Our first recommendation for future research is a call for studies that examine actual behavioural outcomes, namely turnover in relation to work-life policies. Very few studies have addressed this relationship, and many of those that have were undertaken some decades ago (e.g. Glass & Estes, 1996; Milkovich & Gomez, 1976; Mueller & Cole, 1977) or focused on the firm level (Stavrou, 2005; Yanadori & Kato, 2009). While the latter is informative in that it provides insight about the percentage of people using a work-life policy in relation to turnover at the firm, it does not allow conclusions to be drawn regarding individual use of policies and consequent turnover. Moreover, given the dearth of experimental or even quasi-experimental research in this area, studies that use experimental designs would be particularly useful in arriving at causal conclusions.
Relatedly, future researchers should focus on exploring the differences between policy availability and policy use in relation to employee retention. As stated earlier, Allen and colleagues (2013) suggested that there could be differences in the way policy availability and use influence outcomes. Of the studies we reviewed, only four (Allen, 2001; Casper & Harris, 2008; Porter & Ayman, 2010; Richman et al., 2008) provided findings on the impact of both policy availability and use. By not measuring availability and use of work-family polices or not clearly delineating which they are measuring, researchers limit a deeper understanding of how these processes relate to employee retention outcomes.
Greater understanding of context is also an important avenue for future research. While the extant work-life and retention literature contains some, mostly exploratory, crosscultural work (e.g., Spector et al., 2007; Wang et al., 2004), it has largely neglected investigating in depth retention outcomes as a function of both work-life and cultural constructs, and has provided little in the way of theoretical underpinnings for observed relationships. We urge future researchers to replicate and extend established links between these variables, to seek new influential variables, and to back up all with established or novel theory. In order to do so, scholars should continue to move away from using country or geographic location as a proxy for culture and seek to understand how variance in specific cultural values (e.g., gender egalitarianism, humane orientation, power distance, etc.) impacts retention through work-life variables or how it moderates the work-life and retention link. Together, these suggestions should enable researchers to parse the universal and culture-specific factors influencing the work-life and retention interface.