This paper explores published academic journals that describe the Attraction-Selection-Attrition theory. The purpose of researching the Attraction-Selection-Attrition theory is to explain the person-based model, and focus on its benefits in Public Relations. This theory will be detailed through an examination of history, orientation and concepts. This paper will also examine the connection between the Attraction-Selection-Attrition theory and Public Relations, using an example from the United States Army.
Attraction-Selection-Attrition Theory and Its Effects on Public Relations
Organizations are functions of the kinds of people they contain. This statement, according to Schneider, is one of the outcomes of the Attraction-Selection-Attrition theory, a three-part model that explains how collective characteristics of individuals define how they fit within an organization (Schneider, 1987). This model encompasses three stages: attraction, selection and attrition. It is a cycle that shows why people become attracted to an organization, why they are preferably selected for an organization and how over time they may leave if they see it no longer fitting their personal needs. This paper will offer a connection between Attraction-Selection-Attrition theory and Public Relations. Since this theory focuses on creating a group culture within a working environment, Public Relations must keep their internal lines of communications open and help market the company to allow individuals to find it an attractive place to be. When discussing Public Relations campaigns, organizations must understand their audience so they target the people most similar to them to join their organization’s message. They also must be able to put out the right message to potential target audiences to get the best fit possible.
The Attraction-Selection-Attrition model, also known as the ASA model, proposes that organizations are functions of the people who are within the group, and the people within that group are functions of this ASA model (Schneider, 1987). The Attraction-Selection-Attrition model was first proposed in, “The People Make the Place,” an article published in 1987 by Benjamin Schneider. Schneider proposed a person-oriented model of organizational behavior based on the suggestion that an organization is defined by the mutual characteristics of individuals (Schneider, Goldstein, Smith, 1995). Schneider has noted that attributes most relevant to the ASA model are personality, values and attitudes (Schaubroeck, Ganster, Jones, 1998).
The Attraction-Selection-Attrition theory is composed of three-steps. In combination, they determine the types of people that would be part of an organization. By establishing the individuals who would be a part of said organization, this will define the nature of the group (in terms of structure, processes and culture).
Attraction: Individual’s preferences for certain organizations are based on an inherent estimate of similarity with their personal characteristics (Schneider, Goldstein, Smith, 1995). The most crucial of these similarities are values, interests and other attributes. Specific organizations are appealing to people because they have members similar to themselves; therefore they find this organization “attractive,” or a place that they could see themselves working. The attraction section of this cycle gathers that alike people ending up at the same company is not a coincidence.
Selection: The second step of the model refers to the recruitment and hiring periods for companies. The ASA model states that organizations are more likely to select people who possess knowledge, skills and abilities that are similar to their existing members. This involves an organization and applicants both deciding on each other because of how well they meet each other’s needs (Ployhart, Weekley, Baughman, 2006).
Attrition: The third step of the model concludes that over time people who do not continue to fit within the organization will leave. As an individual begins to grow, so will the organization they are a part of. If a person does not feel their needs are being met anymore, they shall remove themselves from the organization because they do not share the same similarities as in the past.
Per the contributing factors of this theory, characteristics of the people who work within the organization are likely to become more similar over time. (Oxford Dictionary, 2016). This is a called homogeneity hypothesis. This hypothesis states that individuals in the same organization should have more similarities in shared personality than members of different organizations. (Ployhart, Weekley, Baughman, 2006). To break it down even more, individuals within organizations are more similar than individuals between organizations. The Attraction-Selection-Attrition theory does not infer the strength of homogeneity across organization levels, but tries to only make a link between the individual and organization.
Application in Public Relations
The Attraction-Selection-Attrition theory is important to know if you are going into any career field. It is important to understand the decision-making process as you complete interviews and research companies that you would like to work at. It can be an advantage for people to understand the ASA model, because it can help them understand that they are likely to preference an organization that has the same values as themselves.
The Attraction-Selection-Attrition theory was proposed in relation to work environments, its main focus is on group culture and how that is created through people joining an organization that has similar values. One aspect of Public Relations is how it can help in the recruitment efforts for many companies. The Attraction-Selection-Attrition theory is important to understand in regards to recruitment because companies must understand what the external audience sees as well as defining the internal audience. Public Relations must consider what the company looks like to the outside world, so that the “attraction” section of the three-step model can take place. Potential employees or members of an organization must be able to see the similar interests and values that a company has in order for them to want to join. Public Relations professionals can take these steps by developing the message that illustrates the type of company they are and what makes your company different. Public Relations must help companies and employees look within their organization to identify the specific groups they would like to target. This is where “selection” comes in.
The Attraction-Selection-Attrition theory can be seen in the Army campaign, “Birth of an Army, Birth of Freedom: The U.S Army 225th Birthday Campaign.” The Army worked in conjunction with public relations firms and media to meet the recruiting goals that we lacking in the years prior to the 2000 campaign.
The Army had seen a decline in recruits throughout the 1990’s and they were hoping to use the Army’s 225th birthday as an instrument in attracting more recruits to join. The Army employed Public Relations agency Ketchum, to begin identifying the problem through surveys and interviews. Ketchum collected research from the external public, some of which was positive and negative. They wanted to see if people were “attracted” to this organization. Among the negative research, many people stated that even though they may know someone in the Army, they would never encourage a young person to join.
The Ketcum study produced three specific messages that they thought would “attract” the type of audience that was most similar to their values and skills. These messages were:
- Past: We have a country because we had an Army
- Present: The Army is the doer of the nation’s deeds.
- Future: The Army is America’s guardian of democracy and protector of freedom. (PRWatch, 2007)
The Army tested these messages and were able to find receptive audiences, which included 16 year-old white students, 17 year-old students of color and interest among 22 year-old Hispanic and African-American youths. By locating these specific audiences, the Army would be able to target the exact group that would fit their organization. This fits in with the ASA model because it is important to target an audience that has the same interests, since they are the ones you are most likely to select to join.
On the Army’s birthday, they scored media attention from all morning news programs, and many other broadcast media sites. This had become the largest communications undertaking by the Army and traffic to the Army’s website increased 550 percent above the previous year. This was a successful campaign for the Army that employed Public Relations tactics to help recruit members and also understood how the ASA model can be influential in recruitment.
The Attraction-Selection-Attrition model is a three-part cycle that explains why a company fits an individual and whether an individual fits within a company. If said individual ends up not sharing the same similarities as time goes on, they will leave the organization. These shared traits between the organization and individual will create a sense of homogeneity. It is important for people in Public Relations to understand the role of the Attraction-Selection-Attrition model when building recruitment campaigns for either their organization or a client. Recruitment must employ the ASA model so they are able to attract the right audience members that they would potentially like to select to continue the homogeneity within their organization. Public Relations agency, Ketchum, helped the United States’ Army understand what made and didn’t make their organization attract so they could properly target a specific audience to recruit new members. The Attraction-Selection-Attrition theory is vital in growing organizations and defining group culture.
Attraction-selection-attrition model – Oxford Reference. (n.d.). Retrieved February 08, 2016, from http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.2011803095433929
Chatman, J. A., Wong, E. M., & Joyce, C. (2007). When Do People Make the Place? Considering the Interactionist Foundation of the Attraction-Selection-Attrition Model. 65-68. Retrieved February 04, 2016, from http://faculty.haas.berkeley.edu/chatman/papers/09_whenpeoplemakeplace.pdf
Farsetta, D. (2007, January 31). An Army of Thousands More: How PR Firms and Major Media Help Military Recruiters. Retrieved February 05, 2016, from http://www.prwatch.org/news/2007/01/5701/army-thousands-more-how-pr-firms-and-major-media-help-military-recruiters
Ployhart, R. E., Weekley, J. A., & Baughman, K.. (2006). The Structure and Function of Human Capital Emergence: A Multilevel Examination of the Attraction-Selection-Attrition Model. The Academy of Management Journal, 49(4), 661–677. http://doi.org.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/10.2307/20159791
Schaubroeck, J., Ganster, D. C., & Jones, J. R. (1998). Organization and occupation influences in the attraction–selection–attrition process. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83(6), 869-891. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/10.1037/0021-9010.83.6.869
Schneider, B., Goldstein, H. W., & Smith, D. B. (1995). The ASA Framework: An Update. Personnel Psychology. Retrieved February 04, 2016, from https://www.tamu.edu/faculty/bergman/schneider1995.pdf.