Knowledge Worker Retention in a Transient International Governmental Organization: Human Resource Management for Legal Professionals in Temporary Tribunals
Goede, S.G.J. de
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When temporary international tribunals reach the end of their existence they implement a ‘Completion Strategy’ that describes their path to full closure. The pressures that result from this intentional termination of operations have led to an increase in voluntary turnover among their legal professionals. Since legal professionals are directly involved in the proceedings of a tribunal, tribunals devise a retention strategy to reduce voluntary turnover. This research studies the retention issue from the perspective of Strategic Human Resource Management (SHMR) to support the retention strategy of the tribunals. The retention issue is inextricably connected to the context of the tribunals and cannot be studied apart from it. The research makes a preliminary analysis of this organizational context using an adjusted version of the Contextually Based Human Resource Theory (Paauwe, 2004). The analysis shows that the context of the tribunals places constraints on their possibilities for HRM. The governing body of the tribunal is influential in all administrative decisions and the temporary nature of the institution and competition on the labor market make long-term planning nearly impossible. The analysis also illustrates how the retention issue originates from a) the transient nature of the institution that results in job-insecurity b) competition on the labor market that results in other attractive employment opportunities c) the professional commitment (Wallace, 1993) of the legal professionals that results in simplified termination of the employment relationship. Research has shown that organizational commitment has a significant negative correlation with voluntary turnover (Buck & Watson, 2002; Cotton & Tuttle, 1986; Chang, 1999). The research uses theory and prior empirical research to construct a model that describes the impact of HR-practices (Wright & Nishii, 2008) on the psychological contract of an individual employee (Rousseau, 1989), to illustrate how the tribunals can retain legal professionals by strengthening organizational commitment (Meyer and Allen, 1991) through a commitment-based HR-configuration (Lepak & Snell, 1999). The model illustrates that if the HR-configuration of the tribunals fails to meet the expectation of the legal professionals this will damage organizational commitment. The model also illustrates that if a tribunal adopts the commitment-based HR-configuration it can better manage the retention issue. The tribunals currently apply a market-based HR-configuration with a focus on recruitment, using high wages and performance pay as incentives (Lepak & Snell, 1999). The legal professionals expect the tribunals to support them and invest in their development. This research argues for high-commitment HRM, changing the focus from recruitment to retention, using investments in the employees’ career development and future employment as incentives (Lepak & Snell, 1999). This commitment-based HR-configuration will require a change in organizational philosophy that needs to be embraced by the entire institution (Tsui, Pearce, Porter & Tripoli, 1997) and supported by strategic counterparts and the United Nations.