In the previous Corrections Today article (November/December 2019, Vol. 81 No. 6), we examined some of the factors influencing staff retention--i.e. agency/facility culture, job satisfaction, staff health and wellness, and staff perceptions of safety. This article will focus on research and strategies related to recruiting, hiring and onboarding direct care staff. Brief descriptions of concepts selected from the CJCA Toolkit: Staff Recruiting, Hiring, and Retaining Qualified Staff offer readers exposure to recruitment-related research, provide an opportunity for jurisdictions to reflect on current agency/facility practices and support facilities in exploring effective solutions to recruitment and hiring challenges. Additional information can be found in the CJCA Toolkit.
Many juvenile justice facilities engage in a continuous battle to retain qualified direct care staff. Research studies have estimated turnover among direct care staff in juvenile justice facilities to be between 20% and 25% per year. (Minor, Wells, Angel, & Matz, 2011 ; Wright, 1993, as cited in Mikytuck & Geary, 2016) Research has repeatedly shown the costly impacts of staff turnover to include an increased number of serious incidents; increased work stress, diminished staff morale, decreased staff-to-youth therapeutic interactions and increased financial costs (resulting from overtime costs, workers compensation claims, training, coaching, uniforms, etc.).
Studies have shown the importance of supporting staff within the first year of hire through coaching and effective supervision. In support of this point, a study by Minor, Wells, Angel, & Matz, 2011 (as cited in Wells, Minor, Lambert, & Tilley, 2016, p. 1558) found "approximately a quarter of newly hired staff resigned from state-operated juvenile correctional facilities within the first year of being hired and trained." While agencies may devote energy and resources to keeping staff once hired, the fact is that staff retention begins with recruiting qualified individuals who understand and who are committed to the agency's mission.
The recruiting and hiring continuum
According to research, selecting individuals who are a good fit with the organization's mission can have far-reaching effects within the agency. Stinchcomb et al. (2009) explain:
Recruiting applicants who are a good fit with the organizational mission is likely to have a positive impact on retention, which in turn, ultimately produces greater organizational stability, thereby enabling career development and succession planning to occur in a more orderly manner. Moreover, the impact is reciprocal. That is, the ability to retain high-quality employees through sound management practices and to develop the type of caring, supportive organizational culture where people want to work also makes it easier to successfully recruit top-notch talent, (p. 12)
The CJCA Toolkit organizes the recruitment and hiring processes into four main stages: 1) job analysis and competency development; 2) sourcing talent (recruitment); 3) assessing talent (screening/selection); and 4) engaging talent (hiring/onboarding). A brief description of each of these phases is provided below.
1) Job analysis and competency development (understanding what you need)
The recruitment process begins with the job analysis phase. This phase involves determining whether the direct care staff job title accurately reflects the position's job duties and the agency's mission. Because best practices in juvenile justice use a strengths-based approach to working with youth, the job title should reflect this treatment-oriented approach. For example, replacing titles that emphasize a security and control mindset ("juvenile corrections officer") with titles that emphasize reformation--i.e. "youth development specialist," "juvenile rehabilitation counselor" or "juvenile support specialist." Agencies are encouraged to closely examine the current job title to ensure it aligns with its mission, expectations and daily job duties.
Prior to posting a position, agencies must determine the type of person they are seeking. To attract the best fit for a position, facilities should develop core competencies, ensure job descriptions are up to date and include the agency's mission in the job description. Stinchcomb et al. (2009) describe "core competencies" as the critical "knowledge, skills and abilities... staff need to fulfill the... [agency/facility's] mission" (p. 24). These core competencies should be emphasized in the job announcement and throughout the recruiting and interviewing process. This approach will help ensure applicants' values align with those of the agency.
Clark (2014) suggests jurisdictions consider the following job functions when developing or revising direct care staff job descriptions, as they emphasize a strength-based, trauma-informed approach to working with juvenile justice youth.
Some of these duties/skills include: Behavioral management, crisis intervention, safety and security, recordkeeping and report writing, problem solving, program maintenance and organizational awareness, to name a few.
It is critical that...