This dissertation studies how information technology (IT) professionals become embedded and, in turn, how embeddedness influences organizational behaviors. Embeddedness refers to the extent to which an individual is attached to an organizational or professional setting. Traditionally, embeddedness is defined as having three components: social links, fit and sacrifice. We analyze the traditional conceptualization of embeddedness and identify weaknesses. As a result, we refine these three components to belongingness, fit and utility.
To deepen our understanding of embeddedness and its influence on organizational behavior, we develop a theory of embeddedness. We propose that embeddedness grows over time. As embeddedness increases, we argue that professionals develop a desire to remain in a firm and to engage in higher levels of task and contextual performance. We suggest that this relationship is moderated by the presence of external job alternatives. Finally, we propose that embeddedness is directly impacted by technical and contextual skills.
To develop our research model, we tailor this theory to the IT context. We hypothesize that firm-specific IT skills, managerial skills and growth opportunities contribute to embeddedness within organizational settings. We also propose that generic IT skills and systems skills positively influence embeddedness within IT professional settings. We suggest that embeddedness within the firm contributes to task performance, contextual performance and retention. We account for the effect of labor markets, and we argue that the presence of job alternatives directly decreases task performance, contextual performance and retention. We also hypothesize that these job alternatives weaken the connection between embeddedness and behavioral outcomes.
We tested this research model on a sample of 195 IT professionals. Results find that firm-specific IT skills, managerial skills and growth opportunities contribute to embeddedness within the firm. Embeddedness within the firm positively impacts task performance and contextual performance, and it decreases turnover intention. Generic IT skills and systems skills contribute to embeddedness within IT settings. Perceptions of job alternatives directly decrease task performance and increase turnover intention. Also, perceptions of job alternatives moderate the relationship between embeddedness and behavior.
Results show that highly embedded IT professionals are very desirable employees. These professionals engage in higher levels of task performance, more contextual performance behaviors, and have less intention to quit. Furthermore, highly embedded IT professionals are more resistant to the effects of the labor market. While weakly embedded IT professionals vary work efforts based on the strength of the labor market, highly embedded IT professionals do not reduce their level of performance when the IT labor market is strong. Further, we find that IT skills exhibit a significant impact on an IT professional's connection to their job, the IT function, their organization and the IT profession.
These results have implications for research and practice. For research, we refine the concept of embeddedness and propose a theory of embeddedness. We also integrate labor market forces into the nomological network surrounding embeddedness. For practice, we demonstrate that highly embedded IT professionals are particularly valuable employees, and we direct managers to the IT skills and growth opportunities that contribute to embeddedness.