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The study examined some demographic (gender, age, length of service, educational qualification and marital status) and organisational (level of job tension and perceived job characteristics) antecedents of commitment among employees of fourteen SMEs in Imo State of Nigeria. A total of 174 participants, comprising of 117 females and 57 males, aged between 18 – 40 years with a mean age of 24.99 years and SD of 4.56 were administered with three instruments: Kahn, Wolfe, Quinn and Snoek’s (1964) Job-related Tension Inventory; Hackman and Oldman’s (1975) Job Characteristics Scale and Meyer, Allen and Smith’s (1993) three dimensional Organisational Commitment Questionnaire adapted by Gbadamosi (2006). A One-Way MANOVA was used to analyse data collected. Results indicated that, employees did not significantly differ in their levels of job tension on the three dimensions of organisational commitment (F = 3.357, P> 0.05; F = 0.292, P > 0.05; F = 0.200, P > 0.05). Also, employees, except for the continuance commitment (F = 4.344, P < 0.05), did not significantly differ in affective (F = 0.122, P > 0.05) and normative (F = 0.011, P > 0.05) commitment. It was also discovered that gender and age were significantly different for affective commitment (F = 4.589, P< 0.05; F = 5.987, P < 0.005) but were not significant for continuance (F = 0.171, P > 0.05; F = 0.105, P > 0.05) and normative (F = 0.235, P > 0.05, F = 0.509, P > 0.05) commitment. However, the findings showed that length of service, educational qualification and marital status were not statistically significantly different across all three dimensions of organisational commitment. The results were discussed with particular reference to the commitment needs of SME employees in Nigeria.
Previous and more recent studies show that high levels of organisational commitment (OC) is a catalyst to decreased turnover, increases in productivity, performance, retention and job satisfaction (Steers, 1977; Angle
& Perry, 1981; Mowday, Porter & Steers 1982; Mathieu & Zajac, 1990; Meyer, Allen & Smith, 1993; Abdullah, Shuib, Muhammad, Khalid, Nor & Jauhar, 2007). As a result, several researchers have increasingly tried to identify antecedents that determine employee commitment. This is because for researchers to alter commitment, they have to understand its antecedents.
One area where commitment studies have been relatively spares is in the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises sectors. In the last two decades, government and non-governmental agencies have given a lot of emphasis on the development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria (Sansui, 2003). Various programs and facilities have and are still being provided to increase the performance of SMEs. The activities of government in this area, within the last nine years of democratic experience, have offered SMEs viable opportunities for growth. In further response to these efforts, investors are springing up in this sector, with Nigeria experiencing more and more investments in SME (Ukaegbu, 2005).
However, it should be recognised that dependence on these efforts alone have not guaranteed the success of Nigerian SMEs. SME employee’s attitude and
psychological attachment towards their organisations’ goals are among recent factors that have been identified that could contribute to the growth or decline of their organisation (Abdullah, Shuib, Muhammad, Khalid, Nor & Jauhar, 2007).
Usually, SMEs are used as stepping-stones by unskilled or semi-skilled employees to gain experience or additional experience before moving on to bigger and better firms. These unskilled and semi-skilled employees, most times, form the fulcrum of growth in SMEs. As a result, SMEs suffer due to the loss of human assets, who become skilled on the job and could have contributed better to improve the firms’ productivity in the long run.
The dire need to retain and encourage commitment of employees in this sector is therefore imminent; as such efforts would not only improve the growth of Nigerian SMEs but would ensure that the target for which government has placed so much emphasis on SME is achieved. One way to achieve this is by identifying the factors that determine the organisational commitment of SME employees. For ease of discussion, the antecedents of employees’ organisational commitment focused on in this study would be divided into two broad categories: demographic characteristics and organisational characteristics.
Amongst some identified demographic characteristics that could predict employee commitment are; age, educational level, gender, job grade-level, job tenure, family life cycle status (made up of marital status; number of children;
age of youngest and oldest child; and number of children living at home), salary, and alternative job opportunities (Camilleri, 2002).
Age and tenure are believed to be demographic characteristics, which are positively correlated with commitment. As employees get older and remain in their organisations, their commitment increases, probably because alternative employment opportunities diminish for older people or because commitment may be a successful strategy in getting along. Or it may be, quite simply, that more committed employees’ stay with the organisation longer.
Higher education is however associated with lower commitment, perhaps because educated people have expectations which their organisations cannot meet or are more committed to their professions (professional bodies) than to organisations. It may also be that alternative work opportunities are greater. Also, employees with lower educational level have been shown to have higher continuance OC while those with high educational level appear to feel less obligated to remain with the organisation. This could be because employees with higher educational qualification will tend to have greater expectations than the organisation may offer thus they become less committed.
Women are usually more committed than men to their organisations, possibly because they have to overcome more barriers to getting into those organisations or because fewer alternatives are available to them.
The marital status of an employee is believed to have a positive influence on organisational commitment. This could be because married employees with
dependent children are most times the breadwinners of their families; hence they have more personal responsibilities and greater financial burdens than their single counterparts. As a result, they are inclined not to risk leaving their organisation.
Organisational characteristics include aspects of the task (e.g., skill variety, task autonomy) the employee is engaged in, the degree to which the job is interesting to the incumbent (e.g., job challenge and scope) and the degree to which the job is defined and is under the control of the incumbent (e.g., role conflict and role ambiguity) (Beck & Wilson, 1998). Several organisational characteristics are correlated with commitment. Broad Job roles are positively associated with commitment, perhaps because broad jobs challenge people more than narrow jobs or because people with broader jobs (e.g. managers and the like) often have already demonstrated their commitment, which is why they have been given the broader jobs (Hahn, 2007). Role conflict and role overload are negatively associated with commitment; role ambiguity have mixed association (Lee & Schuler, 1982; Smith & Brannick, 1990). Thus, when people have broad and clear jobs, commitment may increase, but if their jobs are ambiguous, commitment decreases.
According to Steers (1977), there are three groups of antecedents, which act as variables determining the level of commitment a worker will have towards the workplace. The first group are demographic characteristics. Demographic characteristics are factors that define the worker, and they include age, opportunities for achievement, education, and role tension. The second group
are the characteristics of the job and includes challenge, social interaction, and feedback. The last group specify the importance of work experience, as work experience is viewed “as a major socialising force and as such represents an important influence on the extent to which psychological attachments are formed with the organisation” (Steers 1977), these include group attitudes, organisation dependability and trust, levels of personal investment, feelings of personal importance to the organisation, and the expectations of rewards. Over the years these antecedent factors have been validated by various researchers (Grusky 1966; Mowday, Porter & Steers 1982; Meyer & Allen 1997; Camilleri 2002).
1.2 Employee Commitment
Literature defines commitment as an employee’s level of attachment to some aspect of work (Rajendran & Raduan, 2005). Various authors have been instrumental in identifying different types of employee commitment as critical constructs in understanding attitudes and behaviours of employees in an organisation. Meyer and Lynne (2001) identified more than 25 employee commitment concepts and measures. They further group commitment into three foci; commitment to work/job, commitment to career/profession and commitment to organisation.
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