Publication Date

August 2007


Recent research has demonstrated the importance of managing aggregate voluntary turnover. A number of studies have clearly demonstrated that increased turnover is associated with declining organizational effectiveness {Glebbeek & Bax 2004; Shaw et al. 2005}. Scholars and managers, however, would be committing a serious ecological fallacy by assuming the conclusions derived from studies of individual turnover apply to aggregate turnover in the same way and/or with the same intensity {Klein, et al. 1994; Rousseau 1985}. Unfortunately, the literature examining the antecedents of aggregate turnover is sparse, relative to the volume of studies examining individual turnover, and is riddled with significant theoretical and methodological challenges. Thus while it is tempting to assume that the contextual and attitudinal drivers of individual turnover also drive aggregate turnover, the scarcity and shortcomings of the research stream prohibit firm conclusions. This study seeks to provide scholars with a more rigorous theoretical framework for examining the antecedents of aggregate turnover as well as an inventory and solution to many of the methodological shortcomings of past research.

The second purpose of this paper is to contribute to the strategic human resource management literature by including human resource (HR) systems as a primary antecedent of aggregate turnover. As a collective phenomenon, drivers of aggregate turnover must theoretically exist and be measured at the same collective level {Klein, et al. 1994; Rousseau 1985}. Collective behavior is a function of, among other things, common experiences resulting from common policies and practices, such as HR management practices, used to control and direct the behavior of organizational members {Levinson 1965; Morgeson & Hofmann 1999}. Thus the inclusion of HR systems allows for at least two theoretical contributions. First, previous models of the antecedents of aggregate turnover have rarely included the HR systems that likely have a strong homogenizing effect on the experiences, interactions, make-up, and thus turnover of the organizational unit members. This study will shed insight into an important driver of collective turnover. Second, this study will provide insights into the mediating linkages between HR systems and organizational outcomes. Strategic HR research emerged out of the desire to verify the link between how organizations manage their people and organizational effectiveness {Delery & Shaw 2001}. While there is a great deal of evidence that HR practices are at least weakly related to firm performance, the intervening variables have not been adequately tested or explored (Becker & Gerhart 1996; Wright & Gardner 2003). This study will test the role of collective commitment in both explaining collective turnover and meditating the relationship between HR systems and turnover.


Suggested Citation
Gardner, T. M., Moynihan, L. M. & Wright, P. M. (2007). The influence of human resource practices and collective affective organizational commitment on aggregate voluntary turnover (CAHRS Working Paper #07-12). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies.