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Nov 21, 2014 11:01 AM EST

Workers at small, locally owned businesses have the highest level of loyalty to their employers than other workers do, according to a recent study from Baylor University.

Higher levels of commitment are associated with less absenteeism, lower turnover and less seeking of jobs outside the company. The study also found that for rural workers, size and ownership of their company figure even more into their commitment than job satisfaction does.

"It's an interesting time because of the shift toward big business and globalization, but there are still practical values of small and local businesses, including benefits to the community and to the individual, such as less income inequality, less population turnover, lower crime and more committed workers," Katie Halbesleben, lead author of the study, said in a statement. "When it comes to your job, it's usually not just one thing that affects your commitment. You may say 'I like my boss' or 'I am satisfied with what I do.' Our study re-affirms that working for a small and local company is also an important factor that contributes to a worker's commitment."

For the study, researchers based their findings on data from the Baylor Religion Survey, a nationally representative sample of nearly 2,000 adults that includes information on workers' attitudes, beliefs and practices. Researchers analyzed data from 763 participants who had full- or part-time jobs, as well as a subset of 146 workers living in a rural area.

More than half -- 57.2 percent -- of workers in a small firm scored in the highest commitment category, compared to 40.5 percent working for a large firm. Commitment was strongest when individuals worked for a company that was both small and locally owned: 61.4 percent of those employed at such a business scored in the highest commitment category as opposed to 46.7 percent for large, local businesses.

While job satisfaction is the single factor most likely to determine an employee's commitment, that was not the case with rural workers. For them, working for a company that was both small and locally owned was the greatest predictor for organizational commitment, Halbesleben said.

"[But] you can't rule out other factors that may figure into that for rural workers," she said. "It may be a matter of, 'I have to be committed, because I don't have many other job opportunities.'"

The findings are detailed in the journal Local Economy.

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