many years of tracking these important measures with our annual benchmark norms study, we continue to see a pretty sizeable gap between what proportion of employees are committed to where they work compared with how committed they believe those organizations are to them. Here are the most recent results for all U.S. employees on average:

  • 60% of employees are extremely or very committed to their employer,
  • BUT just 47% of employees believe their employer is extremely or very committed to them

It stands to reason that commitment among employees is somewhat low in part because they don’t see their companies “returning the favor” by demonstrating a clear commitment to the people who work for them. So what might be some of the reasons behind this apparent lack of perceived commitment from employers?

One simple reason is that organizations may not be performing in ways that demonstrate any sense of commitment to their employees. If companies don’t act with loyalty and respect toward the people who work for them, it’s not realistic to expect to get a high degree of loyalty and respect in return.

Failure to understand each other’s expectations from the employee/employer relationship may be partly at fault here.Employers may simply view their employees as a disloyal group of “free agents” who will jump ship simply for a small increase in pay or some other incentive. They may long for the days when hard-working employees were proud to make their whole careers at one place.

Employees, on the other hand, may believe that their employers are undeserving of loyalty because they are willing to sacrifice staff to maintain or fatten the bottom line or to cover up for mismanagement. They can cite years of RIFs and re-engineering as proof that organizations see them primarily as expendable commodities that can be let go at will.

What Does “Employee Commitment” Look Like?

In reality, there are actually two types of commitment – “attitudinal” and “behavioral” and both types of commitment reveal themselves in different ways. What organizations should really be seeking are employees who “want to” be committed to where they work. This represents “attitudinal” commitment and is the best kind because these employees are dedicated, hardworking, loyal, positive and willing to give extra effort when needed. These employees are who we call “Committed Loyalists” and every organization should aim to have as many of these employees as possible. However, only about half of all employees in the U.S. today fall into this group.

“Behavioral” loyalty, however, is demonstrated simply by showing up at work. These employees may not be happy in their jobs but they feel trapped for whatever reason. They may not want to leave because they’re afraid they may not get a comparable job. Many of these employees are what we call “Dissatisfied Compromisers” who can often display negative attitudes, have poor work habits and may frequently make trouble for their supervisors. On average, they account for about one-in-four employees in the U.S. Luckily, we see that Dissatisfied Compromisers are not “hard wired” to feel bad about their jobs and that, if organizations make the necessary improvements, they can be converted into Committed Loyalists.

Finally, there are the employees who simply do not feel much loyalty to their employer, although this can be for different reasons. Some of them may be quite satisfied and productive employees but they would have no qualms about leaving if another opportunity comes up – we call these employees the “Satisfied Opportunists.” In most cases, though, there are not a lot of these employees, only about 6% of all U.S. employees.

At the other end of the scale are the disgruntled employees who are planning to leave – these are the “Change Seekers.” They are not committed to staying and are often actively looking for new jobs. This a fairly large group – about one in every five employees – and they make a very large contribution to voluntary turnover, with all of its related costs.

What Does “Employer Commitment” Look Like?

Just as with employees, there are employers who actively want to do what is needed to create attractive and positive workplaces. These companies clearly value their employees and want them to stay, develop and prosper along with the organization as a whole.

Some employers, however, pay only lip service to the idea of fostering committed employees, without really taking employee attitudes and issues into consideration when making decisions and changes. They may talk about valuing their employees but their actual actions speak louder than those words.

In our experience, the three factors that go furthest in helping separate these two types of employees are:

  • Implementing equal treatment for all employees, including paying competitive wages and benefits, establishing policies that are unbiased, providing timely, accurate and useful performance evaluations, promoting the most qualified employees and developing the others by offering opportunities for career enhancement,
  • Demonstrating trust in their employees to “do the right thing,” which includes encouraging employee involvement, allowing their staff to make decisions that affect their work without micro-managing them, letting people make mistakes without fear of ridicule, not killing the messenger when there is bad news, explaining the rationale when major decisions are introduced and genuinely asking for employee suggestions and recommendations for change, and
  • Being truly concerned about their employees’ welfare by providing job security, communicating honestly with them, being flexible enough to accommodate a variety of needs and letting them have a life outside work.

Contact us at 1-866-802-8095 ext. 705 or email us at today to get a handle on how big thecommitment gap is in your organization and what positive action you could take to close that gap.

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Where does your company stand on each of the critical "4Cs" of employee engagement and satisfaction?
  • Commitment
  • Culture
  • Communications
  • Compensation
Find out with a benchmarked and validated 4Cs Employee Survey from Insightlink. Since 2001, one of the most trusted research companies in North America.

How many of each do you have?
  • Committed Loyalists
  • Change Seekers
  • Dissatisfied Compromisers
  • Satisfied Opportunists
Only the Insightlink 4Cs Employee Survey can give you the full picture and let you hear how your employees feel about their experience at your organization.


Insightlink Communications are experts in employee survey design, data collection and analysis. Since 2001 we've helped companies of all sizes measure and improve their employee satisfaction and engagement.

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