Child Welfare Workers’ Perspectives on Contributing Factors to Retention and Turnover: Recommendations for Improvement

Source: Carly Johnco, Alison Salloum, Kayla R. Olson, LaTishia M. Edwards, Children and Youth Services Review, Volume 47, Part 3, December 2014

Highlights
• A supportive environment and opportunities in the organization impacts retention.
• Low compensation, work demands, system issues and stress impacts worker turnover.
• There are few differences between early and later-career workers’ perspectives.
• Workers have a number of suggestions on ways to manage workplace problems.

From the abstract:
Rates of turnover are high in child welfare settings, impacting the organization, remaining workers and the children and families under their care. A number of demographic, psychological, social and organizational features have been associated with increased staff turnover, although we have limited understanding about how and why these factors are important; differences in influence at varying levels of seniority and career duration; and workers’ perspectives on how to address workplace issues. This qualitative study assessed how factors impact employee retention and turnover in focus groups with 25 employees at different stages of employment: resigned case managers, case managers employed for less than one year and more than three years, and supervisors. Results suggested few differences in themes identified by groups. Two broad themes emerged for retention: supportive environment (including themes relating to children/parents, co-workers, and the organization) and opportunities within the agency (including new positions, experience and knowledge and job security). Two broad themes emerged for turnover: organizational issues (including themes about low compensation, challenging work demands, and system issues) and stress. Workers’ perspectives and recommendations on how to address workplace problems were reported. Results are consistent with the existing literature, although a number of unique issues were identified, including workers’ desire for clear communication flow through hierarchies, increased collaboration, and revisions to the way data is used/integrated. Workers expressed a strong desire to be heard by management, and this study reflects an important effort to provide feedback. These findings are relevant for informing organizational policy in child welfare agencies.