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Evaluation of the staff retention issues faced by a medium-large sized service delivery charity

Author: Tracie Coultas-Pitman, CEO

Submitted to Oxford Brookes University for the partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Business Administration

The conundrum of employee retention and turnover and its subsequent impact on an organisation’s performance is not a new phenomenon. People moving on can result in employers losing knowledge, experience and organisational memory; not to mention the time and cost; and this is the premise from which organisations attempt to do things differently. Either through employee engagement strategies, talent management pathways, understanding the employer value proposition, pouring over exit interviews, and/or attempting to analyse organisational behaviour. There is also the view that new people can bring fresh perspective, new ideas and expertise to the workplace and that a healthy turnover is important for efficiency (Houghton & Bodey, 2019).

This research is an evaluation of the staff retention issues faced by a medium-large sized service delivery charity. The three objectives aim to evaluate the issues of staff retention, to evaluate retention within one charity in particular and to lead to the development of a framework for understanding the optimum staff retention cycle in that charity.

The review of the literature revealed how the drivers for job satisfaction, job embeddedness and perceptions of human resource practices (participation in decision making, fairness of rewards, and growth opportunities) are all considerations for employee retention, underpinned by the influencing factor of the employee as an individual born into a specific generation. The question “why employees stay” has become as important to improving retention as understanding why they leave compounded by the suggested impact of generational differences (Holtom, et al., 2008) (Anderson, 2020). Using BeyondAutism, a medium-large sized service delivery charity as a case study, the findings led to the development of a proposed Retention Hierarchy Model (Fig. 18).

The themes and issues of staff retention were evaluated through the analysis of a research questionnaire, drawing on quotations from open text questions; in addition to analysis of secondary data – exit interview reports and annual staff survey reports from BeyondAutism for the period 2016 to 2020. Quantitative data was used to evaluate staff retention specifically within BeyondAutism, drawing on turnover figures within a defined interval (2016 – 2020) to analyse historical trends.

To critically evaluate staff retention at BeyondAutism a thematic analysis approach was taken, to enable analysis of key themes and patterns, and to draw and verify conclusions (Saunders, et al., 2019) (Clarke & Braun, 2017). Key phrases (stress, burnout, pay, leadership, benefits, support, job satisfaction, career development and external factors such as moving or family issues) were sought from the historic collated reports and aligned with the BeyondAutism demographic data of the period 2016 – 2020.

The data indicated that, at BeyondAutism, there are key factors driving employees to leave: lack of career development, lack of support and training and not feeling valued. In addition,
the key factors underpinning the reasons employees stay were: enjoying their work, feeling like they are making a difference and enjoying working in their team, alongside the desire for career progression within the organisation. The findings led to the development of the Retention Hierarchy Model (Fig.18) to inform practice and improve staff retention.

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