Impact of talent management and job embeddedness on retention of managerial employees in knowledge-intensive firms in Singapore

  • Veena Jadhav

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Employee retention continues to pose major challenges to organisations, particularly knowledge-intensive firms that rely on human capital advantage for growth and sustainability. Talent management (TM) has emerged as a contemporary theory to influence employee retention that is based on strategic programs to attract, identify, develop and retain high-potential or business-critical employees. While the strategic role of TM is accepted in academia and has gained popularity amongst practitioners, the field continues to face criticism owing to the similarities in the conceptual foundations with strategic human resource management (SHRM) theories. Another issue is insufficient empirical evidence of TM as a predictor of critical employee behaviours and outcomes, calling for empirical studies to further expand TM theory and test its interlinkages with related constructs. Past research has largely examined TM through an organisational lens, with minimal emphasis on individual employee perspectives of TM. To address these gaps, this study tested the conceptual framework based on employee perception of TM and its interlinkages with employee retention, job embeddedness (JE) and human capital, thereby contributing to expansion of TM theory.
Although employee turnover is a well-researched topic, past studies are largely based on traditional turnover models, with a focus on broad affective areas. However, traditional turnover models offer a limited explanation for employee turnover and the relatively new theory of JE has emerged as a valid predictor of employee retention. In contrast to the traditional turnover models, JE is based on broader non-affective measures that prompt employees to stay in an organisation. Consequently, JE has gained acceptance amongst scholars as an ‘anti-withdrawal’ construct focused on employee retention. The primary aim of both TM and JE is employee retention; however, there is limited empirical research on the interlinkages between TM and JE and their relationships with employee retention. By addressing these research gaps, this study aims to contribute to the theoretical advancement of JE theory.
Another prominent development has been the emergence of intangible resources, such as human capital, as a source of competitive advantage for organisations. In particular, knowledge-intensive firms are known for leveraging their human capital for complex problem-solving and decision-making under uncertainty to provide innovative products and solutions. These skills are in high demand but short supply, making human capital retention a paramount issue in these firms. Low employee retention, particularly of managerial employees, who form the core workforce in knowledge-intensive firms, remains a major threat for firms. However, there are limited empirical studies exploring human capital retention based on the emerging theories of TM and JE. One country that is witnessing a significant growth of knowledge-intensive firms is Singapore. With the aim of addressing the abovementioned gaps, this study examined the relationships between TM, JE, human capital and employee intention to stay based on an integrated conceptual framework using mixed methods research for managerial employees in knowledge-intensive firms in Singapore.
Primary data was collected from a sample of 204 managerial employees from knowledge-intensive firms, and quantitative analysis was conducted using structural equation modelling (SEM). The qualitative analysis was based on 11 in-depth interviews with human resource and business managers to enhance the richness of quantitative data interpretation and supplement understanding of the central phenomena of TM, JE, human capital and employee retention.
The findings of the SEM analysis indicate adequate model fit and support for majority of the hypothesised relationships. The model indicated a positive relationship between TM, JE, human capital and intention to stay. The synthesis of qualitative and quantitative data largely converged and complemented, supporting the main research questions and relationship, and established the significance of high-potential managerial employee retention in knowledge-intensive firms. Thus, the overall findings of the study further extended understanding of the core theories and their interrelationships in a novel country, industry and employee group context. The thesis concludes with a discussion on the theoretical implications of the findings, practical implications and recommendations for practitioners, and scope for future research.
Date of Award2019
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMonica Kennedy (Supervisor), Doug Davies (Supervisor), Lawson Savery (Supervisor), Tiago Freire (Supervisor) & Abu Saleh (Supervisor)

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