Businesses everywhere seek to retain key staff, but it turns out that one successful strategy can be found in the Beatles’ song, ‘All You Need Is Love’. A study that focuses on employee job satisfaction finds that loving family support is critical to encouraging workers to stay in their jobs. Beyond that, a second study outlines the importance of manager support for a balance between work and family responsibilities.

In a study entitled,  ‘A matter of love: Exploring what enables work-family enrichment,’ I worked with Mireia las Heras and Maria Jose Bosch to survey 157 people in Spain, as well as conduct a series of interviews of three groups representing the highest family enrichment scores, middling scores, and low scores. Our sample included highly-educated dual-income couples with relatively well-paid jobs.

As we identified the contributors to enrichment, one factor emerged above all. This resource, which we labeled “agape love,” is only generated in the family role. Agape love is characterized by loving (and being loved by) others unconditionally and giving of oneself. Other aspects of agape love include exclusivity and a long-term perspective in which one understands a partner’s needs, thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Additional home resources thus generated include couple congruence, parenting experience, and share of caring responsibilities.

To test this newly-identified aspect of work-family balance, we conducted a quantitative survey of 302 employees at a firm in Chile. The results of this study confirmed that family-to-work enrichment is driven by such factors as love from one’s spouse and love for children.

We also found, however, that a person’s intrinsic motivation modifies this relationship. Here’s how that works: when individuals are highly energized by intrinsic motives, love in the family is less relevant in making a difference in the workplace. Indeed, we found a strong direct relationship between intrinsic motivation and family-to-work enrichment.

Our findings in this first study point to family-supportive policies in the workplace. However, a second study reinforces this idea by specifically identifying the importance of support from managers.

This study, which I conducted with Mireia Las Heras and Pablo I. Escribano, focused directly on the effect of satisfaction with work-family balance and turnover intentions. We conducted a study of 340 individuals working for multinational companies operating in Argentina. As I explain below, we concluded that family-supportive environments in organizations facilitate greater satisfaction with work-family experiences, and, in turn, this drives lower intentions to leave the company.

Underlying this study is the idea of social-exchange relationships. Such relationships go beyond tangible or quantifiable rewards to include exchanges of socially-relevant rewards. The exchange in this case includes things like gaining social status and recognition in exchange for loyalty, commitment, and involvement.

Once again, employees’ satisfaction with work-family balance is an important factor in their favorable feelings towards their job – and those favorable feelings make it less likely for workers to look elsewhere for employment. We note that satisfaction with work-family balance comprises three aspects: time, involvement, and overall satisfaction. Thus, the balance includes an equal amount of time dedicated to work and family roles, an equal level of psychological involvement in work and family roles, and an equal level of satisfaction with work and family roles.

We wanted to find out whether employees in our study believed that their firm maintained a family-supportive environment, and whether their supervisor specifically supported a balance between work and family. So, to address supervisor support, for example, we asked them to rate the following statement: “My supervisor is willing to listen to my problems in juggling work and non-work life.” And to get a sense of whether their firm had a family-supportive environment, we asked them to evaluate the following proposition (which scores in reverse): “To get ahead at this organization, employees are expected to work more than 50 hours a week, whether at the workplace or at home.” Finally, we asked them about their satisfaction with work-family balance and about their turnover intentions.

We found that supportive supervisor behavior was significantly related to a work-family-friendly culture. Although these factors significantly reduced turnover intentions, this turnover-reducing effect was noticeably magnified by satisfaction with work-family balance.

In summary, we concluded that employees no longer want their employer to determine how they will focus their attention, energy, and time, with no consideration of balance between work and family, and little thought given to employees’ own preferences. The good news for employers in this study is that employees who are allowed to decide how to allocate their own resources best are more committed to their jobs. Combining this idea with our first study, we find a virtuous cycle of mutual support between work and home and family.

 

Dr Sowon Kim Crettex is an Assistant Professor of organizational behavior at Ecole hôteliere de Lausanne and a fellow of the Lausanne Hospitality Research Center.

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