What Is Job Embeddings? Job Embeddedness In A Nutshell

Job embeddedness is based on a theory developed by Professor of Management Brooks Holtom and his colleagues at Georgetown University. In a 2006 article entitled Increasing human and social capital by applying job embeddedness theory, the researchers described various influences on employee retention or turnover that may be useful to HR departments. Job embeddedness is a theory positing that the more embedded an employee is in their company, the less likely they are to quit.

Understanding job embeddedness

In essence, Holtom noted that employees who possessed a wider range of work-related roles, relationships, and responsibilities experienced a high degree of job embeddedness. These factors he called connections, with those possessing more connections finding it more difficult to quit their jobs because of a likely intense disruption to various aspects of their life and career.

By the same token, employees who do not possess many roles, relationships, or responsibilities are described as having a low degree of job embeddedness. With fewer connections made, they tend to find it easier to quit their job as there is less impact on their life and career. For the company, these employees are difficult to retain.

The three core elements of job embeddedness

Holtom identified three core elements that indicate how connected an individual is within their organization:

  1. Fit – or the degree to which an individual’s work is related to their values and goals. Note that this is a subjective metric that relates to the career prospects, knowledge, and talents of the particular employee.
  2. Links – how is the individual connected to communities and other people within the organization? These encompass formal manager-subordinate relationships and less formal co-worker or colleague interactions or friendships. The physical workplace itself may also be a driver of embeddedness.
  3. Sacrifice – or the severity of disruption that would result if the individual quit their job. This is measured by the perceived or actual cost of benefits that are forfeited as a result of the employee leaving the organization. Loss of income and benefits are the most obvious costs, but the employee may also lose access to accrued leave or a pension plan. What’s more, their potential for career advancement may also be impacted.

To measure job embeddedness, the three elements of fit, links, and sacrifice are assessed with respect to the organization and the community. This yields a total of six dimensions that are scored to predict the likelihood of voluntary quitting. 

Most tests feature criteria that are scored using a Likert scale where employees rate their level of agreement or disagreement with a general statement. For example, a statement in the dimension that evaluates community-related sacrifice may read as follows: “Leaving this community would be extremely difficult.

Key drivers of job retention 

According to employee review site, the following four factors are the main drivers of employee retention and by extension, job embeddedness:

  • Income – perhaps unsurprisingly, those who earn a higher income are less likely to quit.
  • Promotion prospects – companies that do not provide career advancement opportunities will also find staff retention problematic. In fact, those who hold a positive outlook with respect to their career advancement are 5% less likely to quit.
  • Culture – retention is also difficult in organizations characterized by toxic culture or where no appreciable culture can be identified.
  • Industry – some industries, such as government, media, retail, hospitality, accommodation, and many non-profit sectors are also prone to higher turnover rates.

Key takeaways:

  • Job embeddedness is a theory positing that the more embedded an employee is in their company, the less likely they are to quit.
  • Job embeddedness is described in terms of three core elements: fit, links, and sacrifice. Each of these is assessed in terms of an employee’s connections with the organization and community to predict the likelihood they will quit their job.
  • Job embeddedness is driven by income levels, career advancement opportunities, company culture, and the specific industry.

Key Points about Job Embeddedness:

  • Definition and Theory Origin:
    • Job embeddedness theory was developed by Professor Brooks Holtom and his colleagues at Georgetown University.
    • The theory suggests that the higher an employee’s connections and commitments within a company, the less likely they are to leave.
  • Elements of Job Embeddedness:
    • Fit: The alignment of an individual’s work with their values and goals.
    • Links: Connections an employee has with colleagues, managers, and the workplace itself.
    • Sacrifice: The cost an employee would incur if they left the organization, including benefits, income, and career advancement.
  • Measurement and Prediction:
    • Job embeddedness is assessed using Likert scale criteria in dimensions related to fit, links, and sacrifice within the organization and community.
    • Scoring helps predict the likelihood of voluntary quitting by evaluating an individual’s level of connection.
  • Drivers of Job Retention:
    • Income: Higher income is linked to lower turnover rates.
    • Promotion Prospects: Opportunities for career advancement reduce the likelihood of quitting.
    • Culture: Positive company culture and toxic culture impact retention rates.
    • Industry: Some industries, such as government, retail, hospitality, and non-profit sectors, experience higher turnover rates.

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