About the Author(s)


Kathleen M. Storey symbol
Department of Marketing Management, College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa

Mornay Roberts-Lombard Email symbol
Private, Cape Town, South Africa

Isolde Lubbe symbol
Department of Marketing Management, College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa

Citation


Storey, K.M., Roberts-Lombard, M. & Lubbe, I., 2024, ‘Internal marketing’s influence on South African long-term insurance: An emerging market view’, Journal of Economic and Financial Sciences 17(1), a930. https://doi.org/10.4102/jef.v17i1.930

Original Research

Internal marketing’s influence on South African long-term insurance: An emerging market view

Kathleen M. Storey, Mornay Roberts-Lombard, Isolde Lubbe

Received: 17 Nov. 2023; Accepted: 06 May 2024; Published: 28 June 2024

Copyright: © 2024. The Author(s). Licensee: AOSIS.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Orientation: Addressing employee needs in a competitive market for independent financial advisor (IFA) skills is becoming increasingly important in the South African long-term insurance industry to strengthen IFA commitment and reduce their turnover intention.

Research purpose: To explore the interrelationships between internal marketing mix elements and IFA employees’ perceived value, employee satisfaction and turnover intention. In addition, the study also explores the moderating role of brand commitment on the employee satisfaction and turnover intention relationship in the South African long-term insurance industry.

Motivation for the study: Numerous scholars have investigated internal marketing in multiple contexts in a business-to-consumer setting (B2C). However, no previous study on internal marketing explored its linkage to outcomes such as perceived value, employee satisfaction and turnover intention among IFAs in the South African long-term insurance industry.

Research approach/design and method: A total of 410 responses were obtained for data analysis. The measurement and structural models were measured through structural equation modelling.

Main findings: Perceived value positively influences employee satisfaction, while the latter has a positive relationship with turnover intention. Furthermore, brand commitment moderates the employee satisfaction-turnover intention relationship.

Practical/managerial implications: By considering this study’s findings, South African financial services providers can design internal marketing activities that enhance the value financial advisors perceive in the employment exchange, increase their satisfaction, and thus reduce the high employee turnover characteristic of the industry.

Contribution/value-add: This study provides an enhanced understanding of the need for internal marketing and its relationship to perceived value, employee satisfaction and turnover intention in a B2C context in South Africa.

Keywords: internal marketing; perceived value; employee satisfaction; brand commitment; turnover intention; independent financial advisors; long-term insurance industry; South Africa.

Introduction

Operating within a highly competitive, turbulent market, the South African long-term insurance industry relies heavily on experienced, skilled client-facing employees to provide high-quality customer service and build trust with clients (Kruger 2018). This is especially true considering that the South African long-term insurance industry is a significant contributor to the country’s economy, adding R578 billion in income in 2022 – equivalent to 8% of the annual gross domestic product for the same year (R4.60 trillion) (ASISA 2023; StatsSA 2023). The long-term insurance industry ensures the continued financial freedom of South African policyholders, while employing over 11 500 citizens as sales representatives or independent financial advisors (IFAs) who work for financial services providers in the South African long-term insurance industry (South African Government 2023; Van Tonder 2022). This study specifically examines IFAs who are employed by a single financial services provider, rather than brokers who distribute products from multiple providers. This focus is crucial as scholars such as Hung, Lee and Lee (2018) argue that a committed and effective sales force, like IFAs, represents a competitive advantage, especially in environments where customer demands are growing and sales pressures are increasing. One of the biggest challenges facing the long-term insurance industry is a high IFA turnover (KPMG 2021). Since 2018, an average of 20% of newly recruited IFAs left their employers within the first year of employment. A combination of recruitment pressures, the high cost of establishing new IFAs, and the difficulties in making them successful have made established IFAs a sought-after resource (Van der Merwe, Malan & Bruwer 2020). Ullah and Ahmad (2017) introduced the concept of internal marketing programmes to deliver additional benefits to employees by engaging with them and increasing the connection with their employers. The effective use of internal marketing may assist in retaining IFAs by presenting a combination of internal marketing elements designed to increase the value IFAs perceive the financial services providers as offering. These internal marketing elements include the job, remuneration and work environment (Van der Merwe et al. 2020). Vorina, Simonič and Vlasova (2017) added that internal marketing can form a connection between employees and employers. Employment relationships can be formed, where employees feel they are receiving value and, as a result, pass that value on to customers (Ahmed et al. 2020).

However, Slavković, Pavlović and Simić (2018) as well as Yi, Cho and Amenuvor (2023) stated that the high demand for experienced, skilled IFAs has led to financial services providers competing for and poaching IFAs, using financial incentives to motivate them to leave their current employers (Williams 2020). However, research shows that satisfied employees are more committed employees and are not motivated purely by economic benefits, but functional and psychological benefits as well. Therefore, to reduce employee turnover intention, improve employee satisfaction and increase the perceived value offered by employers, internal marketing offers a possible solution to high IFA turnover rates by presenting a combination of need-satisfying benefits to employees (Papasolomou, Kitchen & Christofi 2017).

Nevertheless, there is scant research on internal marketing in the South African long-term insurance industry, particularly on IFAs and employee turnover intention. This results in limited understanding about the extent of implementation of internal marketing in managing IFAs in the South African long-term insurance industry; whether long-term financial services providers structure their internal marketing programmes based on IFAs’ needs; if there is a need to expand the current internal marketing mix to enhance IFAs’ perceived value, satisfaction and retention; whether IFAs’ commitment to their long-term financial services providers’ brands can strengthen the relationship between IFAs’ perceived value and satisfaction levels; and whether IFAs’ perceived value can lower employee turnover intention in the long-term insurance industry. Since IFAs perform dual tasks of sales and service providers, their satisfaction and commitment to their long-term financial services providers’ brands and desire to remain in their employ will impact company productivity and profitability (Redelinghuys 2017; Shetty & Basri 2018). Thus, the concept of treating staff as internal customers is based on the need to increase the value they perceive as employees, thus enhancing their satisfaction levels and commitment and reducing turnover retention (Yi et al. 2023).

The employment experience should present more perceived benefits than costs, delivering value to employees and enhancing overall employee satisfaction in the long term (Gandhi, Sachdeva & Gupta 2018; Papasolomou et al. 2017). Greater satisfaction is said to reduce employee desire to seek alternative employment (Isa & Indrayati 2023; Nayak, Jena & Patnaik 2021; Schaap & Olckers 2020). Employees’ commitment to employer brands may also influence their desire to leave (Carlini et al. 2019; Slavković et al. 2018). Therefore, including additional internal marketing mix elements may aid internal marketing as a strategy in creating employee satisfaction and reducing employee turnover intention, allowing employers to benefit by retaining experienced employees who are committed to the brand and have sustained client relationships (Huang, Lee & Jiang 2020; Raj 2021). Consequently, this study aims to determine the role of internal marketing on IFAs’ turnover intention.

This research makes numerous theoretical and practical contributions. Firstly, theoretically, the expanded internal marketing mix, containing 12 elements, creates a new academic focus within the relationship marketing sphere in South Africa as an emerging market. The study proposes internal marketing as a credible strategy for building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with employees. Furthermore, it purports that internal marketing should be perceived as a means for employees to receive social benefits from the employment exchange, with reciprocation in the form of positive behaviour towards employers. Secondly, the study proposes five additional internal marketing mix elements (i.e. internal political power, internal personal relationships, internal packaging, internal performance management and internal positioning). The exploration of these new additional internal marketing variables in relation to perceived value has not been done within existing relationship marketing literature from an internal marketing perspective. Thirdly, perceived value is explored as an intervening variable in the relationship between internal marketing and employee satisfaction, based on the proposition that enhanced internal marketing activities deliver more benefits to IFAs, thus increasing the value they perceive their jobs as offering (Grönroos 2020; Ullah & Ahmad 2017). As such, if IFAs perceive their jobs as offering more value, they will have a higher degree of satisfaction with their current employment (Williams 2020). This relationship has not been academically explored before in the relationship marketing domain from an internal marketing perspective. Finally, brand commitment is explored as a moderator in the relationship between employee satisfaction and employee turnover intention (Slavković et al. 2018) from an internal marketing perspective within the relationship marketing domain in an emerging market context. As such, the theoretical argument proposed in this study seeks to inform emerging markets, such as South Africa and other emerging markets, how to implement internal marketing as a marketing strategy within an emerging market context and how it should be theoretically conceptualised.

Practically, the model proposed in this study confirms the extent to which an expanded internal marketing mix is effective in reducing IFA turnover. This model also explores the expanded internal marketing mix’s potential to increase the value IFAs perceive their jobs to offer. Additionally, the model reflects whether increasing the value IFAs associate with their jobs may increase their employee satisfaction levels, as well as if more satisfied IFAs have a lower employee turnover intention. Moreover, this study provides long-term financial services providers with insight into the influence brand commitment has on IFA satisfaction. Although this study has a strong focus on the South African long-term insurance industry, the findings provide valuable insight into other emerging market service industries on how internal marketing can be applied as a strategy to enhance employee value perception and satisfaction to lower employee turnover intention. Finally, as South Africa is the insurance trendsetter for the rest of Africa, this study’s research findings significantly contribute to the employment strategies developed by long-term insurers throughout Africa (McKinsey & Company 2022).

The article presents the theories grounding the study, with a precis of the world view adopted. Thereafter, an examination of the hypothesised relationships, supported by corroborating theory, is provided, accompanied by the empirical model. The article then addresses the research methodology applied, concluding with the research findings and recommended implications.

Theoretical framework

South Africa’s long-term insurance industry and the role of independent financial advisors

The long-term insurance industry in the country is characterised by 75 registered financial services providers, with five (Sanlam Limited, Discovery Limited, Old Mutual Limited, Momentum Metropolitan Holdings Limited and Liberty Holdings Limited) dominating the market in terms of total rand value worth – between R725 million and R2764 million (ASISA 2023; Hagedorn-Hansen 2017; KPMG 2022). The South African long-term insurance industry aids the economy through policy payouts that contribute directly to the economy and indirect contributions via capital investments (ASISA 2023; StatsSA 2023; Van der Merwe et al. 2020).

The South African long-term insurance industry is highly competitive and relies on its experienced workforce to provide high-quality customer service and build trust with clients (Du Preez 2017; Kruger 2018). This is particularly applicable to IFAs, whose role entails liaising with clients, primarily to sell long-term insurance products, in conjunction with developing relationships with clients that allow for the provision of ongoing financial planning advice (Ainiyah, Nelloh & Sjahrifa 2020; Van der Merwe et al. 2020).

Consequently, effective and committed employees are a source of competitive advantage, particularly with customers becoming more demanding and sales pressures increasing (Hung et al. 2018). This is considered within the context of the South African long-term insurance industry facing increased competition and economic pressure. South African consumers endure increased costs of living and less disposable income, making it harder to sell policies and leading to more policy lapses (Deloitte 2022). Fewer long-term insurance policies mean fewer South Africans are protected against life-changing events, and fewer people are eligible for payouts. The money paid out to customers benefits the insured and contributes to the South African economy’s revenue flow. In 2022, this amounted to R578bn being put back into the country’s economy (ASISA 2023; StatsSA 2023).

Internal marketing’s relevance to employee perceived value, employee satisfaction and turnover intention

Internal marketing has been established as a marketing strategy targeting employees, specifically as internal customers. Therefore, internal marketing strategies are designed to satisfy internal customers’ needs, just as external marketing strategies are designed to satisfy external customers’ needs. The goal of all marketing, including internal marketing, is retention (Ieong & Lam 2016; Qaisar & Muhamad 2021; Yi et al. 2023). Internal marketing takes a strategic approach to internal relationship management, identifying the right individuals to employ, preparing them for the employment exchange through motivation and training, and enabling them to perform at their best within the employment exchange (Papasolomou et al. 2017; Ristic, Mujanovic & Damnjanovic 2018), while working towards their employers’ shared vision (ed. Dadwal 2019; Paul & Shahadev 2018). Consequently, internal marketing activities strive to create a favourable internal environment that fosters co-operation, open communication and alignment with employers’ values (Ristic et al. 2018). Internal marketing originates from the traditional marketing mix elements, adapted to suit the internal customer – namely internal product, internal price, internal place and internal promotion (Paul & Shahadev 2018). With internal marketing displaying the services marketing characteristic of inseparability, where internal customers interact with other employers’ processes and the physical environment, internal marketing itself is required to be more service-orientated in nature. Thus, internal people, internal processes and internal physical evidence make up the services marketing mix for internal marketing (Abbas et al. 2018; Hoang et al. 2018; Vel et al. 2019). In addition, research supports the proposition to include additional internal marketing mix elements to further strengthen internal customers’ satisfaction (Grönroos 2020).

The expansion of the internal marketing mix is encouraged by Selvarasu (2017). The inspiration behind the inclusion of the additional elements is drawn from previous research. The inclusion of internal political power and internal performance management stems from the work of De Bruin (2019), with the addition of internal personal relationships motivated by the research of Nowlin, Walker and Azana (2018). Internal packaging was included following the findings of Chang et al. (2019) and internal positioning was found to enhance the employment offering by Djurdjevic et al. (2017). The inclusion of additional elements in the internal marketing mix is a method of enhancing the value internal customers perceive to be offered in the employment exchange, attracting and retaining internal customers (Grönroos 2020; Yu et al. 2019).

Theories grounding the study

Relationship marketing theory, social exchange theory and expectancy disconfirmation theory provide the theoretical foundation of this study. Relationship marketing theory recognises the importance of building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships in the business environment with internal (employees) and external customers (Berry 1983; Jiang & Shen 2023; Morgan & Hunt 1994). From an internal perspective, relationship marketing establishes and maintains long-term relationships with employees (Akhmetshin et al. 2019). The relationship marketing component of commitment functions to stimulate employees’ desire to remain employed by their employers (Arasanmi & Krishna 2019; Ngoma & Ntale 2019). Social exchange theory emphasises high-quality social relationships (Blau 1986), specifically between employers and employees, which lead to increased employee satisfaction (Salas-Vallina, Alegre & López-Cabrales 2021; Yi et al. 2023). This study uses social exchange theory to support the proposed interrelationship between financial advisors’ perceived value and their employee satisfaction levels. Expectancy disconfirmation theory is applied in support of the idea that when employees receive the benefits they expect from an employment exchange, they are more likely to remain in that exchange (Arasanmi & Krishna 2019; Oh & Ma 2018). Employers’ internal offerings communicate to employees what to expect from the employment exchange, with internal marketing then used to deliver on those expectations (Arasanmi & Krishna 2019; Mainardes, Rodrigues & Teixeira 2019).

Theoretical model development

The interrelationships between internal product, internal place, internal price, and internal promotion and perceived value

Internal product refers to the work employees perform (Sahibzada et al. 2019). It comprises the fit between the job and employees, role clarity, workload assigned as part of the job, training and development that takes place within the job, career opportunities and meaningfulness of the work. These components of internal product add functional benefits to employee perceived value by offering employees meaningful work and opportunities for growth and career advancement within a specified working environment (Jung & Suh 2019). Fewer physical and psychological costs are perceived by employees when the internal product offers an appropriate workload and role clarity (Coetzee, Ferreira & Potgieter 2019).

Internal place refers to the work environment where the employment occurs. Employees should have access to workplaces that are safe and suitable for the work that needs to be performed, with access to the necessary resources (Sahibzada et al. 2019). The work environment can provide value to employees through the provision of conditions that make the work performance easy and effective, with easy access to internal suppliers and other resources, within a workplace culture where employees share values (Bhatt 2020). Scholars (Abdelmoteleb 2020; Medina & Prieto 2022) have confirmed the relationship between employees’ working environment and their value perceptions.

Internal price encompasses payments for services rendered, including salary, commission, incentives and benefits relating to the costs employees incur to perform those services (Mura et al. 2019). Through remuneration, including the correct mix of fixed pay, incentives and additional benefits, employers are better able to attract and retain the best employees (Frye et al. 2020). Remuneration may also be intrinsic, such as socially rewarding relationships built through the employment exchange (Redelinghuys 2017). As such, internal marketing intends to provide more perceived benefits to employees and increase the value perceived within their jobs, setting internal price at the correct level to offset effort expenditure (Asaari, Desa & Subramaniam 2019). Huang et al. (2020) concurred, stating that employees perceive physical and psychological costs as reducing the value offered in the employment exchange.

Internal promotion encapsulates internal communication directed at employees. The most obvious internal promotion would be communication flowing from management, aligning employees with employers’ values and goals (Nemteanu & Dabija 2021). The internal promotion element also includes two-way communication between employees and employers, allowing employers to better understand how to meet employees’ needs, and internal activities designed to build a sense of community within the employment exchange (Cloteau 2018). Employers use internal promotion to engage with employees through communication, thus establishing emotional connections. The more employers engage with their employees, the more value is perceived in the communication directed to them (Špoljarić & Verčič 2022).

Considering the aforementioned discussion, the following hypotheses are proposed:

H1–H4: There are positive and significant relationships between the internal product, internal place, internal price and internal promotion elements of the traditional internal marketing mix and employee perceived value.

The interrelationships between internal people, internal processes, and internal physical evidence and perceived value

Within the employment exchange, employees interact with other employees, including peers and those in positions of authority (De Bruin 2019). Internal people strategically utilise the internal interactions between themselves and other employees to increase the value perceived in the employment exchange. Employees in positions of authority who utilise their position to positively influence the employment exchange contribute to the value perceived by those whom they manage. Employees in positions of authority also set the standard for how other employee interactions should occur within the employment exchange (Akbari et al. 2017). Through the leveraging of the internal people element, employers can encourage more supportive interactions between employees at all levels of the organisation, which contributes positively to employees’ value perceptions of the employment exchange (Cheng 2020).

Internal processes support employees in their performance of the work tasks required as part of internal product acknowledgement (De Bruin 2019). Internal processes should be designed to assist employees in performing their tasks and not purely to reduce costs. They are more valuable to employees when they enable workflows to run efficiently and assist employees in performing their tasks well, without incurring unnecessary administrative pressures (Boakye 2018). As such, internal processes save employees’ time and improve their performance and add value to the employment exchange (De Bruin 2019; Huang et al. 2020).

Internal physical evidence accounts for the tangible aspects of the employment exchange (Vel et al. 2019). This element adds to the tangible appeal of the employment exchange and workspace functionality (Agbozo et al. 2017). While internal place provides the workplace, internal physical evidence maintains the workplace’s aesthetic appeal (Chan & Tay 2018). Furthermore, internal physical evidence serves as evidence of work performed, such as documents that evidence information exchanges (Gladka & Fedorova 2019; Pakurár et al. 2019). Therefore, internal physical evidence adds to the perceived value of the employment exchange by drawing attention to aspects of functionality and streamlining of work output, making work processes more appealing to employees (Victor & Hoole 2017).

From the aforementioned, the following hypotheses are formulated:

H5–H7: There are positive and significant relationships between the internal people, internal processes, and internal physical evidence elements of the service-based internal marketing mix and employee perceived value.

The interrelationships between internal political power, internal personal relationships, internal packaging, internal performance management, and internal positioning and perceived value

Internal political power equates to social influence. The support employees can generate from others within the employment exchange reflects the political power they have (Berthelsen et al. 2019). When employees know they can exert some influence to gain support from others, they feel positive affective and cognitive benefits (Naz et al. 2020). Employees perceive there to be more value in the employment exchange, as the political power they are able to exert within that exchange feels empowering and the employees feel respected by those they have influence over (Im & Chen 2020).

Internal personal relationships refer to the relationships that may be formed between individual employees and peers, superiors or management. The ability to form personal relationships within the workplace creates a sense of belonging (Nowlin et al. 2018; Yi et al. 2023). Internal personal relationships increase employees’ value perceptions as they become more socialised within the employment exchange, which brings additional benefits, such as productivity, satisfaction and commitment (Pathak & Srivastava 2017; Vieira-dos Santos & Gonçalves 2018). Positive internal personal relationships let employees benefit from trust, confidence and collaboration among the internal people they work with (Victor & Hoole 2017).

Internal packaging encompasses the presentation of the internal product element to employees. The way employees’ tasks are presented affects how they perceive the work (Rasheed et al. 2020). The packaging of tasks includes the consistent application of internal branding, operating procedures and standardisation of output (Chang et al. 2021; Gill-Simmen et al. 2018; Yildiz & Kara 2017). Together, internal packaging and internal physical evidence can increase the value signalled to employees. Internal packaging allows employees to present tasks to fellow employees in such a way that they appear enjoyable and simpler to perform (Yildiz & Kara 2017). Employers may utilise internal packaging to increase work attractiveness, as perceived by employees, satisfying a need for easy-to-follow operating procedures (Biswas et al. 2017).

Internal performance management concerns employees being aware of how well they are performing their tasks, as required by the internal product element. Within the employment exchange, there should be measures to track employee performance. Beginning with the provision of clear performance standards, internal performance management also requires the communication of job requirements, the implementation of evaluation systems allowing employees to measure their performance, and a feedback system (Smith & Bititci 2017). Employees value regular feedback on their performance, as it allows them to track their achievement of work requirements and motivates them to improve their performance (Lechermeier, Fassnacht & Wagner 2020).

Internal positioning relates to employees’ standing in relation to others within the employment exchange. Employees’ internal position relative to their peers influences how employees feel about the employment exchange, including how satisfied they are with their position (Ristic et al. 2018). Internal positioning adds to the benefits employees perceive in the employment offering, as a higher standing equates to a more powerful or respected position and adds meaningfulness to the work (Daradkeh 2023).

Considering the given discussion, the following hypotheses are proposed:

H8–H12: There are positive and significant relationships between internal political power, internal personal relationships, internal packaging, internal performance management, and internal positioning as new elements of the expanded internal marketing mix and employee perceived value.

The interrelationship between perceived value and employee satisfaction

An increase in employees’ perceived value will enhance their satisfaction levels within the employment exchange (Pathak & Srivastava 2017). When employees evaluate the employment exchange, they assess the various value-adding benefits offered by employers in relation to the sacrifices employees must make while earning those benefits. An exchange is deemed valuable when the benefits earned exceed the sacrifices (Rzemieniak & Wawer 2021). Research shows that when employees perceive the exchange to be valuable, they are more satisfied with the exchange made (Strenitzerová & Achimský 2019). Thus, if employees find value in the employment exchange, they are more likely to be satisfied. Against this background, the following hypothesis is proposed:

H13: There is a positive and significant relationship between perceived value and employee satisfaction.

The interrelationship between employee satisfaction and turnover intention

Turnover intention encompasses the likelihood of individuals engaging in behaviour to gain alternative employment to voluntarily leave their current employment (Caillier 2021). Turnover intention has an indirect relationship with employee satisfaction, as the higher the satisfaction level in the employment exchange, the lower employees’ intention to leave will be (Wang & Wang 2020). Research validates the claim that when employers implement actions that increase employee satisfaction, turnover intention decreases (Choi & Chiu 2017; Tosun & Ulusoy 2017). Considering the aforesaid discussion, the following hypothesis is formulated:

H14: There is a negative and significant relationship between employee satisfaction and turnover intention.

The moderating role of brand commitment in the relationship between employee satisfaction and turnover intention

When employees decide they want to look for alternative employment, the commitment they feel towards their employers’ brands may have some influence. Brand commitment may be a useful moderator in securing long-term employment relationships, stemming from how appealing employees find the employer’s brand and how attached they are to it (Monteiro et al. 2020). Appealing brands have a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining employees, as they are viewed as attractive places to work (Carlini et al. 2019; Slavković et al. 2018). When employees feel attached to their employers’ brands, they feel part of the brands (Arasanmi & Krishna 2019). Accordingly, when employees experience brand commitment, they are less likely to consider seeking alternative employment (Dechawatanapaisal 2018; Gill-Simmen et al. 2018). As such, it is hypothesised that:

H15: Brand commitment moderates the relationship between employee satisfaction and turnover intention.

Figure 1 depicts the proposed empirical model for this study, illustrating the hypothesised relationships between the constructs of the study.

FIGURE 1: Proposed empirical model.

Research design

Population and sampling

The study was positivistic and descriptive in nature (De Meyer-Heydenrych & Struweg 2021). The study targeted IFAs at registered financial service providers in South Africa (Burns & Bush 2020). The study’s sample selection constituted three phases. Phase one was based on judgement sampling, where the financial services providers were selected. In phases two and three, convenience and snowball sampling were used to select the IFAs for this study. In total, 410 respondents were sampled from the target population of financial advisors employed at South Africa’s 20 most significant long-term financial services providers, in terms of share of new business (KPMG 2021).

Measures and items

A structured, self-administered questionnaire was prepared as the data collection instrument, with sampled financial advisors volunteering to rate their agreement or disagreement with statements relating to the study’s constructs. Respondents had to rate their agreement or disagreement on a five-point scale (1 = ‘strong disagreement’; 5 = ‘strong agreement’). The questionnaire’s closed-ended questionnaires were adapted from previously tested data collection tools and chosen based on their suitability to the study’s objectives and hypotheses. As outlined in Table 1, each construct’s items were obtained from various sources (Barkhuizen 2005; Chang et al. 2021; Cohen 1993; De Bruin 2019; Djurdjevic et al. 2017; Frye et al. 2020; Nowlin et al. 2018; Park et al. 2010; Vasantha & Vinoth 2017).

TABLE 1: Constructs and sources.

The questionnaire was organised into sections. Section A included questions screening respondents for suitability for the study, based on the sample requirements of respondents having worked for more than 12 months as an IFA for one of the South African financial services providers included for analysis. Section B comprised questions on the demographic characteristics of the financial advisors who participated in the study. Section C consisted of questions on the extent of implementation of the internal marketing mix elements by employing financial services providers. Section D contained questions on financial advisors’ value perceptions, while Section E questioned financial advisors’ satisfaction. Section F included questions related to financial advisors’ brand commitment to their employers. To conclude, Section G questioned financial advisors’ turnover intentions. The sample size target was 500 financial advisors and 410 usable responses were gathered. Full ethical consideration was given to the study, including informing respondents of the study’s nature and purpose, participation being voluntary with the freedom to withdraw at any time, attention being paid to potential bias, and the protection of the financial advisors’ anonymity and confidentiality.

Data collection

Data were collected via a quantitative, self-administered online questionnaire. A reputable research agency was hired for data collection, which adhered to South African protection of private information regulations. Ten fieldworkers residing in the Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces of South Africa were employed by the research agency to collect data from respondents. The research agency identified potential respondents through voluntary opt-in procedures and industry contacts. Only respondents who adhered to screening questions stipulated for participation in this study could be considered. The fieldworkers contacted the potential respondents, requesting their voluntary participation in completing the self-administered questionnaire via email. Completed questionnaires were returned to the requesting fieldworker after completion. In terms of the online data collection process, the questionnaire was distributed via Google Forms. Respondents who completed the questionnaire were also asked to refer other potential respondents to secure higher levels of participation. Therefore, the final sample was secured through the application of convenience and snowball sampling to ensure the inclusion of the final sample elements in the study. Data were collected over a 2-month period, with 410 usable questionnaires being collected for analysis.

Data analysis

After the data were edited and cleaned, they were entered into SPSS 24.0. Using SPSS 24.0, frequencies and descriptive statistics were calculated to obtain insights into respondents’ demographic profile; their internal marketing, perceived value, satisfaction and employee turnover intention perceptions; and the 74 items measuring the five constructs of the study, with internal marketing comprising 12 sub-constructs. The measurement model and structural model were assessed using Amos 24.0.

Ethical considerations

Ethical clearance to conduct this study was obtained from the University of Johannesburg School of Consumer Intelligence and Information Systems Research Ethics Committee, the ethical number is 2022SCiiS031.

Results

Respondents’ profile

The study’s respondents were aged 27–45 years, with 52.20% being male and 42.80% being female. Most respondents (30.50%) had a college and/or university diploma, followed by those with a university degree (29.80%). Most respondents (81.20%) had completed their regulatory industry examination and had been with their employer from 5 to 10 years (31.50%), with 87.10% of respondents having returned to the office to fulfil their work duties. Moreover, the results indicated a mean monthly gross salary of R20 0001 – R40 000. The highest-employing financial services providers were Old Mutual Life Assurance (19%), Liberty Group (15%) and Absa Life (12%).

Measurement model assessment

With the aid of Amos 24.0, a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was conducted on the 74-item, 16-construct model to determine its psychometric properties. The model was specified and adjusted based on the removal of items in the internal product and internal price constructs, resulting in the merger of these two constructs to form the construct internal product acknowledgement (subsequently hypothesis 3 was removed from the study). Furthermore, the modification indices calculated to improve the model fit – in this instance, the root mean square error of estimation (RMSE) – were also adjusted (Jöreskog & Sörbom 1993). The adjustments made to the model can be supported by literature because covariances were only included between error terms of items measuring the same construct (Wang 2014).

The final measurement model indicated a good fit, with all indices at or near a satisfactory level (see Table 2). The absolute indices for normed Chi-square and RMSE met the acceptable level at 2.174 (less than 3) and 0.054 (less than 0.070), respectively. At 0.839, the goodness-of-fit index (GFI) met the 0.80–0.90 acceptable level. The standardised root mean square residual (SRMR) was also at an acceptable level (0.428) because the value was < 0.80. Both incremental indices fell within the acceptable range, with the comparative fit index (CFI) and Tucker-Lewis index (TLI) being greater than 0.90 (0.937 and 0.925, respectively).

TABLE 2: Measures for goodness of fit (measurement model).
Reliability analysis, convergent and discriminant validity assessment

Table 3 summarises the various reliability and validity scores of the items used to measure the constructs of the study, including factor loadings, means and standard deviations (SDs), Cronbach’s alpha, composite reliability (CR) and average variance explained (AVE). The results show that the mean scores vary between 2.19 and 4.43, with SDs of 0.545–1.444. The results (Table 3) confirm the regularity between the items measuring the study’s constructs. The Cronbach’s alpha scores fell above the 0.700 threshold, varying between 0.770 and 0.964 (Hair et al. 2014). The CR scores for all constructs (internal marketing, service quality and perceived customer satisfaction) varied between 0.791 and 0.937, exceeding the 0.7 cut-off. A comparison between the Cronbach’s alpha and CR results revealed all scores fell within the acceptable levels of reliability. Furthermore, the validity of the constructs used in this study’s model was assessed by investigating convergent and discriminant validity through a CFA. All items held factor loading values above the 0.5 threshold, as stipulated by Hair et al. (2014), implying convergent validity. The AVE was also calculated as an additional assessment of convergent validity, with scores for all the constructs exceeding the 0.5 threshold, thus confirming convergent validity for the scales applied to the study (Hair et al. 2014).

TABLE 3: Factor loadings, means (M), standard deviations, p-value, Cronbach’s alpha, composite reliability and average variance explained.

Discriminant validity was also determined by establishing whether the constructs’ AVEs exceeded the corresponding inter-construct correlations. Table 4 provides insight into the correlation and square root of the AVE matrix, and the results show that the square root of the AVEs for all constructs is greater than their correlations with other constructs, hence confirming discriminant validity

TABLE 4: Discriminant validity for the improved measurement model.
Structural model assessment

After evaluating the model’s psychometric properties and testing underlying assumptions, the structural properties had to be assessed. Like the measurement model, the following goodness-of-fit measures were assessed: CMIN/DF, DF, p-value, GFI, TLI, SRM and RMSE (see Table 5).

TABLE 5: Measures for goodness of fit (measurement model).

Table 6 provides insight into the findings concerning the study’s hypotheses. The table shows that 6 of the 14 hypotheses proposed are accepted.

TABLE 6: Hypothesis testing.

Considering the given discussion, the following model is proposed.

Discussion

The results indicate that internal people (β = 0.34; p = 0.01), internal political power (β = 0.15; p = 0.01), internal performance management (β = 0.17; p = 0.01) and internal positioning (β = 0.17; p = 0.01) positively impacted IFAs’ perceived value of the employment exchange. Internal people illustrated the strongest regression score and is thus considered the strongest influencer of IFAs’ perceived value. Internal product acknowledgement, internal place, internal promotion, internal processes, internal physical evidence, internal personal relationships and internal packaging did not have a significant impact on IFAs’ perceived value (based on a p-value larger than 0.05). Moreover, the results reveal perceived value had a significant and positive influence on employee satisfaction in the long-term insurance industry (β = 0.49; p = 0.01). Additionally, the results show that employee satisfaction had a significant, but positive influence on employee turnover intention in the long-term insurance industry (β = 0.51; p = 0.01). In this instance, the relationship between IFAs’ levels of employee satisfaction and turnover intention does not agree with the theory supporting employee satisfaction, where previous studies validate employee satisfaction as negatively influencing turnover intention (Isa & Indrayati 2023; Nayak et al. 2021; Schaap & Olckers 2020). Furthermore, the positive relationship between employee satisfaction and turnover intention is mainly because of the unique nature of the employment exchange in the South African long-term insurance industry, where IFAs are autonomous, commission-based employees (M. Crestwell Adolph [senior manager for learning department, Liberty Group] pers. comm., 17 June 2022; N. Naicker [regional development manager, Liberty Group] pers. comm., 08 June 2022). Although IFAs may feel satisfied in their current employment exchange, they could also be looking for other employment exchanges that offer more opportunities. For example, IFAs may face clients seeking insurance offerings that they cannot supply. If an IFA finds employment with another employer offering a wider variety of products, the IFA will pursue that opportunity to meet more clients’ needs, thus earning more commission (C. Gil [wealth advisor, Liberty Group] pers. comm., 18 May 2023).

FIGURE 2: Final proposed model.

The study’s findings indicate that brand commitment has a statistically significant and positive moderating effect on the relationship between employee satisfaction and turnover intention. This supports previous research on employee brand commitment, reducing the likelihood of employees seeking employment elsewhere when they are satisfied (Dechawatanapaisal 2018; Gill-Simmen et al. 2018). The findings reveal that when brand commitment exists, there is reduced turnover intention, when considering employee satisfaction. The results further indicate that when IFAs are satisfied with the employment exchange and are committed to their employers’ brand, there is a lower intention to leave. Interestingly, the results reveal that even when IFAs are dissatisfied with their experience in the employment exchange but are committed to their employers’ brands, there is a lower intention to leave.

This study’s results show a significant positive relationship between the internal people element and IFAs’ perceived value, supporting previous research (Akbari et al. 2017; Cheng 2020). The research indicates that good leadership by employers positively influences how employees perceive their employers, jobs and goals. This is especially relevant where direct superiors work closer to employees than leaders, and employees perceive more value in interacting with superiors who adopt more caring management styles. Moreover, supportive co-workers positively influence how employees perceive the employment exchange. Furthermore, the study’s results show that internal political power influences IFAs’ perceived value. This agrees with previous studies (Im & Chen 2020), which positioned internal political power as increasing the value employees perceive in the employment exchange. Internal performance management and internal positioning also positively impact IFAs’ perceived value of the employment exchange. This supports existing research findings that employees value the opportunity to receive regular feedback on their performance, as it allows them to track their achievement of work requirements and motivates them to improve their performance (Lechermeier et al. 2020). The internal position that employees hold relative to their peers has been proven to influence how employees feel about the employment exchange, including how satisfied they are with their position (Daradkeh 2023; Ristic et al. 2018). Although significant and positive, the strength of the relationship between internal political power management and IFAs’ perceived value is the least influential in this study. This implies that more consideration is required by South African financial services providers to strengthen the impact of this element on IFAs’ value perceptions. This can be through the support of managers who because of the unique nature of the South African long-term insurance industry, engage in business coaching activities with IFAs (M. Crestwell Adolph [senior manager for learning department, Liberty Group] pers. comm., 17 June 2022).

This study pinpoints four internal marketing mix elements as influencing IFAs’ perceived value in the employment exchange within the South African long-term insurance industry. The implementation of effective internal marketing programmes has been proven to add value to employees’ perceptions of their jobs and has also been shown to increase employee satisfaction (Kaplan 2017; Ullah & Ahmad 2017). The identification of these four, non-traditional internal marketing mix elements as significant provides important insight into the need for the evolution of internal marketing theory to match changing socio-economic trends.

Against the background of the given discussion and the results flowing from the study as reflected in Table 6, a total of six hypotheses were accepted: H5, H8, H11–H13 and H15. The other eight hypotheses – H1, H2, H4, H6, H7, H9, H10 and H14– were rejected.

Theoretical and managerial implications

The study’s results show certain elements of the internal marketing mix significantly and positively influence perceived value, which impacts employee satisfaction. In addition, brand commitment has a moderating effect on the employee satisfaction-turnover intention relationship. These results confirm previous research findings where it was also found that the more value employees perceived in their jobs, the more satisfied they were (Rzemieniak & Wawer 2021; Strenitzerová & Achimský 2019).

Deeper understanding of selected internal marketing mix elements as precursors to strengthen independent financial advisors’ perceived value perceptions

This study supports the theoretical suppositions of a cumulative effect of various internal marketing mix elements on perceived value and resultant employee satisfaction, namely internal people, internal political power, internal performance management and internal positioning. Insight into the positive influence of various internal marketing mix elements on employees’ perceptions of the value they gain from the employment exchange is important because it has implications for internal marketing theory. The findings reveal that the value employees perceive in the value exchange is not based on the basic job requirements and remuneration, but influenced by the human interactions during the employment exchange. Moreover, if employees perceive value in the employment exchange, they are likely to be more satisfied (Gandhi et al. 2018; Papasolomou et al. 2017; Pathak & Srivastava 2017). Effective internal marketing programmes have been proven to add value to employees’ job perceptions and to increase employee satisfaction (Ullah & Ahmad 2017). When employees have positive experiences through their interactions with others in the employment exchange and their ability to gain and exploit social status, there is a significant positive effect on the value perceived in the employment exchange (refer to Table 6).

Enhanced knowledge of the role of perceived value in nurturing employee satisfaction

This study’s results favour the inclusion of methods to increase employees’ perceived value in the employment exchange as a means to increase their satisfaction with the employment exchange. Akin to research considering perceived value’s positive influence on customer satisfaction (Fandos-Roig et al. 2021; Kotler et al. 2019; Lee, Lee & Liang 2019), employee satisfaction is similarly influenced by positive value perceptions (Grönroos 2020; Ullah & Ahmad 2017). Thus, perceived value is established as an intervening factor in the relationship between internal marketing and employee perceived, where perceived value is increased by the strategic utilisation of the elements of the internal marketing mix, and the increase in perceived value results in positive responses from employees (Mainardes et al. 2019; Victor & Hoole 2017). The application of perceived value is a successful means to foster employee satisfaction, distinctively as a direct result of internal marketing (Pathak & Srivastava 2017; Ullah & Ahmad 2017). While most organisations understand the need to have satisfied employees, this study’s findings highlight the importance of the inclusion of a value proposition that is positively evaluated by employees to achieve satisfaction. Further research could explore why certain elements of the internal marketing mix are perceived as offering more value to employees than others, and how those elements that contribute positively towards the value proposition can be developed to fortify the relationship between employee satisfaction and reduced turnover intention.

A perspective on employee satisfaction and its influence on employee turnover intention

This study offers a conflicting view of the relationships between perceived value, employee satisfaction and turnover intention within the context of the South African long-term insurance industry. The results disagree with previous studies (e.g. Choi & Chiu 2017; Schaap & Olckers 2020; Tosun & Ulusoy 2017), demonstrating employee satisfaction to have a negative relationship with employee turnover intention, showing that increased employee satisfaction leads to reduced turnover intention. This study’s findings indicate that, from a financial advisor perspective, increased employee satisfaction does not automatically resolve high levels of employee turnover. Employee turnover intention is a more complex issue, where the possibility of attaining more success with another employer is considered in addition to satisfaction with the current employer. Interestingly, a study on organisational commitment among financial advisors in the South African long-term insurance industry also revealed a similar relationship between the existing theoretical determinants of employee commitment to the employer and financial advisors’ commitment to their financial services providers (Patterson 2017). Further research is needed for a deeper understanding of why there is no negative relationship between employee satisfaction and turnover intention in the South African long-term insurance industry.

Understanding employee commitment in moderating the employee satisfaction-turnover intention link

This study’s results indicate brand commitment moderates the relationship between employee satisfaction and turnover intention. The results agree with previous research stating that when employees are committed to employers’ brands, they are less inclined to seek other employment if they are satisfied with their current employment offerings (Carlini et al. 2019; Raj 2021). Interestingly, within the context of the theoretical relationship between employee satisfaction and turnover intention in the South African long-term insurance industry, this study proves that increased employee satisfaction leads to reduced employee turnover, even when financial advisors are dissatisfied with their experience in the employment exchange. In this instance, when employees are committed to their employers’ brands, they are less likely to leave, regardless of their satisfaction levels.

Managerial implications

Based on the study’s results, internal marketing should be implemented more strategically in the South African long-term insurance industry. Financial services providers should strive to follow a more structured, systematic approach to internal marketing implementation. All internal marketing mix elements should hold equal importance and enhance IFAs’ perceptions of the value in the employment exchange. Internal marketing mix elements that are currently perceived by IFAs as being well implemented should be held as the benchmark, with the implementation of the other internal marketing mix elements seeking to achieve the same, enhance IFAs’ perceived value, improve employee satisfaction and reduce IFAs’ turnover intentions. As such, the following guidelines are proposed.

Guideline 1: Enhancing perceived value through internal people as an internal marketing element

Evidence suggests financial services providers’ leaders are aware of the importance of their role in communicating their organisations’ vision, while also being open to suggestions from IFAs when making decisions relating to the organisations. Areas where leadership can improve should be prioritised, particularly leadership style. As a result of the industry’s entrepreneurial nature, a different style may be required, where IFAs are supported to grow their business portfolios. Financial services providers should focus on ensuring direct superiors have the necessary skills to coach IFAs as entrepreneurs by recognising their individuality and offering the right support. Furthermore, direct superiors need to be skilled in conflict management between IFAs and between IFAs and operational staff. Co-workers are crucial to the social environment within the workspace and financial services providers need to do more to encourage positive social interactions between IFAs.

Guideline 2: Enhancing perceived value through internal political power as an internal marketing element

Financial services providers should assess how much political power IFAs are afforded within their organisations. Although IFAs should not be allowed to exploit political power, financial services providers should ensure they feel supported, allowing IFAs to thrive in growing their portfolios. Independent financial advisors with political power typically have a longer tenure with financial services providers; thus, their political power and associated influence are signals that more experience leads to more respect and influence, which may encourage IFAs to strive towards long-term employment. Moreover, financial services providers should consider power to persuade as a common skill among IFAs in the South African long-term insurance industry. This is because of the typical personality traits of IFAs, being salespeople. Financial services providers need to be aware that IFAs think they have influence over other employees and can use this to their advantage. Although IFAs should not exploit this influence, financial services providers could find out what IFAs want to use their influence for and offer more formal ways to achieve this.

Guideline 3: Enhancing perceived value through internal performance management as an internal marketing element

Although financial services providers furnish IFAs with tools to measure their performance, such as IFAs setting personal performance targets, this can be improved by setting performance standards that suit IFAs’ different motivation needs, so that they are satisfied with their results. This may mean that direct managers become more involved with setting targets for the IFAs they manage, as part of their role as business coaches, where managers can sit with IFAs and discuss their performance. Managers are then able to understand what drives individual advisors, rather than setting generic performance targets. Aspects like experience may affect advisors’ potential, which managers can consider, optimising the IFAs’ potential. The IFAs will feel their managers are taking a personal interest in their performance and that they have had an opportunity to participate in the setting of targets. As IFAs can set goals for themselves and track their progress, financial services providers should focus on working with IFAs to improve the areas where they are dissatisfied with their results.

Guideline 4: Enhancing perceived value through internal positioning as an internal marketing element

Financial services providers offer IFAs positions in the organisation that are regarded with high esteem by colleagues. Independent financial advisors in the South African long-term insurance industry only have one job title: financial advisors. However, IFAs are ranked within their organisations based on their achievements. The recognition of achievements is valued by IFAs who see this as providing them with high esteem among peers. Financial services providers should continue to recognise IFAs’ achievements. For example, a commonly used performance measure in the South African long-term insurance industry is quality control based on lapse rates. This encourages IFAs to not only pursue sales to make short-term performance targets but also to sign policies they feel will be maintained for a minimum of 12–24 months. Independent financial advisors receive commission based on the value of the investment product sold. They could also receive additional bonuses or rewards for retaining those investment products over the long term. This would motivate IFAs to only make sales they know clients are comfortable with and can afford to maintain over the long term. Independent financial advisors are satisfied that they are given positions perceived as prestigious, indicating that financial services providers are offering work environments that allow IFAs to interact in ways that garner honour, respect and influence. Although the ability to gain these types of social status is common because of the personality type typical of IFAs, financial services providers should appreciate that prestigious positions are important to IFAs and ensure there are opportunities for IFAs to build informal social status. Financial services providers can place IFAs in positions in internal committees, such as ethics-related committees (internal political power). In an industry as strictly regulated as this, with little room to manoeuvre around rules around long-term insurance products, IFAs may still offer valuable insights into what clients are looking from their financial services provider. Independent financial advisors may also be appointed to product piloting programmes and asked to critique proposed offerings based on their industry experience (A. Mocke [senior manager for professionalism and development, Liberty Group] pers. comm., 10 June 2022). This study shows that IFAs value being acknowledged for their achievements (internal performance management), thus appointing IFAs to status positions at awards ceremonies will reinforce that acknowledgement.

Conclusion

This study sought to investigate the interrelationships between internal marketing, employee perceived value, employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction, considering the moderating role of employee brand commitment among IFAs in the South African long-term insurance industry to reduce high levels of IFA turnover. It was established that IFAs’ value perceptions increase through the internal marketing elements of internal people, internal political power, internal performance management and internal positioning. The study provides direction to the management of South African financial services providers on how to apply the internal marketing mix as a strategy to enhance IFAs’ perceived value, thereby increasing their satisfaction and reducing turnover intention. To improve the value IFAs perceive in the employment exchange, a stronger emphasis must be placed on internal people through increased individual focus by leadership and direct managers; more focus is needed on establishing why IFAs feel the need to use their persuasive influence for success; additional tools should be available to encourage IFAs to monitor performance goals benefiting them, clients, and financial services providers; and IFAs should receive recognition that awards them status in lieu of promotion opportunities. An understanding of the above will assist South African financial services providers and potentially long-term insurers in other emerging markets to enhance the value their customer-facing employees perceive, thus increasing employee satisfaction and reducing turnover intention.

The study is limited, since internal marketing, perceived value, employee satisfaction, turnover intention and employee brand commitment were only explored within the South African long-term insurance industry. Future studies could explore these constructs in different service industries within South Africa and beyond. In addition, because eight of the proposed internal marketing mix relationships with perceived value were rejected in this study, the inclusion of further internal marketing Ps could be considered to explore their influence on perceived value, employee satisfaction and turnover intention in the long-term insurance industry.

Acknowledgements

The authors want to acknowledge the University of Johannesburg for financial and administrative support towards the study. The authors would also like to thank Osmoz Consulting, specifically Dr Karel Nzita Mayemba who assisted with the data analysis.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no financial or personal relationships that may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.

Authors’ contributions

K.M.S., M.R.-L. and I.L. contributed equally to this research article.

Funding information

This research received funding from the University of Johannesburg’s Department of Marketing Management in the form of a doctoral degree bursary.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author, M.R.-L., upon reasonable request.

Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and are the product of professional research. It does not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated institution, funder, agency, or that of the publisher. The authors are responsible for this article’s results, findings and content.

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