At our agency, CLASS (www.classcommunity.org), we are always looking for ways to recruit people to work for us. Our turnover rate for our Direct Support Professionals is consistent with human service industry standards, hovering at about 35%. We always have openings for positions that provide direct support to the folks with disabilities that we serve, and struggle to fill them.
That is why this morning, while driving to work, I took interest in an NPR report regarding a study that looked closely at turnover and why people leave jobs, or are attracted to new ones. Of course the conventional wisdom regarding turnover is always tied to salaries. If you had to guess, it is a good bet to put money on salary as the key issue.
But this study found that money (salary) was not the primary factor in job turnover/acquisition. Certainly money and salary are important and high on the list, but for the first time the primary factor rated was "culture and purpose" in a job.
Now organizational theorists have always identified culture and purpose as important, but never as important as salary in what attracts and keeps people in jobs. They have felt that people will change jobs for even small increase and this is still probably true for many people.
Still, this notion of culture and purpose suggest that organizations, and especially nonprofit organizations, who do not have access to profit lines that can be applied to salaries, might do well to examine their cultures. Certainly nonprofit organizations have important purposes to play in their communities, but the notion of culture offers some room to improve the turnover rate.
I know for me at CLASS, that the nurturing of our culture is job number one. People want to work in an environment where they are valued and respected. That they are treated with dignity and honor and that equality becomes an important variable. Of course we need to raise salaries as much as we can, but compared to profit making firms, we are often limited by factors we can not control.
So my message with this blog is two-fold. One is to prompt you to recommend CLASS to anyone you know who might be interested in direct support work. At CLASS they can find purpose, and a culture that will care for them. The other is for you to reflect on what keeps you at your current job. Building a better culture is everyone's business.