Purpose – Turnover intention is one’s behavioural intention to quit. The purpose of this study is to compare the relative influences of organizational socialization and career aspirations on turnover intentions of design engineers and to address the design of more effective development programmes and the reduction of dysfunctional turnover. Design/methodology/approach – A study of 442 engineers staffed within “design and development” units is presented, and a research model is tested using structural equation modelling techniques. Findings – The analysis indicates that design engineers report lower levels of turnover intention when organizational socialization is prominent and an adequate range of opportunities that satisfy career aspirations exist within the organization. Research limitations/implications – The cause-effect relationships among constructs that are empirically derived from the analysis should be further supported by a longitudinal study. Future research should be aimed at exploring the different patterns of turnover intentions of engineers with different career orientations and in organizations with or without rigid formalized career advancement system. Practical implications – Managers of technical staff are advised to put an effort to develop and encourage lateral career moves of research and development staff members, particularly for newcomers, by offering a variety of experiences, that is likely to speed up their prompt creation of a better defined self-concept. Originality/value – The originality of the research lies in that it addresses an explanation of engineers’ turnover based on a theoretical framework that jointly combines internal career anchors as well as external career opportunities and socialization, thus striving to fill a gap in existing literature.
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