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Attraction-Selection-Attrition Theory

It is probably true to say that there are no specific theories of applicant attraction, however various ideas, concepts and models have been applied to the area. Of these perhaps the best known is Attraction-Selection-Attrition (ASA) theory.

Schneider (1987) proposed a simple but popular theory based on three concepts:

  • Attraction: People are differentially attracted to careers as a function of their own interests and personality. That is, they search out potential jobs and employers as a function of ‘fit’.
  • Selection: Organizations then select people who they think have the abilities, personality and motivation to be successful at the job in their organization. Thus, organizations end up choosing people who have many characteristics in common with them and hence become more and more homogeneous.
  • Attrition: This occurs when people do not fit the organization and leave.

It is possible to add another stage - socialization - which suggests that once people have been selected they are taught ‘what to think’ and ‘how to behave’. In other words, they become socialized in the explicit and implicit organizational culture. Thus, people come to share a common set of assumptions, values and beliefs.

The theory is simple: for all sorts of reasons people are attracted to certain jobs. They may or may not be well informed about the nature of the job or the organizations, or indeed whether their particular skills, knowledge or motivation are appropriate. Consequently, applicants may be attracted to jobs without any real knowledge of the industry or their particular abilities. After potential employees apply to a particular job or organization that they are attracted to, they go through a selection process which is aimed at hiring people who will thrive in that work. Selection processes differ considerably among organizations. The theory suggests that candidates do some sort of matching, where they consider their personal assets in terms of abilities, preference and values; and then to what extent the organization and the job require those assets. This may seem too complicated, implying very purposeful data gathering and decision making on the part of applicants.

People often spontaneously apply for several jobs at the same time according to convenience of place and time, as well as salary. Nevertheless, the theory is popular because it has validity and makes good sense. Moreover, it has been tested in a variety of contexts, such as in the context of management (Baron, Franklin & Hmieleski, 2013) showing that successful entrepreneurs will pursue their activities and the success that they experience will mitigate stress.

The literature on the topic of organizational attraction goes back many years. The latest studies concern web applications and the great difference that the web has made to the process (Dineen, Ash & Noe, 2002). Unlike traditional print media, internet-based recruitment allows for inexpensive, rapid and mass communication to large numbers of applicants. Organizational websites become the main source of information for applicants. Moreover, an organization’s website can provide a positive first impression and communicate its culture to leverage person-organization (PO) fit (Cober, Brown, Levy, Cober & Keeping, 2003).

This application has proved to be particularly valuable to public sectors agencies, which had traditionally lagged behind in attracting young workers (Chetkovich, 2001).

It is also acknowledged that recruitment is no longer local or even national but international, and that recruiting globally poses particular challenges (Phillips, Gully, McCarthy, Castellano & Kim, 2014). While researchers acknowledge that a wide variety of factors play a part in the whole attraction issue, they focus on very particular issues. Thus, Hsiao, Ma and Auld (2014), researching attractiveness for working in the hotel sector in Taiwan, focused on ethnic diversity as a central issue, while other studies have looked at issues such as the desirability of flextime and flexiplace (Thompson, Payne & Taylor, 2014). Furthermore, many acknowledge that it is a dynamic process, which can change as a function of where in the process a candidate is (von Walter, Wentzel & Tomczak, 2010).

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