Existence, relatedness, or growth? Examining turnover intention of public child welfare caseworkers from a human needs approach
Research suggests pay and benefits are ineffective to sustain a stable workforce in public child welfare. It is important to know what other mechanisms would motivate caseworkers to stay at the job. However, the relation of factors contributing to the prevalent problem of turnover in public child welfare remains unclear in part due to a lack of theoretical base in research. This study therefore develops a conceptual framework based on the human needs theory of Alderfer (1969, 1972) to examine what motivates caseworkers' turnover intention. The three categories of needs are existence needs regarding pay and benefits, relatedness needs regarding at-work relationships and life-work balance, and growth needs regarding career development and fulfillment. With a secondary dataset of 289 caseworkers in a northeastern state, our structural equation modeling results show the dynamics between caseworkers' needs and their differential impact on turnover intention. The effect of existence needs on turnover intention is completely mediated by growth needs. Moreover, the variable of growth needs is found to have the strongest total effect among the three need categories. Administration and management may attenuate turnover intention by enhancing caseworkers' growth needs with respect to meaningfulness of daily practice, contingent rewards, and development of personal career goals.
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