High staff turnover presents a challenge to the provision of good quality community-based support to people with a learning disability, according to a new study.

The survey of 205 social care staff who worked in learning disability services was published in British Journal of Learning Disabilities and asked participants to rank factors that  influenced staff retention in order of importance and to identify the extent to which their most important factor was met by their organisation.

It found that the most important factor overall was the relationship of the staff member with the person they supported. This was followed by pay, good communication and staff morale.

Previous research has identified the need for a competent and stable social care workforce to meet the policy objectives of providing good quality care to people with a learning disability in community settings. The most cost-effective way to ensure that staffing requirements are met is to retain the staff who are already employed.

Prioritise staff pay and fulfilling relationships with those they support 

Researchers hypothesised the less the important areas are met by the organisation, the greater the likelihood of the person having been actively looking for another job.

The factors that were rated least important by the participants were work-related benefits, such as pension and health care, career progression and role clarity. Despite this, all of the factors, except benefits, were rated by at least some participants as being the most important for them, suggesting that they are worth considering in interventions aimed at improving retention staff rates.

The researchers concluded: “The results have some potential practical implications for organisations who wish to reduce staff turnover. First, while there was some degree of consensus about the main factors that were most and least important, all but one area (benefits) had at least one person rating it as the most important factor in their work. This suggests the need for organisations to consider more individually tailored approaches to reflect these potential staff differences.

“Second, they may wish to consider multi-component approaches that address as many of the areas highlighted as being potentially important for staff retention as possible. If limited resources preclude such an approach, the results of the research suggest prioritising staff pay and ways of ensuring that staff relationships with those they support are positive and fulfilling.”