Turnover can be caused by many things. Inadequate supervision/ leadership. Too much work. Not enough work. Insufficient career growth opportunities.
According to many surveys (e.g., salary.com's recent one), these are the types of things people report as primary motivators driving them to change employers.
But these are all factors outside of the employee. What about aspects of employees themselves that might contribute to turnover? We know that people are changing jobs more frequently these days (every 2-3 years in the U.S.), and there seems to be a persistent dissatisfaction among the Gen Xers with their careers, but what about someone's personality? Might there be individual differences between people when it comes to changing jobs?
You bet, according to a new study published in the Summer 2008 issue of Personnel Psychology. After meta-analyzing 86 studies, author Ryan Zimmerman found that personality factors, particularly emotional stability and agreeableness, play a big role in predicting turnover. Emotional stability best predicted intent to quit, while agreeableness best predicted actual turnover.
In fact, personality traits predicted turnover better than did non-self report measures such as job complexity and job characteristics.
Implications? Many initiatives designed to reduce turnover may disappoint because it's not the job, it's the person. The next time you design an exit interview or turnover study, make sure to add this reason for why the person left: It had nothing to do with the job, it was just me.
This also provides more support for using personality tests to predict important outcomes.
The other study in this issue we should look at provides some support for all you O*NET fans out there. You know...O*NET? The replacement for the Dictionary of Occupational Titles? Developed by the Department of Labor? A fount of job analysis knowledge? If you don't know it, you should.
Anyway, in this study, the authors used O*NET data to predict literacy requirements across a wide variety of occupations compared to scores on the national adult literacy survey (NALS). Results? O*NET did well--quite well in fact, with correlations around .80.
What does this mean? It means that occupational requirements listed in O*NET just got a big boost in terms of their validity. When it comes to job analysis, don't leave O*NET out.