Employees’ intentions to stay and leave: not all about pay in aged care sector

"For aged care employees ... pay [is] not a major influence in ... intentions to stay and leave", notes Dr Katrina Radford.

Based upon the significance and contribution of her PhD thesis to the field and in meeting the exact requirements to beawarded a PhD, recently conferred Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing (WOW) Higher Degree Research member, Dr Katrina Radford,was awarded ‘Academic Excellence’ for exemplary performance following the unanimous opinion of her thesis examiners. We spent five minutes with Katrina to learn a little more about her research into employees’ intentions to stay and leave the Australian aged care sector.

Dr Katrina Radford and Associate Professor Kate Shacklock, celebrate the submission of Katrina's thesis.
Dr Katrina Radford and Associate Professor Kate Shacklock, celebrate the submission of Katrina’s thesis.

What inspired your thesis topic/ area of research?

I started working in aged care as a young 21 year old graduate and was amazed at the lack of younger people in this sector. The job itself was always interesting and diverse, yet the reputation of the sector was poor as an employment choice so I wanted to research why people stayed and left the sector in general.

What did your literature review reveal?

My literature review revealed a significant need for aged care workers in the future, and that there were factors other than pay that contributed to influencing employees’ intentions to stay and leave, such as workplace conditions, support, job satisfaction, and job embeddedness. While many organisations are doing what they can to support employees on a tight budget, there was no clear understanding of what factors influenced employees’ intentions to stay and leave, which was the gap my research began to address for the sector.

What didn’t you know then, and what do you know now as a result of your research?

Before my thesis, I failed to understand just how important support from both supervisors and the organisation as a whole was to employee retention and turnover. However, afterwards I am much more aware of the importance of support. Additionally, my research highlighted that while aged care employees are amongst the lowest paid workers in health care, pay was not a major influence in their intentions to stay and leave. This was a surprising finding of my research. In doing so, it also highlighted that there are many ways an organisation can influence the retention and turnover of its employees, which is comforting in a sector such as the aged care sector, which is characterised by funding shortfalls.

Where or for whom, will your research make an impact?

I am hoping my research will impact the sector by improving the knowledge around the importance of workplace conditions, support and culture in understanding why employees’ stay and leave the sector.

Where to from here?

I do hope to extend my findings by obtaining a grant to investigate further the factors that influence employees’ intentions to stay and leave, as I am passionate about the factors influencing retention and turnover.

Katrina will be considered in nextyear’s selection for the Chancellor’s Medals for 2014 – Griffith University’s award for excellence in a PhD thesis.

Katrina’s thesis supervisor’s are WOW‘s Associate Professor Kate Shacklockand the School of Applied Psychology’s Associate Professor Graham Bradley.

Story contributors: Katrina Radford; GBS HDR Outlook Newsletter (May 2014)