3 Key Types of Organisational Commitment

Rogier van der Werf

In this article I will discuss organisational commitment, what it means, its components and how to spot the different types of commitment in your employees.

3 Key Types of Organisational Commitment

As a theme, employee commitment is one of several central themes that appear in every employee survey that we conduct. As a word, commitment is present in the majority of employee literature. But what is commitment? And are there different forms of commitment?

What is employee commitment?

The importance of organizational commitment in the workplace

Organisational commitment in the workplace is the bond employees experience with their organisation. Broadly speaking, employees who are committed to their organisation generally feel a connection with their organisation, feel that they fit in and, feel they understand the goals of the organisation. The added value of such employees is that they tend to be more determined in their work, show relatively high productivity and are more proactive in offering their support.

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Types of Organisational Commitment 

The description above is a very good indicator of organisational commitment, but does only offer a broad description. In their article “Three component model of commitment” John Meyer and Natalie Allen discuss organisational commitment in great detail. We can see from their insightful research that  there exists three distinct types of organisational commitment:

  1. Affective commitment
  2. Continuance commitment
  3. Normative commitment

How to increase employee commitment?

Affective commitment

The first type of organisational commitment, Affective commitment, relates to how much employees want to stay at their organisation. If an employee is affectively committed to their organisation, it means that they want to stay at their organisation. They typically identify with the organisational goals, feel that they fit into the organisation and are satisfied with their work. Employees who are affectively committed feel valued, act as ambassadors for their organisation and are generally great assets for organisations.

Continuance commitment

Continuance commitment relates to how much employees feel the need to stay at their organisation. In employees that are continuance committed, the underlying reason for their commitment lies in their need to stay with the organisation. Possible reasons for needing to stay with organisations vary, but the main reasons relate to a lack of work alternatives, and remuneration.

A good example of continuance commitment is when employees feel the need to stay with their organisation because their salary and fringe benefits won’t improve if they move to another organisation. Such examples can become an issue for organisations as employees that are continuance committed may become dissatisfied (and disengaged) with their work and yet, are unwilling to leave the organisation.

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Normative commitment

Normative commitment relates to how much employees feel they should stay at their organisation. Employees that are normatively committed generally feel that they should stay at their organisations.  Normatively committed employees feel that leaving their organisation would have disastrous consequences, and feel a sense of guilt about the possibility of leaving.

Reasons for such guilt vary, but are often concerned with employees feeling that in leaving the organisation they would create a void in knowledge/skills, which would subsequently increase the pressure on their colleagues. Such feelings can, and do, negatively influence the performance of employees working in organisations.

Employee engagement and commitment by industry

In conclusion, the importance of employee commitment for organisations is well documented. All three forms of commitment highly influence the length that employees stay with organisations. What is most important for organisations is to recognise each type of commitment in employees, and to aim to encourage affective commitment.

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