Over the past five decades or so, researchers have learned a great deal about the factors that influence employees’ decision to stay or leave. But there is still much we do not understand about the causes of turnover. Here we present seven areas of opportunity for future research that could shed new light on the turnover process.
March and Simon (1958) suggested that the compatibility of the work role with other life roles was an important component of the turnover process. Indeed, an employee’s stage in various areas of personal life and professional life may affect the turnover decisionmaking process and the speed of transition from one phase to the next. Professionally, there are different stages in a job, career and organization. Personally, there are different stages in friendships, marriage, parenthood and other relationships.
Stages in various life roles may influence not only what occurs during each phase of the dynamic turnover process but also how quickly an individual moves between the phases. For instance, the degree to which an employee’s values, needs, interests and preferences match those of the job and the organization will change depending on where an individual is in various life roles. Also, the type, timing and frequency of shocks experienced will vary depending on life-stages, and where an individual is in life may influence the final decision to stay or leave.
Earlier research explored constructs related to life-stage. For instance, role conflict between work and non-work roles can create negative reactions that lead to withdrawal cognitions (Hom & Kinicki, 2001) and turnover (Huffman, Casper & Payne, 2014). Additionally, the extent to which organizational policies meet the diverse needs of workers at different life-stages has been linked with turnover intentions (e.g., Skinner et al., 2014). But most research on life-stages has been cross-sectional or retrospective, preventing researchers from truly understanding how life-stages affect the turnover process. Future research needs to evaluate where employees are in their personal life roles, job roles, tenure in an organization and careers.
In line with prior authors’ calls, researchers need to continue utilizing repeated measures and longitudinal designs that follow employees as they move through the stages of their personal and professional roles, as this will allow researchers to determine whether the turnover process unfolds differently for employees at different life-stages. Researchers could measure the relative importance of different decision inputs over time by asking employees at various life-stages what is salient to them in their turnover decisions (Holtom et al., 2008; Russell, 2013).