Antecedents of turnover for field staff in wilderness therapy programs

Alex Kirby (2006)

Unwanted turnover among field staff is a problem for many wilderness therapy organizations. It has a number of negative consequences for the organization, including poor financial performance and compromised continuity of care. This study was intended to find an explanation for this high turnover by examining the influence of organizational commitment, job satisfaction, economic health, and burnout as they are constructed in the organizational and human services literature on intent to turn over (quit). The hope was that with a greater understanding of the problem, wilderness therapy organizations could then take steps to address it. Because of the absence of literature on the subject, field director interviews provided descriptions of the problem of turnover for specific organizations, and any efforts to correct it. Based upon this information, as well as a thorough review of the employee turnover literature, field staff received a survey asking for perceptions of job alternatives and included the Maslach Burnout Inventory, the short-form of the Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire, and the Affective, Normative, and Continuance Commitment Scales. Subjects also gave information on demographics, estimates of employment duration, and narrative responses addressing why they might remain with or leave their company. Logistic regression analyses determined that among the subjects of this research, job satisfaction and normative and continuance commitment were not good predictors of intent to turn over. The same statistical analyses found that burnout and affective commitment were good predictors not only of those who intended to turn over, but also of those who were thinking about looking for another job. This research did not indicate that perceptions of economic health predict intent to turn over, despite this factor's importance in the literature. Supplemental analyses found that those who worked seasonally were less likely to turn over, whereas other analyses found that the longer an individual was employed the more likely he/she was to quit. Findings suggest that it may be in the best interest of wilderness therapy organizations to assist field staff in planning their breaks to bolster affective commitment and increase the likelihood that employees will return.