Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16832 Organizational Culture's Relationship with Child Welfare Employees' Intentions to Remain Employed

Friday, January 13, 2012: 10:00 AM
Arlington (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Tonya M. Westbrook, PhD, Assistant Professor, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC
Background and Purpose: Turnover is a serious problem in public child welfare with turnover rates ranging between 20% and 40% among a group of professionals responsible for providing protective services to over 6 million children annually. Workforce studies indicate that high turnover is devastating to the quality of services provided to children and families. Studies show that high turnover leads to increases in social and economic costs and can lead to increases in time children spend in out of home placements. Understanding reasons for high turnover can help in developing strategies for resolving the problem. A statewide study of child welfare professionals examined the relationship between dimensions of organizational culture and employees' intentions to remain in the field. Results provide insight into which organizational factors are contributing to the problem of high turnover.

Methods: A survey including demographic questions, the Child Welfare Organizational Culture Inventory (CWOCI) (Westbrook, Ellett, & DeWeaver, 2009), and the Intent to Remain Employed Child Welfare (IRE) (Ellett, 2006) was distributed to all public child welfare employees in a statewide child welfare system (n 3,227). Data analysis included computation of descriptive statistics for demographic characteristics of the sample; Pearson product moment correlations between dimensions of the CWOCI and the IRE; stepwise multiple regression analysis to examine the extent to which dimensions of the CWOCI predicted variation in the IRE; and logistic regression analysis using upper and lower quartiles of IRE scores as a dichotomous dependent variable.

Results: A return rate of 32% provided 1,033 surveys for data analysis. Pearson Product Moment correlation coefficients computed to examine bivariate relationships between sub-scales of the CWOCI and the IRE found all correlations positive, in the predicted direction, and statistically significant (p < .01). Correlations between dimensions of the CWOCI and the IRE ranged from .11 (Professionalism) to .45 (Supervisory Support). The second strongest correlation (r=.43) was for Administrative Support. Stepwise multiple regression found four variables (Supervisory Support, Organizational Ethos, Administrative Support, and, Professionalism) entered the model (p<.0001) and explained 26% of variation in intentions to remain employed. Logistic regression analysis using factors of the CWOCI as an independent variable set and dichotomizing respondents' intentions to remain employed into upper and lower quartiles (respondents most and least likely to remain employed) correctly classified 79.6% of respondents into the upper quartile of IRE scores and 68.3% of respondents into the lower quartile of IRE respondents. Examination of odds ratios indicated that Supervisory Support (p<.001), Administrative Support (p<.005), Professionalism (p<.005), and Organizational Ethos (p<.005) were statistically significant predictors of respondents reported intentions to remain employed in public child welfare.

Conclusions and Implications: Results suggest behavioral norms of support (especially supervisory and administrative support) are more important in employee retention than many other elements of organizational culture. Thus, in child welfare offices where workers feel supported by supervisors, retention rates would be predictably higher than in offices where support is weak or non-existent. Organizational culture dimensions such as autonomy and beliefs about parents are not shown to be crucially important to retention and turnover.

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