Abstract: Design Teams: A Promising organizational intervention for improving turnover rates in the child welfare workforce (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

11485 Design Teams: A Promising organizational intervention for improving turnover rates in the child welfare workforce

Saturday, January 16, 2010: 4:30 PM
Garden Room A (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Jessica S. Strolin-Goltzman, PhD , Yeshiva University, Assistant Professor, New York City, NY
Catherine K. Lawrence, PhD, CSW , State University of New York at Albany, Assistant Research Professor, Albany, NY
Background and Purpose: This presentation describes results from a quasi-experimental study investigating the effects of an intervention designed to address organizational causes of turnover in public child welfare. While much of the previous research in this area has used proxy measures for turnover, this study measures both worker intention to leave as well as actual turnover rates. This study adds to the knowledge base by (1) describing an organizational intervention (Design Teams, or DT) which addresses the organizational causes of turnover (2) analyzing quantitative changes in actual turnover rates as well as organizational factors, and (3) analyzing naturally occurring qualitative data to provide a deeper understanding of the organizational changes that occurred through the course of the intervention.

Methods: This study employs a multi-site mixed-methodology longitudinal design to study the process and effect of an organizational intervention. Quantitative survey data, collected at each site by members of the research team, measures demographic information, job satisfaction, perceptions of child welfare work, the physical work environment, supervision and support systems. Statewide actual turnover data was also utilized. Qualitative data were collected from naturalistic sources generated through the process of the organizational intervention (i.e., meeting agendas, minutes, e-mails and logic models) from each of six public child welfare agencies in rural and urban localities in one Northeastern state.

Results: Findings suggest that DT agencies had a greater improvement in their turnover rate from pre to post intervention than comparison agencies. This improvement, however, did not reach statistical significance (F=4.38, df=1; p=.063). A decrease in mean intention to leave significantly differed within and between groups (F=6.30, df=1; p=.031). Further analysis included exploration of the three agencies where the design team was sustained even after the external facilitator was phased out. In these counties there were significantly greater improvements from pre to post test in the following areas: turnover (F=5.08, df=1; p=.048), intention to leave (F=17.74, df=1; p=.002); burnout (F=11.24, df=1; p=.007); and job satisfaction (F=7.17, df=1; p=.023).

Analysis of qualitative data offers some insight into the actual organizational changes that occurred in the intervention sites. These data help map the pathway between changes in the organization and measured improvements in organizational factors.

Conclusions and Implications: On the whole, both qualitative and quantitative findings support the use of design teams as an intervention for organizational change that positively impacts workforce retention for public agencies in a state-supervised, county administered child welfare system. Qualitative findings in particular suggest that agencies and their employees require specialized training to progress from Ďa group of people' to a functioning team. The complexities of team formulation include consistent exposure to information, team building, decision-making, time management, problem solving, conflict resolution, productive communication skills, and leadership. Such work calls for additional resources of staff time and outside consultation; both may be underestimated by management and workers. However, the successes of the teams in this study are a hopeful example of the power of public child welfare workers when they are given time, information and support to create meaningful organizational change.