Abstract: Research Findings Framing the Development and Evaluation of a New Child Welfare Employee Selection Protocol (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

12708 Research Findings Framing the Development and Evaluation of a New Child Welfare Employee Selection Protocol

Saturday, January 16, 2010: 5:30 PM
Garden Room A (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Alberta J. Ellett, PhD , University of Georgia, Associate Professor, Athens, GA
Chad D. Ellett, PhD , CDE Research Associates, Inc, President/CEO, Watkinsville, GA
Betsy Lerner, MS , Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, Professional Development Program Administrator, Macon, GA
Background/Purpose: High employee turnover rates in child welfare (CW) agencies (20-40%/yr), especially during the first year of employment, are well-documented. The research literature identifies alterable variables (e.g., poor supervision, low pay, high workloads, and employing individuals ill-suited for CW work) as factors contributing to turnover. Research findings framing the development and initial evaluation of a new Employee Selection Protocol (ESP) designed to strengthen employee retention in CW are reported in this paper.

Research Questions (RQs):

1. What are the minimally essential KSAVs (Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, Values) CW employees need prior to employment?

2. Can web-based written information, a realistic job preview video, self-assessment tasks assist applicants to make more informed decisions to select in/out of CW employment?

3. Can a standardized, on-site set of ESP assessment tasks (in-basket exercise, writing samples, and interviews) add value to employee selection procedures?

Methods: Six statewide studies of employee retention in CW provide the knowledge base for the new ESP. To examine job-related validity (JRV) of the KSAVs, a convenience sample (97 CW supervisors and administrators) completed a survey to verify the frequency and criticality to job performance of a set of 38 KSAVs considered minimally essential for new employees. JRV of the new ESP was further examined using open-ended, written ESP evaluation feedback from an advisory committee (n=25), SW students and new hires (n=60), CW supervisors, directors, and administrators. Descriptive statistics of survey results and qualitative analyses of written, open-ended feedback were completed.

Results: For RQ1, eight KSAV assessment domains framing the ESP (interpersonal relationships, self-awareness and self-efficacy, analytical abilities, adaptability, ethics/values/cultural competence, professional commitment, verbal and written communication skills, and planning/organization skills) were verified as important to practice. Mean criticality (minimization of harm) and frequency (how often performed on the job) ratings were highest for: commitment to children and families (M=4.78); and lowest for computer skills (M=3.48) (Max rating=5.00). These results were used to frame the development of the ESP. For RQ2, a survey of SW students and new hires affirmed the three web-based ESP components as important to inform applicants about the realities of work in CW and to make more informed employment decisions. For RQ3, written ESP evaluations from 73 county and regional supervisors, directors and administrators yielded strong consensus that the ESP is superior to the current, more traditional employee selection/hiring processes.

Conclusions and Implications: The goals of the ESP are to: improve the validity, reliability, standardization, and equity of CW employee selection processes; strengthen employee retention; and ultimately strengthen services to children and families. This study empirically identified important KSAVs for new CW employees, established job-related validity, and provided evaluation data that strongly endorsed the new ESP in making initial CW employment decisions. Importantly, and considering employment policy and practices, the ESP allows job applicants to self-select in or out of the application process after completing web-based activities. Thus, lost investments in formal training (human/financial) of new CW employees at risk of turnover might be ameliorated, and retention might be strengthened through implementation of new ESP procedures.