Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to introduce a novel direction of enquiry into predictions of
employee turnover through the application of a qualitative method adapted from marital research.
This method focuses on diagnosing the relationship, and has been able to predict divorce with an
accuracy of over 90 per cent, as opposed to existing turnover prediction methods’ modest success of
about 30 per cent. By demonstrating that the method can be applied to turnover research, this study
completes a seminal step in developing this promising direction of enquiry.
Design/methodology/approach – The Oral History Interview method for predicting divorce is
adapted to employment settings, and tested on Australian legal and healthcare employees. A qualitative
analysis of their responses maps the results from this inquiry onto separation-predicting processes
identified in marital research. The results are compared to turnover data collected two years later.
Findings – Similar relational processes exist in marital and employment relationships when the
marital relationship diagnostics method is applied to organisational settings, demonstrating the utility
of this tool in the employment context. Preliminary turnover data indicate that some relational
processes are significantly associated with employee turnover.
Research limitations/implications – Future research should examine the predictive power of this
tool on a larger sample, and apply it to a wider range of professions, tenure, and positions.
Practical implications – The results indicate that it is viable to diagnose an employment relationship
using this diagnostics method developed in marital research.
Social implications – The novel perspective offered in this paper has potential to greatly improve this
employment relationship across jobs and organisations, thus improving organisational productivity and
Originality/value – Researchers of employee turnover and practitioners seeking to understand and
manage it can benefit from this novel and practical perspective on employment.