Collective Organizational Commitment
Organizational commitment is a very well studied construct. HR practitioners, middle managers, and top-level management have much to benefit from understanding how individuals develop organizational commitment. Previous studies have linked organizational commitment with organizational citizenship behaviors, lower absenteeism, feelings of loyalty, and a strong acceptance in the organization’s goals and values.
Recent meta-analyses, however, suggests that organizational commitment is only weakly associated with employee performance. Much of this research is conducted an an individual level, where both measure of employee commitment and performance outcomes are focused solely on the individual. Conway and Briner (2012) notes that only a small subset of studies on organizational commitment have looked this construct at a collective level. It makes sense to understand how unit-level or even organizational-level commitment shapes performance – a working group that demonstrates a high collective level of organizational commitment would likely exhibit norms and values associated with committed behavior. These norms subsequently shape how an individual performs. For example, a working unit that is highly committed to the organization may demonstrate norms and values that discourage absenteeism.
Conway and Briner conducted a study in a single UK public sector organization by collecting data for nearly a year from 893 employees across 39 geographically dispersed office units. Each unit differed in terms of size, and each unit management team had discretion over managerial decisions and implementation of policies. The outcome measures used in this study were customer queuing time, duration spent with customers at service tills, absenteeism, and quality of service as indicated by customer complaints and errors in the processing of customer orders. Customer service required workers to function interdependently. Organizational commitment was measured individually using surveys and aggregated at the unit-level for analysis.
The results indicate that there was a significant relationship between several measures of unit performance and unit-level organizational commitment. Specifically, units with higher aggregate organizational commitment had shorter queuing times and fewer complaints per customer transaction. Average processing time and absenteeism was not influenced by organizational commitment.
Taken together, the findings indicate the possibility of developing interventions aimed at influencing organizational commitment at the group level as opposed to strategies aimed only at the individual level. Furthermore, Conway and Briner highlights the need for managers to recognize the impact of organizational commitment beyond individual performance.