The aim of this study was to evaluate the significance of the 2009 Qatar HRM Policy in the context of its impact on employee turnover intention in the public sector of the country. It was important to assess the impact with the focus on employees’ perception of the HRM practices implemented in public organisations from the point of employees’ intentions to stay with or leave an organisation. Three research questions were identified with reference to this aim:
- RQ1: How can the selected HRM practices influence employees’ turnover intentions in the public sector?
- RQ2: In comparison to the public sector, how do the selected HRM practices influence employees’ turnover intentions in the semi-private sector?
- RQ3: To what extent is the implementation of the HRM policy designed according to the configurational SHRM perspective effective to retain employees in Qatar’s public sector?
Although the associated hypotheses were developed with reference to the results of the previous studies in the field, and the principles of the proposed conceptual model were justified with the focus on the conclusions by Hausknecht, Rodda, and Howard (2009), Gberevbie (2010), Choi and Lee (2013), and Giauque, Anderfuhren-Biget, and Varone (2013), the findings of the study were unexpected and surprising. Therefore, the purpose of this chapter is to discuss and interpret the study findings from the perspective of the existing literature in the field of human resource management (HRM) and retention, to provide possible explanations for the observed findings, and state how these results can contribute to research literature and the practice of HR managers and policymakers in Qatar.
Summary of the Study’s Findings
Four hypotheses were formulated depending on the research questions and recent literature on the topic. The questionnaire to collect data and test the hypotheses was designed to include items regarding all variables selected for the study to measure the relationship between employees’ perceptions of HRM practices and their intentions to stay with an organisation or leave it. The proposed study design was tested with reference to the pilot study, and it was proved to be effective for the selected sample which included employees from public and semi-private organisations of Qatar. It was expected with reference to the pilot study that the number of female and male employees would be unequal for public and semi-private organisations, and the sample would be rather skewed in terms of the gender and age imbalance.
The analysis of demographic data related to the employees of public sector organisations has indicated that about 43% of employees are males, and about 57% are females. More than 50% of those employees who have participated in the survey are aged 25-35 years. In semi-private organisations, those employees who belong to the 25-35 years age group compose only about 30%, and the percentage of females is only about 20%. Researchers note that the employees aged 25-35 years are inclined to change jobs oftener than other employees because they have some education, experience, ambitions, and developed skills to focus on their careers (Conway & Monks 2008; Donate, Pena & Sanchez de Pablo 2016; Giauque et al. 2013). However, the study results have demonstrated that employees’ perceptions regarding HRM practices were similar in public and semi-private sectors, and differences in age or gender profiles could not influence this aspect.
The testing of Hypothesis 1 has demonstrated that it is supported only partially. Thus, it has been observed that rewards, promotion, training, and development practices can predict employee retention in public sector organisations of Qatar. In spite of the fact that the correlation between employees’ perceptions of these practices and their retention is rather weak, these results are in line with the findings discussed by Forstenlechner and Rutledge (2010) and Al-Esmael and Faisal (2012). Still, no significant relationship has been observed between performance management and employee retention or individuals’ intentions to stay with their organisations.
Hypothesis 2 has not been supported by the study results. No significant relationship was observed between performance management, rewards and promotion, and training and development as independent variables and job satisfaction as a mediating variable, as well as between job satisfaction and employee turnover intentions or employee retention. Although performance management and rewards and promotion are in a weak correlation with job satisfaction, there is no relationship between training and development and employees’ satisfaction. These results reject the initial assumptions, and they also indicate that employees’ decisions to stay with public organisations cannot be directly associated with employees’ perceptions and visions of HRM practices or possible changes in these practices promoted by HR managers. From this point, these findings are in agreement with the data provided in such studies as Harry (2007), Gilmore and Turner (2010), and Ghosh et al. (2013).
The results also demonstrate that Hypothesis 3 is rejected because there is no positive relationship between the HRM policies adopted in semi-private organisations and employees’ retention in comparison to the situation in the public sector. Thus, although it has been found that performance management, rewards, and promotion can potentially predict positive changes in employee retention, the situation for the relationship between training and development and employee retention is quite opposite. The study results have indicated that changes in the sphere of training and development in semi-private organisations can be associated with employees’ negative behaviours. As a result, even if the use of such HRM practices as performance management, rewards, and promotion can have a positive impact on employees’ turnover intentions, there is no such correlation between training, development, and employee retention. The presence of a weak relationship between performance management, rewards, and promotion and retention can be explained with reference to Dhiman and Mohanty’s (2010) study.
When testing Hypothesis 4, it has been found that, in semi-private organisations, rewards and promotion can have a strong positive correlation with job satisfaction. Performance management can be correlated at a moderate level, but the correlation between training and development and employees’ job satisfaction is rather weak. The problem is that training and development are correlated with job satisfaction negatively according to the findings, and it is impossible to speak about a positive relationship between the bundle of HRM practices and employees’ job satisfaction. Furthermore, while focusing on the discussed HRM practices as a bundle, it is possible to state that about 50% of the variation in employees’ job satisfaction can be predicted by the adoption and development of the discussed HRM practices. Hypothesis 4 is rejected for the discussed study, and the assumptions regarding a positive relationship between HRM practices, job satisfaction, and employee retention in semi-private organisations have not been supported with reference to the results of the statistical analysis.
Discussion of the Study’s Findings
It is important to discuss the findings of the study with reference to the literature that has been reviewed before conducting the research in order to state whether the provided results can support the assumptions which were developed by other researchers, and whether they can address the identified gaps. The previously discussed results of hypotheses’ testing are important to be referred to in order to demonstrate what objectives of the study have been achieved and what answers to the set research questions can be provided.
Relationship between Employees’ Perception of HRM Practices and Intentions to Stay in the Public Sector
While explaining why Hypothesis 1 was supported only partially, it is important to refer to the findings by other researchers. According to the Forstenlechner and Rutledge (2010), increased rewards and opportunities for promotion are viewed by employees as positive strategies that influence their commitment and the desire to work in this organisation. Thus, employees are inclined to evaluate their career opportunities in all sectors, and their promotion can be associated with higher salaries and prestige that are valued by employees (Giauque et al. 2013). These results are also in agreement with the findings by Al-Esmael and Faisal (2012), according to which, training and development are among the practices that are perceived by workers as directly correlated with their retention.
Much attention should also be paid to explaining the study findings from the perspective of the adopted Social Exchange Theory and Human Capital Theory. In their study, Kashyap and Rangnekar (2014, p. 224) explain how the Social Exchange Theory can be used to support the examination of a relationship between perceptions of HRM practices and further retention: “organisational policies and practices are a source of organisational support for employees.” Therefore, “by following people-oriented policies and practices, organisations show concern for the employees. Employees in return reciprocate by showing strong commitment towards the organisation. The satisfaction from policies and practices further influences employee turnover intentions and enhances employee retention rates” (Kashyap & Rangnekar 2014, p. 224). As a result, it is reasonable that HR managers expect positive changes in retention when they adopt improved HRM practices.
According to Hausknecht et al. (2009, p. 273), “an effective approach to retention management involves understanding why employees stay, but also examines differences in reasons based on what the organisation is trying to accomplish from a talent management perspective.” Researchers state that even if employees perceive and discuss HRM practices adopted in an organisation as positive, they can be interested in finding more opportunities in other companies in order to receive a new experience (Edgar & Geare 2005; Watty-Benjamin & Udechukwu 2014). In this context, promotion within a public organisation can be viewed as an ineffective strategy to prevent an employee from applying for a position in another sector.
Hasin and Omar (2007) and Dysvik and Kuvaas (2010) explain this situation with reference to employees’ desires to decrease pressure and avoid burnout. According to Choi and Lee (2013, p. 589), “although a firm implements new practices, this implementation by itself is not likely to change employees’ attitudes sufficiently enough to change their behaviours if they do not experience the effectiveness of those practices.” Thus, weak correlations and unobserved relationships between employees’ perceptions of the HRM practices and their retention can be explained with the help of focusing on the ideas by Choi and Lee (2013) among other researchers.
Relationship between Employees’ Perception of HRM Practices, Job Satisfaction, and Intentions to Stay in the Public Sector
The explanation of the absence of any relationship between perceptions of HRM practices, job satisfaction, and employee retention can be provided with reference to the recent studies on the problem. A positive correlation between rewards and job satisfaction is supported with reference to many studies (Karanja 2013; Kehoe & Wright 2013; Paille 2013). In addition, according to Hasin and Omar (2007), it is not surprising that high salaries can be associated with higher levels of satisfaction in employees. The reason is in the feeling of security that is associated with money (Bockerman & Ilmakunnas 2012; Giauque et al. 2013). However, in the public sector, rewards and promotion are not as significant in influencing job satisfaction as it was expected.
In public sector organisations, salaries and bonuses are usually determined, and they do not change often. As a result, employees do not expect increases in salaries, and they do not associate their wages with their performance (Aladwan et al. 2014). Consequently, some changes in the HRM practice of providing rewards cannot be viewed as associated with significant alterations in employees’ job satisfaction. Thus, only weak and moderate correlations can be observed in this case.
Furthermore, it is important to note that, according to Choi and Lee (2013), there is a range of studies on the phenomenon of job satisfaction that is proved by many researchers as a predictor of employee retention. However, this study demonstrates that even if performance management, as well as rewards and promotion, can be associated with increased levels of job satisfaction in employees, this positive attitude cannot directly lead to increasing employee retention. Furthermore, performance management, rewards and promotion, and training and development are not correlated as a bundle with employee retention with the focus on job satisfaction as a mediating variable. This finding requires the further explanation.
Relationship between Employees’ Perception of HRM Practices and Intentions to Stay in the Semi-Private Sector
Additional explanations are required to discuss the absence of the expected relationship between a bundle of HRM practices and employee retention in the semi-private sector. The determined correlation between rewards, performance management, and retention is in agreement with the results of many studies. Thus, according to Edgar and Geare (2005), rewards, bonuses, promotion opportunities, support, supervision, and appraisals are usually associated with positive attitudes observed in employees in relation to their employers. Furthermore, compensation is also discussed as one of the predictors of retention in companies in the works by Kashyap and Rangnekar (2014) and Alusa and Kariuki (2015). According to Dhiman and Mohanty’s (2010), only two HRM practices have a statistically significant impact on employees’ intentions to stay in an organisation, and they are compensation (or rewards) and the job content (or responsibilities).
It is also important to focus on the fact that the relationship between the training and development practice and retention has been proved to be negative for the public sector of Qatar. In spite of being unpredicted, these results are in agreement with the findings of Chew and Chan (2008, p. 514) who have stated in their work that employees “may not necessarily increase commitment to their organisations as the provision of training and development increases.” Moreover, according to Antwi et al. (2016), the practice of training and development can only be ranked the fourth while speaking about the role of this practice in affecting employees’ commitment, motivation, and performance among other factors that can influence their working behaviours.
In addition, Dhiman and Mohanty (2010) note that training and development are in a positive correlation with employees’ turnover intentions. The researchers explain this phenomenon while stating that “the employee skills, abilities and knowledge, through better training practices, enhance the market value of employees and this in turn strengthens turnover intentions” (Dhiman & Mohanty 2010, p. 96). Furthermore, according to Chew and Chan (2008), training and career development can be viewed as negatively related to employees’ intentions to stay in an organisation because those workers who are effectively trained can be oriented to finding more attractive positions or opportunities for the further career development. Chen (2014) also notes that training and development of employees do not usually lead to their commitment and retention.
Relationship between Employees’ Perception of HRM Practices, Job Satisfaction, and Intentions to Stay in the Semi-Private Sector
In this study, much attention has been paid to the affective element in the motivation of employees to stay with or leave an organisation. The focus was on examining how perceptions of HRM practices could potentially influence employee retention through the stimulation of job satisfaction in workers not only in public organisations but also in semi-private ones in order to compare results and prove conclusions (Govaerts et al. 2011). However, normative, contractual, and personal factors should also be taken into account according to Hom et al. (2012), Karanja (2013), and Kehoe and Wright (2013). Furthermore, as it is noted by Hom et al. (2012, p. 832), “much turnover remained unexplained, as many employees exit for reasons other than dissatisfaction or jobs elsewhere.”
The selected HRM practices, such as performance management, rewards and promotion, and training and development, have almost similar effects on employees’ turnover intentions in both sectors. Therefore, it is important to note that the relationship between HRM practices and employees’ intentions to stay with or leave a semi-private organisation is insignificant, as it is in the case of public organisations (Bhatti et al. 2013; Gkorezis & Petridou 2012; Glen 2006). The results of the study are correlated with the principles of the Human Capital Theory and the Social Exchange Theory. According to the Social Exchange Theory, monetary and psychological rewards can have different effects in various contexts (Dewettinck & Van Ameijde 2011; Ghosh et al. 2013; Mohamed, Nor & Dahalan 2014).
It is possible to assume that employees in both types of organisations are almost equally satisfied with their conditions, but there is no evidence that these factors can predict employees’ turnover intentions. In semi-private organisations, employees provided neutral answers while explaining their perception of performance management. While discussing rewards and promotion, the respondents focused on the item “There are performance related pay methods in place, such as basic pay increase, bonuses, or allowances.” A comparably high degree of agreement was demonstrated in relation to some items from the Job Satisfaction section. Thus, employees from semi-private companies have proved their interest in being a member of a successful organisation. Similar tendencies associated with discussing positive aspects of the work were observed while analysing employees’ answers to statements from the Employee Retention section. Still, it is almost impossible to conclude that employees in semi-private organisations are more satisfied with their positions than those employees who work in public sector organisations.
Therefore, the assumption that retention based on satisfaction is more successful in semi-private organisations than it is in the case of public organisations has not been proved with reference to the findings. The study indicates that the stability in staying with employers is typical of employees who work in both public and semi-private sectors. About 50% of respondents from semi-private companies prefer to work in one organisation for 6-10 years. In addition, there are no significant differences in salary ranges that are proposed in public and semi-private organisations. As a result, these data can be used to explain why there are no meaningful differences in answers of public and semi-private employees regarding their job satisfaction and retention.
Study’s Findings in the Context of Qatar
This section aims to discuss the findings of the study in the context of Qatar as a rapidly developing economy which progress is influenced by a specific cultural background of an Arab country.
Economic and Cultural Contexts of Qatar
Although the study’s results can be viewed as rather unpredicted and only partially supported by the literature in the field, they can be explained with reference to the analysis of the cultural and economic context of Qatar. It is important to state that public organisations in Qatar develop in a complex environment because of the increased interests of multinational organisations in investing in the semi-private sector of the country. This situation creates an additional challenge for the management in public sector organisations. From this point, even if some HRM practices under certain conditions can influence positive tendencies in public organisations of Qatar in terms of retention, it is impossible to speak about a trend in the field or about a strong positive relationship between these concepts.
Furthermore, according to Iles, Almhedie, and Baruch (2012), in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, it is important to speak about the development of the concept of ‘Arab management.’ The researchers pay attention to the fact that this new paradigm is important to be determined because practices followed in traditional Western management can work in the context of Arab countries unpredictably. From this point, the “Arab paradigm is characterised by familiar businesses, autocratic but consultative ownership, a focus on interpersonal relationships within an ethical framework, and a universalistic, networked culture” (Iles et al. 2012, p. 470). Therefore, it is important to emphasise some important points related to the analysis of the data in the context of Qatar.
Firstly, in this country, the practice of performance management is not developed at the same level as it is in the Western countries. According to Aladwan, Bhanugopan, and Fish (2014, p. 18), performance management and appraisal are not “fully appreciated” in some Arab countries because they are not implemented effectively, and this factor influences not only their success but also employees’ perceptions of these practices. This idea is also supported by Arshad, Azhar, and Khawaja (2014) in their article. Therefore, it is rather problematic to state that all three practices, including performance management, rewards and promotion, and training and development, can contribute to predicting employee retention in organisations at the same level.
Secondly, it is important to pay attention to the fact that salaries provided to employees in the semi-private sector of Qatar as a rapidly developing country are viewed by them as rather competitive, and results of the analysis demonstrate that there are statistically significant positive correlations between rewards, promotion opportunities, and levels of retention. These findings can be discussed as being in line with the results of the study by Ansari (2011) and conclusions made by Al-Esmael and Faisal (2012) in their work.
Thirdly, the problem associated with implementing training and development programs and courses is typical of many modern Arab countries (Connell & Burgess 2013; Forstenlechner 2010). As a result, this practice is often not perceived as effective to develop employees’ skills. In other cases, employees do not understand the role of this practice in developing their professional qualities and capacities (Forstenlechner 2010). While focusing on the specific context of Qatar, it is important to state that Aladwan et al. (2014) note that, in Arab organisations, training and development are often viewed as unnecessary practices, and when they are implemented, employers are inclined to save resources. As a result, the quality of the proposed training can be lower than it is expected, and this factor can influence employees’ attitudes and performance (Bhatti et al. 2013). The researchers also note that such practice as training and development “is still not regarded as a significant function that contributes to organisational success” (Aladwan et al. 2014, p. 18). From this point, the results of the study are in line with the findings of the previous research related to the Arab context.
Fourthly, this study’s results demonstrate that the current level of retention in public organisations of Qatar selected for this survey is comparably high in spite of HR managers’ concerns. Thus, more than 25% of employees prefer to work in public organisations for 6-10 years. About 14% of employees stay with public organisations for 11-15 years. Moreover, public sector employees are not inclined to change jobs frequently, and about 60% of workers have noted that they worked only in one organisation before applying for the current position. From this point, it is possible to state that employee retention in public organisations of Qatar is influenced by a range of factors that can be non-related to workers’ perceptions of the HRM practices, and these conclusions are supported by the results of studies conducted in the context of Gulf Cooperation Council countries (Berrebi, Martorell & Tanner 2009; Harry 2007).
Moreover, the situation should be discussed from different perspectives: changes in perceptions and behaviours of employees and changes in perceptions and behaviours of managers. Thus, in Qatar, those nationals who work in public organisations are often rewarded, as well as expatriates who work in semi-private organisations according to principles of the Human Capital Theory (Chen 2014; Kyndt et al. 2009). As a result, while comparing managers’ approaches to retaining talents, it is possible to state that they are rather similar, but some other factors can influence employees’ decisions to stay with or leave an organisation. Thus, according to the Social Exchange Theory, employees respond to employers’ efforts only when they are discussed as appropriate (Chew & Chan 2008; Tzafrir et al. 2004). The absence of a strong positive correlation between employees’ visions of HRM practices in different types of organisations and their retention supports that idea that benefits provided in the context of HRM practices are not enough or they are not correlated with employees’ intentions.
From this perspective, it is important to pay attention to the fact that although a newly developed semi-private sector can be viewed as an attractive place to find a job, the actual situation in the country can be different because governmentally-owned organisations still remain popular among the public because of their status and reputation (Paille 2013; Rehman 2012). Public organisations in Qatar were among the first companies in the country that implemented the principles of the progressive HR management to work with employees (Williams, Bhanugopan & Fish 2011). The reason is that, during a long period of time, the private sector of the country was rather small, and semi-private organisations were not represented in the market. As it is stated by Al-Esmael and Faisal (2012) and Al-Horr and Salih (2011), representatives of the Qatari society have developed entrepreneurial visions that can be discussed as results of globalisation trends. Therefore, these visions can influence individuals’ search for more flexible and attractive variants in the semi-private sector of the country. However, the study results have not supported the idea that employees in the semi-private sector associate the perceived practices and strategies in these organisations with their higher level of satisfaction or any kind of commitment.
As a result, employees from both public and semi-private sectors of Qatar are inclined to fully accept the importance of rewards and promotion practices in the modern market, but the relationship of this practice and their job satisfaction and retention is not observed because of the possible impact of other factors on their behaviours. It is possible to state that this impact is justified with reference to the specifics of Qatar’s culture.
Application of HRM Practices according to the Configurational SHRM Perspective
The third research question was aimed to be answered with reference to the analysis of how the implementation of HRM practices as bundles in public and semi-private organisations could be associated with positive tendencies in the sphere of employee retention. The focus on bundles is important because, according to the configurational SHRM perspective, HRM practices should be implemented in organisations simultaneously or as ‘bundles’ (Martin-Alcazar, Romero-Fernandez & Sanchez-Gardey 2005; Raymond et al. 2010). In this context, bundles or configurations of HRM practices are oriented towards supporting each other only when they are implemented in organisations simultaneously (Trehan & Setia 2014). Configurations are important in human resource management when it is necessary to address a complex problem in the sphere. In Qatar, such problem was identified with the focus on analysing turnover intentions in the public sector of the country (Council of Ministers Secretariat General 2009).
The test of Hypothesis 1 has demonstrated that the correlation between a bundle of such practices as performance management, rewards, promotion, training, and development and employee retention in public organisations is rather weak (15.6% of the variation). From this perspective, the focus on the configurational SHRM perspective in public organisations of Qatar needs to be supported by other strategies and methods in order to achieve significant changes in the area of employee retention. It is important to note that the current study cannot prove the idea that the HRM practices implemented according to the configurational SHRM perspective work more effectively in comparison to other practices and strategies that are used in order to overcome the problem of high turnover intentions in any public organisation where HRM practices are adopted as bundles.
According to Raymond et al. (2010), the problem is in the fact that managers can experience a significant pressure when they are expected to implement HRM practices proposed as a bundle at a high level. In spite of the fact that the principles of the configurational perspective of SHRM are usually strictly followed by managers who choose this framework for implementing HRM practices, this process can become a challenging task, and a range of external factors can influence the success of this process (Bakshi et al. 2014; Colbert 2004). Thus, in different countries, the application of HRM practices, including performance management, rewards, promotion, training, and development, can be associated with various barriers (Juhdi, Pawan & Hansaram 2013; Som 2007; Tsai, Edwards & Sengupta 2010). Therefore, the results of such implementations can be rather unpredictable (Choi & Lee 2013; Den Hartog et al. 2013). While focusing on the experience of applying strategic and commitment-oriented HRM practices in public organisations of Qatar according to the configurational perspective of SHRM, it is possible to note that retention goals of managers were not achieved appropriately.
Furthermore, employees can fail to perceive HRM practices adopted in their public organisations as bundles oriented to achieving the concrete goal because this information is often not promoted by managers among employees. Much attention should be paid to the organisational culture in which HRM practices are implemented according to the configurational perspective (Al-Raggad 2014; Bakshi et al. 2014; Tangthong 2014). Still, the configurational perspective applied in public organisations of Qatar according to the 2009 HRM Policy seems to have no obvious effects on retention. The current study does not provide the answer to the question why the discussed HRM practices have not demonstrated positive effects on employee retention in the public organisations of Qatar, and this problem should be analysed in further studies
The thorough review of the literature on the implementation of HRM practices in the public sector according to the principles of the configurational perspective of SHRM to address retention has indicated that there are no studies that discuss this question in the context of Qatar. Therefore, the findings of this study can considerably contribute to not only research but also practice because of providing insights regarding the application of HRM practices in a public sector of rapidly developing countries while referring to the experience of Qatar. This section discusses theoretical contributions of the study to knowledge and research, as well as the contribution to the practice of HR managers in public organisations.
Contribution to Theory
The most important theoretical contribution of this study to research is the evaluation of the HRM policy application to address employee retention in Qatar’s public sector because there are a few studies focused on HRM practices, the problem of retention, and the use of SHRM in this rapidly developing country. The practice of adopting the HRM policy in the public sector was reviewed by Iles et al. (2012) and Ibrahim and Al Falasi (2014) in their studies, but these researchers selected a different context. As a result, it is possible to speak about gaps in the literature on the discussed problem. Much attention should be paid to the recent studies in the field.
However, it is important to note that although Forstenlechner (2010), Al-Horr and Salih (2011), Williams et al. (2011), Al-Esmael and Faisal (2012), and Scurry et al. (2013) focused on investigating the situation of applying HRM practices in Qatar, they did not concentrate on studying only public or only semi-private organisations. Furthermore, these researchers were not interested in examining the role of HRM practices from the point of employees’ turnover intentions (Forstenlechner 2010; Williams et al. 2011). From this perspective, this specific study is focused on the area that requires the further examination, and the study findings have confirmed the necessity of focusing on the public sector of Qatar because employees’ perceptions of HRM practices in these organisations are not related to retention as it was expected with reference to the prior research in the field.
The findings of this study accentuate the fact that the hypotheses formulated with reference to the context of Western and Asian countries, as well as some Middle Eastern countries, cannot be appropriate to explain the situation in Qatar. There is a lack of literature that can demonstrate a real situation in the GCC countries; therefore, there are gaps in the research and many probabilities to formulate false assumptions (Forstenlechner 2010; Scurry et al. 2013; Weber 2011). As a result, this study is important to demonstrate whether the promoted HRM practices accepted with reference to the 2009 HRM Policy in Qatar could influence the problem of turnover in the public sector.
The study findings differ significantly from the results presented in past studies, but still, they are supported by a range of investigations with the focus on different contexts (Biswakarma 2016; Forstenlechner & Rutledge 2010; Gberevbie 2010). Therefore, it is possible to state that this study contributes to discussing the problem of turnover in the public sector of Qatar from a new perspective, with the focus on the fact that some HRM practices adopted as a bundle in local organisations cannot guarantee the results which are expected because these practices were effectively implemented in other countries or other situations (Duncan & Denaux 2013; Forstenlechner 2010). Thus, the effectiveness of using bundles of HRM practices in public organisations of Qatar was not proved by this study’s results.
Contribution to Practice
While focusing on the contribution of the study to practice, it is important to note that the findings of this research are important to be used by both policymakers and HR specialists in organisations. These findings will help policymakers of Qatar to choose those practices that can potentially lead to improvements in employees’ job satisfaction and retention in contrast to those HRM practices which have no obvious effects on workers’ behaviours. In addition, HR managers in public organisations of Qatar can use the study’s results in order to develop their strategy regarding the implementation of practices that were proposed for the further application according to the 2009 HRM Policy (Council of Ministers Secretariat General 2009). These significant practical contributions should be discussed in detail.
The study’s findings indicate that the application of HRM practices as bundles in public organisations of Qatar can have no positive outcomes while focusing on the expected relationship between practices, employees’ visions of these practices, and employees’ further behaviours. According to the study’s results, when perceptions of HRM practices are assessed separately, it is possible to observe some type of relationship between these perceptions and employees’ attitudes or behaviours with the focus on job satisfaction and turnover intentions. However, when practices are perceived as bundles that are implemented according to the configurational SHRM approach, there is no significant relationship between employees’ perceptions and their behaviours (Karanja 2013; Loshali & Krishnan 2013). Policymakers in Qatar can provide additional recommendations regarding the implementation of performance management, rewards, promotion, training, and development as practices in public organisations in order to contribute to their effectiveness (Al-Esmael & Faisal 2012; Williams et al. 2011).
Furthermore, while comparing the results for both public and semi-private sectors, it is possible to note that bundles of practices are not perceived as effective strategies to address retention in organisations of Qatar. These findings can be explained with the focus on other factors that are viewed as important to stimulate retention in public organisations of Qatar and other GCC countries (Al-Horr & Salih 2011; Scurry et al. 2013; Weber 2011). Employees in public organisations of Qatar can be interested in high salaries, bonuses, and training because these practices are viewed as important to contribute to the feeling of security and commitment, but employees can experience difficulties while perceiving these practices as strategic bundles or while associating their positive experiences with their turnover intentions (Connell & Burgess 2013; Scurry et al. 2013). Afiouni, Ruel, and Schuler (2014) state that, in Middle Eastern countries, such aspects as security, stability, social status, prestige, and relationships can be viewed as more influential than traditional HRM practices promoted by policymakers and HR managers (Connell & Burgess 2013; Hom et al. 2012; Yamamoto 2013). HR specialists in Qatar should realise that perceptions, attitudes, and behaviours of employees in public organisations of the country can be influenced by a variety of internal factors rather than by such external factors or motivators as rewards and opportunities for promotion (Farr & Tran 2008).
The pilot study results have demonstrated that performance management, rewards, and promotion are the HRM practices which are correlated with retention in public sector employees, and these practices are also correlated with high levels of satisfaction in employees who work in semi-private organisations. However, the focus on a larger diverse sample of employees from both sectors has helped to find out that none of these practices can predict changes in employees’ behaviours associated with turnover intentions when all these practices are implemented in organisations according to the principles of the configurational SHRM approach. Nevertheless, it is important to note that this study contributes to reinterpreting the role of HRM practices and employees’ perceptions of these practices in influencing their turnover intentions.
The study results have proved that HRM practices can influence employees’ decisions and intentions to stay or leave only with reference to their perceptions of these HRM practices. The absence of or limited correlations between visions of HRM practices and retention tendencies demonstrate that only managers’ efforts oriented to the application of this or that practice cannot result in changes in employees’ visions and intentions (Gheitani & Safari 2013; Jiang et al. 2015; Karanja 2013).
Therefore, the role of HR managers who can identify different types of stayers and leavers and who are interested in finding the ways to cope with turnover intentions in public organisations not only in Qatar but also in other GCC countries is very important. HR managers in public organisations should pay attention to the results of this study, according to which, rewards, promotion, training, and development are correlated with increases in intentions to stay with an organisation. Although this correlation is rather weak, HR managers should focus on these practices as potentially effective to influence workers’ attitudes and behaviours because of the support and evidence in the literature on the topic. Harry (2007) and Marescaux, De Winne, and Sels (2012) note that high and stable wages with bonuses based on performance contribute to developing employees’ positive attitudes to an organisation, and they are associated with security. Furthermore, according to Nishii, Lepak, and Schneider (2008), development opportunities provided for employees are also associated with visions of stability as individuals believe that their organisation invests in them in order to promote and propose a higher position.
From this perspective, it is important to note that employees’ turnover is a complex process that can depend on a plethora of factors that should be taken into account by HR managers in public organisations within different cultural and economic contexts (Gavino, Wayne & Erdogan 2012; Juhdi et al. 2013; Kyndt et al. 2009). The practical contribution of this study is in the fact that the findings can be used by those HR managers who work in the context of a rapidly developing economy of the Middle East because this region was not studied by researchers actively. It is also possible to speak about a lack of practical recommendations and strategies that are developed for HR managers who work in public organisations of Qatar. The context of Qatar’s public sector can be discussed as rather complex as it was proved with reference to the review conducted before organising this study.
As a result, this research is important to provide implications for HR managers who work in public sector organisations and who can plan their retention strategies with reference to the outcomes of the 2009 HRM Policy and proposed HRM practices. According to the results of this study, HR specialists can conclude that, in the public sector of Qatar, the only focus on performance management, rewards, promotion, training, and development cannot potentially lead to increases in retention. Furthermore, HR specialists can concentrate on the fact that, according to the study’s results, the situation in the semi-private sector is rather similar (Gheitani & Safari 2013; Paille 2013; Wheeler et al. 2007). The correlation between performance management, rewards, and promotion as practices perceived by the respondents and employee retention is rather weak in both sectors. Therefore, it is almost impossible to confirm the idea that high salaries and wider promotion opportunities in semi-private organisations can be associated with increased numbers of employees who choose this non-public sector in Qatar or who stay with these organisations.
The study contributes to understanding the idea that even if HRM practices were proved to be effective in other contexts or under different circumstances, they can be inappropriate for certain countries, regions, or situations. The problem is in the fact that the implementation and realisation of HRM practices and strategies is based on a range of factors that can play a key role in influencing performance, productivity, commitment, and retention among others organisational aspects (Kehoe & Wright 2013; Loshali & Krishnan 2013; Paille 2013; Tangthong 2014). While applying HRM practices that work effectively in Western countries, as well as in some Asian countries, different results can be observed in the Middle Eastern context. Furthermore, much attention should be paid to the sector and its role in the economic development of the country as it is in the case of Qatar where modern public and semi-private organisations play important roles in contributing to the economic progress of the country (Al-Esmael & Faisal 2012; Scurry et al. 2013).
As a result, bundles of HRM practices that work in other countries as methods to stimulate retention in companies are viewed in Qatar as strategies applied in the context of the traditional approach. It is problematic to support the idea that the HRM practices applied in the context of the 2009 HRM Policy in Qatar are still viewed as innovative or effective to influence retention (Council of Ministers Secretariat General 2009). Therefore, HR managers in the public sector of this country should pay more attention to such aspects as employees’ motivation, the feeling of security, commitment, and individuals’ self-esteem among other ones in addition to the traditional vision of job satisfaction. In this case, it will be possible to apply the results of this study to the practice of HR specialists effectively.
Limitations and Directions for Further Research
While analysing the findings of the study, it is also important to consider several limitations associated with the reference to the context of such rapidly developing economy as Qatar. The study results indicate that the selected HRM practices have few chances to influence employee retention in public organisations of Qatar, and a variety of factors can influence this process, These factors need to be discussed in future studies. Thus, one of the study’s limitations is the focus only on employees’ perceptions of such external factors as the implementation of HRM practices. The role of internal factors is not discussed in detail, and it should be analysed in future studies on the problem.
What are the main reasons that can make employees stay with an organisation? According to Hausknecht et al. (2009), the key emphasis is on job satisfaction, rewards, and commitment. These aspects are discussed in this study, but there is no obvious relationship between the employees’ positive vision of these practices and their retention. Biswakarma (2016) and Brunetto et al. (2012) note that internal factors which contribute to developing turnover intentions can also include self-esteem and employees’ ambitions, but the limitation of this research is in absence of the focus on these aspects.
Furthermore, much attention should be paid to discussing employees’ personality. This idea is also supported by Al-Husan, Brennan, and James (2009), Hom et al. (2012), and Al-Kahtani and Khan (2014) who note that not only traditional HRM practices can influence employees’ turnover intentions, but a psychological environment in an organisation also plays a significant role, as well as the desire to develop, ambitions, a person-job fit, and burnout are among these factors. Furthermore, according to Holtom et al. (2008), employees’ intentions to leave an organisation can be associated with recent changes in its leadership or policies. Any radical change in an organisation can lead to employees’ negative attitudes and increased turnover rates because of high stress levels (Larsson et al. 2007; Li, Frenkel & Sanders 2011). All these factors need to be discussed in detail in further research.
The development of the hypotheses was based on the assumption that public sector employees can focus on finding a position in a semi-private organisation when they are dissatisfied with the situation in their own organisation and when they can face attractive job alternatives (Carraher 2011; Wheeler et al. 2007). However, the study results demonstrate that, in Qatar, there is no strong relationship between employees’ satisfaction with their position and their retention or a desire to leave an organisation. It is possible to assume that Qatari public sector employees are inclined to focus on some other factors or aspects while evaluating their desire to stay with an organisation. Such aspects as status, relationships, prestige, and security were underrepresented in the items that were included in the proposed questionnaire for employees from public and semi-private sectors while limiting the findings.
It is important to note that in Qatari public organisations, the atmosphere of commitment and respect and the feeling of security work as a more important motivator in contrast to high salaries or opportunities to be promoted (Al-Esmael & Faisal 2012; Al-Horr & Salih 2011). Security and loyalty associated with public organisations can influence employees’ visions in Arab countries significantly, and this aspect should be paid into account while analysing the study’s finidings and proposing directions for further research. Hausknecht et al. (2009) state that important factors to influence employees’ attitudes include the prestige of an organisation, the lack of job propositions or alternatives, and flexibility among others. Furthermore, according to Cho and Lewis (2012) and Den Hartog et al. (2013), individuals who stay with public, private, and semi-private employers are usually motivated by different factors and reinforcers.
It is also possible to refer to examining the atmosphere in an organisation among the study’s limitations and directions for the further research. In his work, Gberevbie (2010) provides the results of the study according to which, employees’ intentions to leave an organisation can depend not only on their personal visions of the situation in a company and their perceptions but also on attitudes and decisions of their co-workers. In this context, it is possible to speak about a kind of social pressure, and HR managers should pay much attention to developing practices, strategies, and methods which can be used in order to stimulate positive attitudes among workers (Giauque et al. 2013; Gilmore & Turner 2010). In their assessments of observed processes, strategies, and tendencies, employees are often inclined to refer to the visions of their colleagues or even supervisors and managers if their impact is strong (Carraher 2011; Watty-Benjamin & Udechukwu 2014). As a result, employees’ perceptions can be influenced significantly, but in this case, the impact is not associated with certain HRM practices directly, and some other aspects should be taken into account (Biswakarma 2016; Chen 2014).
The problem associated with employee retention in Qatar can also be in the lack of competencies in HR managers who were responsible for adopting HRM practices according to the configurational approach in the studied public organisations because Al-Raggad (2014, p. 413) has found that the competency of managers is positively related to his or her approach to practising SHRM. In addition, according to Choi and Lee (2013, p. 590), “firms should retain workers, particularly high performers, by facilitating and maintaining their favourable perceptions. This can be achieved by HR practices that consider and reflect employees’ needs and expectations.” In the context of Qatar, it is possible to state that the HRM practices were selected according to another principle, and the focus was on achieving strategic goals rather than on addressing a concrete problem of turnover in public sector organisations (Al-Esmael and Faisal 2012; Akhtar, Ding & Ge 2008). Therefore, a lack of competencies and inappropriate goals could influence the results of implementing the discussed HRM practices, as it is noted by Edgar and Geare (2005) and Dysvik and Kuvaas (2010). However, there are no data in this study to support this idea, and further investigation is required.
For further research in the field, it is important to propose focusing on such internal factors as personality and self-esteem among others as reinforcers of employees’ intentions to stay with an organisation. Furthermore, it is also necessary to pay more attention to examining how the implementation of Western HRM practices in the context of Arab countries can be different with the focus on rapidly developing economies. The study of general features of Arab management which could influence employees’ retention was not the purpose of this research, and this aspect needs to be discussed in future studies.
This study has examined perceptions of employees and managers regarding such HRM practices as performance management, rewards and promotion, and training and development with the focus on job satisfaction and retention. Furthermore, the study has examined the difference in employees’ visions regarding the determined HRM practices in public and semi-private organisations of Qatar. Moreover, the study has helped to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of applying HRM practices according to the configurational perspective of SHRM. The results of the study have not proved the ideas or assumptions that employees’ perceptions of HRM practices in public and semi-private organisations can be related to their behaviours with the focus on turnover intentions. Hypothesis 1 was supported only partially, and it is almost impossible to speak about a direct correlation between such practices as rewards, promotion, training and development and such phenomenon as employee retention in public organisations because this hypothesis was not supported for the idea of a bundle of practices adopted according to the configurational perspective of SHRM. Hypotheses 2, 3, and 4 were rejected because of the absence of statistically significant relationships between the studied variables.
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