Accueil » 52-4 ( 1997) » Loyautés organisationnelle et professionnelle et choix de carrière : le cas des professionnels en ressources humaines au Québec

Loyautés organisationnelle et professionnelle et choix de carrière : le cas des professionnels en ressources humaines au Québec

Christiane Labelle, Thierry Wils et Gilles Guérin


Cette étude, réalisée auprès de 1 133 professionnels en ressources humaines au Québec, a identifié, au moyen d'une analyse typologique des loyautés professionnelle et organisationnelle, trois groupes de professionnels. Plusieurs différences de perception concernant les facteurs de remise en question de la carrière ont servi conjointement avec d'autres variables sociodémographiques et de carrière à distinguer et nommer ces trois types de professionnels. Il s'agit des « professionnels établis », « en voie d'être établis » et « non établis ». Une discussion replace ces résultats dans le contexte du renouvellement de la fonction « ressources humaines » qui influence non seulement les tâches et rôles des professionnels du domaine, mais aussi certaines facettes de leur carrière.


During the past few years, the human resource function has undergone major transformations. This renewal process will probably have an impact in the near future not only on the content of human resource professionals' tasks and roles, but also on several aspects of their career. The purpose of this study is to better understand a facet of this transformation by identifying factors that would motivate professionals to reconsider their career choice. Furthermore, this topic is examined in more depth by analyzing the joint effect of professional and organizational commitments on the relative importance that human resource professionals give to these factors in reconsidering their career choice.

The results of this research are based on data collected by questionnaire. A total of 4283 questionnaires were sent to human resource professionals from lists provided by the two Quebec associations in the field. Out of these, 1155 human resource professionals responded and 22 of the responses were rejected, giving a sample of 1133 respondents or a response rate of 26.4%. Results revealed that different types of professionals would reconsider their career choice for different reasons.

First, the respondents were asked to assess the importance of 24 reasons that would push them to reconsider their career choice by answering a number of questions on scales varying from 1 (would not play a role at all) to 5 (would play a totally important role). Principal component analysis of these items revealed five dimensions which, by decreasing order of importance, are as follows: "lack of professional challenges" (e.g., lack of interest, limited roles, dead-end positions), "lack of intrinsic recognition" (i.e., related to the nature of work, such as work not being recognized for its value, being blamed more often than praised, vague performance criteria), "lack of professional stimulation" (e.g., obstacles coming from colleagues or bosses, results too far in the future), "lack of statutory recognition" (being confined to low status positions, to counselling rather than decision-making roles, receiving lower salaries in this profession as opposed to other professions), and "ambiguity due to new roles" (being asked to play new roles without having sufficient competences for them, feeling uneasy about new roles to play, having to reconcile conflicting interests).

Second, respondents were asked for their opinion (ranging from 1, totally disagree to 5, totally agree) about a number of items measuring organizational and professional commitments. Then, scales were formed. Organizational commitment was measured by five items (alpha = 0.76) drawn from Mowday, Porter, and Steers (1979), while professional commitment was measured using seven items (alpha = 0.84) drawn from Blau (1988). With these two scales (Wallace 1995), cluster analysis was performed, enabling three groups of professionals to be identified: professionals with a dual allegiance, professionals with a unilateral professional allegiance, and professionals with a mitigated organizational allegiance.

The perceptual differences on the above-mentioned factors were used along with differences observed on several demographie and career variables to name the three types of professionals. The first group was called "established professionals" because professionals in this group had reached a good position in their career and felt well anchored both in their profession and in their organization (double allegiance: that is, a mean of 4.46 for professional commitment and 4.32, for organizational commitment). The second group was named "establishing professionals" because this group included professionals who were making progress in their career and who, theoretically, were supposed to be in the process of strengthening their allegiances, either concentrating on their profession, on their organization, or on both, more or less in parallel. However, results indicated that these professionals tended to show a predominating professional allegiance, that is they tended to be more committed to their profession than to their organization (a mean of 4.14 for professional commitment as opposed to 2.65 for organizational commitment). The third and last group was given the name "non-established professionals" because this group covered professionals who, for various reasons, were not well anchored either in their profession or in their organization (e.g., beginners who had not yet demonstrated their potential, professionals who were denied career opportunities due to a lack of training, interests, or job opportunities, etc.). These professionals tended to show less commitment both to their profession and to their organization, although they felt slightly more committed to their organization.

In other words, they showed a mitigated organizational allegiance (with a mean of 3.40 for organizational commitment versus 2.82 for professional commitment).

Third, it is worth mentioning the relationship between these groups and the factors that would motivate reconsidering one's career. Significant differences (simple anovas) were found, with largest differences between the first and third group. However, certain factors were common to all groups. For example, regardless of the level of professional or organizational commitments, "lack of professional stimulation" remained an important factor in reconsidering one's career for all three groups (respectively 3.24, 3.08, and 3.13). Furthermore, even if "the lack of professional challenges" was considered important by all three groups, the established professionals (first group) were more sensitive to this factor (3.96) than the non-established ones (3.79). It is in fact the most important factor for the first group, followed by "the lack of professional stimulation" (3.24). The non-established professionals (third group) were more sensitive to factors related to "the lack of intrinsic recognition" (3.54), "the lack of statutory recognition" (3.40), and "ambiguity due to new roles" (3.24). Last, the establishing professionals (second group) gave less importance to "the lack of statutory recognition" (3.14) than the non-established professionals (3.40).

However, they were more sensitive to "the lack of professional challenge" (3.95 against 3.79) and "ambiguity due to new roles" (3.20) than the established professionals (2.99).

To conclude, these results support the theory of compatibility between organizational and professional commitments more than the theory of incompatibility. In particular, the number of professionals with a double allegiance represent 63% of the sample. The particular nature of the human resource profession may push more towards a position of compatibility than the converse, although some incompatibility may not be completer/ ruled out. The results also reveal a link between the three groups of human resource professionals and a career decision (reconsidering one's career choice). Contrasts show that significant differences exist among groups. It appears that the third group, the non-established professionals (about 14.5% of the sample) is most at risk regarding a possible career move such as leaving the human resource field. To a large extent these results are consistent with studies on professional malaise that point towards some sensitive factors for professionals, such as the need for recognition (Guerin, Wils, and Lemire 1996). But other sensitive factors which may be specific to the human resource profession also emerge, such as the ambiguity due to new roles (Labelle and Wils 1995), a factor considered particularly important by the second and third groups. This variable is interesting since it helps to contrast the three groups. In addition, it may take on more importance in the future in view of the transformations in the profession, since it deals not only with the traditional ambiguity observed in the field, such as reconciling conflicting interests (Ritzer and Trice 1969), but with ambiguity related to changes. Other factors specific to the profession relate to the lack of professional challenges and the lack of professional stimulation.

These questions should attract the attention of both researchers and leaders in the human resource function who should be aware of the tensions and strains human resource professionals feel and are likely to experience more and more as important changes, such as structural changes or changes in roles and tasks, are contemplated. The survey results suggest that the way in which human resource professionals are managed (especially those belonging to the second and third groups) needs to be improved so as to foster more commitment.


Este estudio, realizado con la participaciòn de 1133 profesionales en recursos humanos de Québec, a identificado, mediante un estudio tipologico de las lealtades profesionales y las lealtades para con la organizaciòn, très grupos profesionales. Varias diferencias de percepciòn con relation a los factores de duda en cuanto a una carrera han servido de manera conjunta con otras variables socio-demogràficas para distinguir y nombrar estos très grupos profesionales. Se trata de los profesionales establecidos, en vìas de establecimiento y los no establecidos. Una discusiòn pone en contexto estos resultados con relation a la rénovation de los recursos humanos que influencia no solamente las obligaciones y papeles de los profesionales de un dominio particular, pero también ciertas facetas de sus carreras.