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Staff turnover in Humanitarian Organizations:

From NOHA Program Graduates Perspective

Lensa Kuma Tirfe
Student number: 06144128
November 30, 2007
Supervisor: Pat Gibbons


I would like to express my gratitude Ior the support and guidance oI Pat Gibbons oI
University College Dublin and Liesbet Heyse oI University oI Groningen in this
study. I would like also to thank all the NOHA alumni who gave up their time to Iill
out the questioner and to participate in the in-depth interview. Especial thanks goes
Ior NOHA- Dublin Class oI 2007 Ior making my stay wonderIul and Iull oI
memories. Last but not least I am very grateIul Ior my Iamilies Ior all their support
and love in this wonderIul experience.
Table of Contents

Abstract ii
1. Introduction 1
2. Theoretical Background 6
Employee turnover deIinition and classiIication 6
Consequences oI turnover 8
Theories and causes oI turnover 12
WorkIorce and Humanitarian organization 17
3. Result and Analysis 22
Level oI turnover in humanitarian sector 22
Causes oI turnover 25
Present employment history 32
Consequences oI turnover 38
Recommended retention strategies 40
4. Conclusions and Recommendations 45
5. ReIerences 48
6. Annex 1: Semi structured questioner 53

List of Tables

Table 1 Demographic characteristic oI participants 25
Table 2 Year oI experience with Humanitarian organizations 26
Table 3 Reason Ior changing jobs 27
Table 4 Duration oI stay at the current organization 32
Table 5 Type oI contract with the current organization 32
Table 6 Location oI work 33
List of Figures
Figure 1 ClassiIication oI turnover 7

Background: This study is undertaken to investigate staII turnover in the humanitarian
organizations Irom the perspective oI Network oI Humanitarian Action program

Method- Both primary and secondary data were used to conducted the study. In depth
interview were carried out with 11 aid workers who graduated Iorm the Network oI
Humanitarian Action program.

Findings - The limited secondary data suggested staII turnover to be a major issue in
humanitarian organizations. The participants in the study have changed jobs at least
once aIter graduating Irom the Network oI Humanitarian Action program. The time
spent in previous employment range Irom one month to 6 years and the average
length oI stay is 16 months/job. The causes oI staII turnover are personal,
organizational and external Iactors. End oI contract is mentioned by large as a reason
Ior changing jobs by participants. During the time oI the study, 64 oI the
participants have been with the current employer Ior less than a year and 55 oI
participants have temporary contract with the present employer organization. All
participants Ieel Iit with the current organization. Increased workload, decreased
interaction among workIorce and decreased quality oI program is attributed as a
negative eIIect oI staII turnover. On the positive side staII turnover is mentioned to be
useIul to solve team disagreement. Improvement in human resource practice,
organizational structure and an oIIer oI long term contract are suggested as a way oI
improving retention oI employees.

Conclusion StaII turnover is a problem in the humanitarian sector. Causes oI staII
turnover are consistent with the private and public industry. However, end oI contract
is the major reason Ior changing jobs among the participants. Further quantitative
studies are required to identiIy the major causes oI staII turnover and subsequently to
improve retention strategies among the humanitarian organizations.
Chapter 1

Employee turnover is an extensively researched issue by organizational
psychologists. There have been several hundred studies carried out on
employee turnover since 1900 (Cotton and Tuttler, 1986). However, Iew
studies have Iocused on staII turnover among humanitarian workers despite
the dynamic nature oI this business. In this chapter the problem oI staII
turnover, the general objective, speciIic objective and the methodology oI the
study will be discussed.

Background and Problem Statement

There have been massive changes in the humanitarian business over the last
two decades (HPG Report11, 2002). The increase in natural as well as
complex emergencies around the world, the protracted nature oI the conIlicts,
the increase Iund being channeled by humanitarian organizations and the
change in the world economy that creates a social and humanitarian welIare
contribute to the expansion oI the existing humanitarian organizations and the
birth oI many new organizations (Linderberg, 1999; Rebuen, 2002, Chege,
1999, HPN newsletter, 2002). As the industry expands it will Iace similar
challenge like the private and public sector such as acquiring and retaining
skilled personnel. The working environment may additionally contribute to
the diIIiculty oI acquiring and the retaining skilled personnel and Iurther be
responsible to high staII turnover rate in the humanitarian sector. The working
environment in the humanitarian sector diIIers signiIicantly Irom the public
and private sectors The more salient diIIerences involves working: in a
location Iar away Irom Iamilies and Iriends; under tremendous stress and in
multicultural teams, in insecure environments; in situations where works
Irequently witness sever human suIIering and pain. Hence, this may limit the
desire to work in the sector Ior a long time. Like wise the motivation oI
joining oI the humanitarian sector may inIluence staII turnover in the sector.
Emmens and Perry (2006) in their study oI staII turnover Irom employee
perspective, identiIy the Iollowing main reasons Ior joining the humanitarian
sector: making a diIIerence (50), travel/adventure (41), solidarity with the
poor (32). Further analysis oI the workIorce in the humanitarian sector
suggest that the motivation oI the workIorce varies Irom those who take
some time oII Irom their regular liIe to work in the sector Ior a while to those
who have committed to work in the sector Ior a long time as a 'proIessional
humanitarians. ThereIore, there may be a lot oI contributing Iactors that can
give rise to high staII turnover in the expanding humanitarian sector.

A high staII turnover rate has a lot oI negative consequences. Besides the
costs associated with actual separation oI the employee and recruiting, hiring
and training oI new employees other costs may not be easy to measure. The
indirect cost oI turnover may extends to decrease quality oI aid or program,
loss oI trust between the beneIiciaries and the agency, Iailure oI program, loss
oI institutional memory and a loss oI skilled personnel to competitive
agencies, a loss oI talented Iuture leader oI organizations and may contribute
to other staIIs tendencies to quit (Loquercio , 2006).

Organizations in the humanitarian sector will beneIit a lot iI they have a clear
understanding oI how and why their employees leave their jobs and what they
can do to reduce the problem. Thus, the main Iocus oI this study is to examine
staII turnover in humanitarian organizations Irom the context oI humanitarian
aid workers with especial emphasis on graduates oI the Network on
Humanitarian Action (NOHA) programme.

Research question:
How can humanitarian organizations arrest the high staII turnover it currently

General Objective:
To identiIy best practice Ior humanitarian organizations to retain key staIIs.
Specific Objectives:
To assess the level oI staII turnover in humanitarian
- What is the level oI turnover?
- Does the rate vary by gender, position in the
organization (levels oI management), role within the
organization, educational status etc
To identiIy the Iactors that contribute to turnover among
humanitarian aid workers
- What are the Iactors that give rise to turnover? (Economic,
social, organization culture, personal, etc.)
To suggest/recommend ways that humanitarian organizations
might address the issue oI staII turnover

Study design:

Two diIIerent data have been used in this study, primary and secondary data.
The primary data came Irom qualitative research Irom interviews with NOHA
graduates while the secondary data came Irom a wide literature review in
regard to turnover in humanitarian organization.

To assess the level oI turnover in humanitarian organizations extensive
literature review in the humanitarian sectors were done to answer the Iirst
speciIic question. Publication reports, newsletter, diIIerent studies and
magazines articles on humanitarian turnover or related issues were studied.

To identiIy the Iactors that contribute to staII turnover among humanitarian
aid workers and to come up with suggestion and recommendation to
humanitarian organizations qualitative study was undertaken Irom August 27
to October 10, 2007. The NOHA program graduates were selected because
the program is given at master`s level and students who are entering in this
study either have background in the Iield or are willing to work in the sector
Ior a long period and represents a segment oI the 'the proIessional

Purposive sampling method was used to select participants Ior in depth
interview. The main criteria Ior selection Ior in depth study were that the
respondent should have graduated Irom NOHA beIore 2006 and worked in the
sector Ior a year at the minimum aIter completion oI the study. Semi-
structured questionnaire was prepared aIter doing an extensive literature
review to reIlect the underlying theories and a simple analytical Iramework
was developed Irom the literature to guide the data collection and analysis.
An invitation to participate in the study was posted in the NOHA alumni web
page. In addition personal messages were sent out to 98 graduates using the
email address listed on the alumni site. The desired sample size was Irom 16-
20 people due to time and resource constraints as well as number oI interview
availability. A total oI 14 people responded to the initial invitation aIter three
weeks oI announcement oI the study. The topics oI discussion in the Iorm oI
semi structured questioner were sent out to the interested participants. Only 12
replies were received back. Then an appropriate date and time that was
convenient Ior the participants was selected to discuss the questions in the
Iorm. The interviews were conducted by the investigator by phone (8) and
online chat (3) with the participants. The interview took about 30-40 minutes.
Detail note was taken during the interview and subsequently analyzed based
on the Iramework. A total oI 11 alumni participated in the interview which is
analyzed and presented in this paper. One oI the participants could not be
available Ior interview due to work schedule. Stories and quotes were taken
literally to illustrate the main points. Name oI participants and the name oI the
organizations are not disclosed Ior the purpose oI conIidentiality.

The reasons Ior low response may be due to the Iact that the alumni work long
hours, and have great demands on their time. In addition the request Ior
inIormation and ideas based on semi structured questioners is more diIIicult
and time consuming to answer than a closed questionnaire.

Utilization oI the study:
This study can be used to enhance the understanding oI the causes oI high staII
turnover in humanitarian sector. It can be used to brainstorm humanitarian
organizations to examine their turnover rate, magnitude oI the problem, causes
oI the turnover and subsequently to improve their human resource practice. In
addition, this study can be used as a base line studies Ior Iurther studies.
Chapter 2
Theoretical Background

Employee turnover is an on going topic oI research and discussion in the
private and the public sector. According to studies, the public service, health
care, hospitality and technology sectors are being hit by high employee
turnover rate (Bureau oI Milwaukee County child welIare report 2004, Decker
et al.,2003, Fields, 2005 , Davidison, 2006, Hatton et al., 2001). This chapter
discusses the theoretical concept oI turnover based on the existing literature. It
is organized in Iour sections. The Iirst section illustrates employee turnover,
by analyzing its meaning and how it can be classiIied, the second section
elaborates on the consequences oI turnover, the third section provides an
overview over humanitarian organizations and the last section deals with the
theories and the causes oI staII voluntary turnover.

2.1. Employee Turnover Definition and Classification:
Employee turnover is deIined as the 'inIlux and exit oI individuals into and
out oI the work Iorce oI an organization over a speciIic period oI time`
(Watkins, 1953 in Cornog , 1957). Exit Irom an organization can take the Iorm
oI resigning, redundancy, retirement, dismissal or death. Later the diIIerent
type oI exits classiIied under voluntary and involuntary turnover. Voluntary
turnover stands Ior any departure as a result oI the individual`s decisions or
actions while involuntary turnover is due to termination oI the employment by
the organization. Involuntarily turnover includes all dismissal Iorm oI exit
which is believed to be beneIicial to the organization, while voluntarily
turnover accounts Ior all other Iorms oI exit and is Ielt to be a loss to the
organization. As research advanced, it is accepted that not all voluntarily
turnover is harmIul Irom the perspective oI an organization. Instead there is
some Iorm oI voluntarily turnover where the organization cannot inIluence or
on the contrary encourage. Thus, the classiIication oI turnover becomes more
specialized as outlined below in Iigure 1.


Source : Rodger GriIIeth and Peter Hom (2001)in Loquerico et al. 2006

Figure 1: ClassiIication oI turnover

Voluntary turnover is again Iurther distinguished into Iunctional (the exit oI
substandard perIormer) and dysIunctional when employee quits while the
organization wishes to retain him/her (Dalton et al., 1982 and Loquercio et al.
2006). In explaining why it is not always easy to dismiss employee, Dalton et
al.,(1982) argued that the institutionalization oI employment security makes
it diIIicult to Iire all those perIorming below the expectation oI the
organization. ThereIore, the voluntary turnover oI those workers who are
underperIorming is received positively by the organization. DysIunctional
turnover on the other hand can be modiIied by the organizational eIIort. It can
be avoidable or unavoidable. It may be unavoidable iI it is inIluenced by the
external Iactor to which the organization can exert little inIluence on the
decision oI the individuals. Dalton et al. (1982) includes retirements, health
matters, those who leave due to Iamily commitment, education and even death
at this category. On the contrary there may be a role the organization can play
in the case oI turnover that is driven due to internal Iactor and termed as
avoidable turnover. At the macro level Abelson and Baysinger (1986) deIine
the dysIunctional turnover in terms oI cost. According to these authors,
dysIunctional turnover should be deIined as the amount oI cost that is needed
to retain the employee versus the cost that results Irom losing him or her
(turnover cost). II the employee is too expensive to retain then it would be
better Ior the organization to let him/her go. Further they argued both retention
and turnover involves some cost. Hence organizations should aim to optimize
the balance between these costs (the sum oI turnover plus the sum oI costs
associated with reducing it) to the minimum level. ThereIore, they deIined
dysIunctional turnover as:

'the loss of emplovees the organi:ation prefers to retain on a cost adfusted
basis`. (Ibid, p.333).

2.2. Consequences of Turnover

Traditionally, the negative side oI voluntary turnover has been emphasized
over the advantageous side oI turnover. However, it is now recognized that
not all types oI turnovers are bad to the organization and acknowledged
turnover can be good. Instead the separation oI under perIorming employees
saves a lot oI cost to the organization. In this section both the positive and the
negative side oI turnover are discussed.

2.2.1 Negative Consequences of Turnover.
The negative consequences oI turnover are largely explained in terms oI direct
and indirect costs. The direct cost is visible because it can be estimated, while
the indirect cost is oIten neglected and diIIicult to estimate. However, the
exclusion oI indirect cost in calculating the total turnover cost is misleading
and represents the tip oI the iceberg. In its annual survey, Chartered Institute
oI Personnel and Development (CIPD) (2007) noticed only a Iew agencies
(8) among the sample provided an estimated cost oI turnover. This reIlects
that too little attention is paid to the costs incurred by turnover when making
retention or hiring decision. Calculating the cost related to turnover helps
organizations to make rational judgment whether it is better to trade oII
between turnover costs or retention based incentives. Some oI the costs related
to turnover are outlined below.

Direct Costs.
Cost of leaving/separation. The cost associated with termination are time
spent on exit interview and evaluation, paperwork processing, pay Ior
accumulated vacation, holiday, leave and substitute aide salary and beneIits
(Staw, 1980; Latimer, 2002 and CIPD, 2007). II large numbers oI people leave
regularly, then the pressure will be enormous.

Recruitment and selection cost. The cost oI advertisement, screening,
interviewing and testing compatibility is associated with signiIicant amount oI
cost. Beside this background veriIication and physical check-up all add to the
replacement cost oI an organization. According to Staw (1980) the cost oI
recruitment and selection is modiIied by the labor market Iacing the
organization, the level and the complexity oI position to be Iilled, and whether
an internal or outside candidate is selected to Iill Ior the position. II an
employee within the organization takes over, then the cost oI recruitment and
selection can be reduced.

Training cost. Training cost is one oI the largest, iI not the largest and most
visible direct cost (Seavey, 2004). The cost again depends on the complexity
oI the position that is to be Iilled. II the job is complex, the new member may
need a long period oI time beIore he/she can perIorm at adequate level that is
desired by the organization (Staw,1980). Another determinant is how well the
job is designed including the objective and procedures. II none oI the above
are carried out the new member requires more time to be competent (Graen,
1976 in Staw,1980). Likewise the replacement Irom the outside may incur
more training cost than inside successor.

Indirect Cost.
The hidden cost associated with turnover is usually diIIicult to measure and
subjective most oI the time. Most oI the Iigures on turnover only reIlect the
direct measurable cost leading to the underestimation oI the overall cost oI
turnover. As Latimer (2002) argued a majority oI expenses related to turnover
are reIlected in indirect cost and do not show up directly. Some oI the indirect
costs oI turnover are team disruption or operational disruption and team
demoralization eIIect on the remaining workIorce.

Operational/Team disruption. The loss oI large numbers oI key members in
an organization may be costy by itselI in terms oI smooth operation. It may
result in loss oI productivity until a new employee masters the task (Pinkovitz,
Moskal et al., 1997 in Brereton et al. 2003). The distribution oI the work
among the remaining workers due to the vacant position may result in the loss
oI productivity oI the team. The loss oI productivity will continue until the
new employee adapts the new role (Latimer, 2002). Thus, the quality oI
service may be aIIected as a result oI turnover. A study on the turnover cost in
a medical care center estimated the costs associated with lower productivity oI
new employees constituted Irom 42 to 66 oI total turnover cost
(Walderman et al., 2004 in Seavey, 2004). The average eIIiciency loses Ior the
Iirst six months Ior nurses in UK was estimated to be 30 to 50 (CIPD,

Demorali:ing effect on the other members of organi:ation. Turnover eIIect
may extend to create emotional and physical stress on the remaining work
Iorce (Seavey, 2004). Turnover may induce the members oI an organization to
questions their motives oI staying behind. Especially iI turnover rate is high,
then this will aIIect the social and communication structures oI the agency
gradually leading to job dissatisIaction oI the remaining members oI the
organization and creates a 'breeding ground Ior more turnovers (Ibid). The
eIIect oI turnover in demoralizing the remaining members oI the organization
can be modiIied by other Iactors such as the perceived reason Ior leaving and
the social status the individual holds in the organization. II the perceived
reason is more related to personal and Iamily reason, it produces less
demoralizing eIIect. In addition iI those who leave hold high social status
among the team, it produces a greater demoralizing eIIect (Steers and
Mowday,1980 in Staw, 1980).

2.2.2. Positive consequences oI turnover:
Increased performance. Turnover may provide a better match between jobs
and workers and enhances perIormance. Staw (1980) deIined perIormance to
be the Iunction oI eIIort and skills. He proposed that Ior jobs that require high
technical knowledge, high physical exertion and that requires high emotional
commitment to have an inverted U perIormance curve. He argued that
experience may contribute to job skills and knowledge but eIIort and
motivation may be at its highest when individual Iirst arrives in the
organization. Thus, in jobs that requires high physical and psychological
commitment such as air traIIic controllers, nurse and social workers, keeping
the tenure/contract at low side may enhance the average individual
perIormance (Ibid). In addition turnover will provide the introduction oI new
ideas and skills to the organization. Thus, without turnover the organization
may not cope up with the change in the environment and may lead to the death
oI the organization (Staw, 1980).

Conflict reduction. As a last resort, turnover may be the only answer to
resolve diIIerences that can not be worked out (Staw, 1980).

Increased mobilitv. Turnover in the positive side helps in opening opportunity
Ior advancing career Ior remaining employee especially in a company that is
small or does not have the Iinancial capacity to expand. (Staw, 1980 and CIPD
, 2005. Further more it allows the organization to be Ilexible and work with
it`s budget. (Staw, 1980).

In summary, turnover has got both positive and negative consequences. Due
to its positive aspect turnover is encouraged to occur to some extent.
However, employers need to keep track oI their benchmark oI turnover rate
and monitor the turnover rate through time to assess whether they are
proIiting Irom turnover or not. Calculating turnover cost is helpIul in
assessing where one stands in regard to turnover. In addition knowing the cost
oI turnover is useIul in deciding how much investment the organization can
aIIord to retain the desired employees.

2.3 Theories and Causes of Voluntary Turnover

Voluntary turnover gained much interest and has been researched quite well
by organizational psychologist. Many oI the existing models oI voluntary
turnover are based on March and Simon theories. March and Simon (1958 in
Morell et al., 2001) explain the decision to quit as a 'Iunction oI perceived
ease oI movement and perceived desire oI movement. Subsequently the term
oI desire is replaced by job satisIaction and ease oI movement by opportunity
(Trevor, 2001).

Mobley (1977) Iurther strengthens this theory by Iorwarding additional variables
to Iit in between job satisIaction and intention to quit. He suggested that the
intention to quit is the last step beIore quitting and described the decision process
as a sequence oI cognitive stages starting with an individual evaluation oI his job
status. Evaluation is Iollowed by satisIaction and dissatisIaction emotional status.
DissatisIaction will lead to the intention to search Ior a diIIerent job, an active
search and evaluation oI alternatives, then an expressed intention to quit and
ultimate job termination. II Iinding an alternative is costy or the probability oI
Iinding is low, then the employee may abandon the idea oI quitting and engage in
another withdrawal process such as absenteeism, passive job behavior or totally
abandon his thought oI dissatisIaction. According to these theories, intention to
quit and job dissatisIaction attitude are the two most predictive values oI
turnover. In addition Mobley identiIies the decision to search Ior alternatives
can be initiated by non job related Iactors such as transIer oI spouse or a very
attractive oIIer or alternatives may initiate the evaluation oI the alternative.
Beside job satisIaction other emotional response such as commitment and job
involvement toward the job and organization are described by other authors
(Lee and Mowday, 1987, Mayer, 1998, Naumann, 1992) to predict the
behavioral intention to quit. Job characteristics, organization characteristics
and individual characteristics are identiIied as the main independent variables
and inIluence intention to quit by inIluencing the emotional status toward
work and the organization (Naumann, 1992, Michael and Spector, 1982,
Martin, 1979, Mobley ,1977, Porter et al., 1974).

Lee et al. (1994) in their unIolding model oI turnover suggested that all
voluntary leavers do not Iollow the same dissatisIaction path. They proposed
the concept oI shock and diIIerent decision paths as a response to shock.
Perceived opportunity, job satisIaction, previous experience in the Iorm oI
action or learned behavior is illustrated to inIluence the path the individual
will Iollow to make decision. Shock according to Lee and Mitchell (1994) is
defined as.

'a verv distinguishable event that fars emplovees toward the deliberate
fudgments about their fobs`. (p.60)

Shock can be positive, negative or neutral. It can occur suddenly or it may be
as a result oI ongoing events. In addition it can be internal related to the
organization or external. Some oI the examples oI shock are marriages,
pregnancy, an alternative job oIIer, conIlicts, promotion or being passed Ior
promotion or company being taken over by another owner. According to Lee
et al. (1994) these events Iorce employee to think his/her status with the
organization based on ones values, goals, previous experience, social norms
and the surrounding environment. Following the evaluation one oI the
decision paths will be Iollowed in leaving the organization.

Decision paths.
Path one An individual leaves without giving thought about his/her job or
evaluation oI the alternative. Quitting is an automatic response to shock.
Previous experience in term oI action or learned behavior makes the decision
to quit easy and automatic.
Path two- An individual has no previous experience or encounter as a result
spends some time thinking to reach the decision to quit. The shock is thought
likely to be negative because this path leads to quitting without any job
Path three- It is diIIerent Irom path one and two because individual searches
Ior alternative beIore quitting. Once the alternative is Iound, individual keeps
on comparing the advantage and the disadvantage oI the current employment
with the new one. As a result longer time is spent than path two to reach the
decision to leave. Likewise, an oIIer to an alternative job provokes the
initiation oI this path.
Path four - This path applies Ior those with long employment history in an
organization. The assumption is that during time the organization and the
individual may grow apart and Iit decrease resulting in dissatisIaction with the
current employment. At the end the individual may Iollow either oI the two:

A.) The individual may quit with out searching Ior alternatives.
B.) The individual may search Ior an alterative and then quit.

In testing decision path among nurses (Lee, Mitchell, Wise and Fireman,
1996) and accountants (Lee, Mitchell, Holtom, McDaniel and Will in 1999)
who quitted voluntarily, both reported that majority oI the quitters in the study
population to belong to decision path 1-3 rather than the dissatisIaction path.
The time gap between the Iirst thoughts oI quitting and the ultimate decision
to leave is longer Ior the dissatisIaction paths than Ior any oI the other paths.
Hence decision path 4 provides time Ior the organization to intervene with
those employees who gradually become dissatisIied and decide to leave the
organization than with those who decide to leave in response to shock. Thus,
having the knowledge oI the common shock that predict the path the
individual will likely to Iollow beIore quitting is advantageous Ior an
organization. Either the employer can spare himselI/ herselI Irom employing
those who are likely to quit using decision path 1 and 2 or inIluence the
decision oI the employee that are likely to Iollow path 3 and 4.

In examining why an employee preIers to stay at a given job despite a better
job oIIer elsewhere, Mithcell, Holtom, Lee, Sablanski and Erez (2001)
proposed the concept oI job embeddedness. The term is used to explain the
connection oI an individual to the organization and the community they work
and live in. It has got three components links. reIers to the ties the
individual has with the organization and the community; fit. reIers how
compatible an individual is both at work and in the community; sacrifice. the
beneIit the individual is going to give up at the termination oI the job at the
organizations or iI she/he has to leave the community. ThereIore, the authors
argued decision to quit is not an easy task because it greatly inIluences the
other components oI the individual liIe is made up oI. Thus, organization can
aIIect the decision to quit by increasing the Iit and the links oI an individual
both within the organization and the community. In their investigation oI their
conceptual model Mithcell, Holtom, Lee, Sablanski and Erez ( 2001) showed
that job embeddedness elements relate positively to job satisIaction and
commitment and negatively to job search behavior and intent to quit. Martez
and GriIIIeth (2004) also described the decision to quit as an interaction oI
diIIerent Iorces either acting simultaneously or one dominating the others.

There have been several meta-analyses on the determinants oI turnover.
DiIIerent studies identiIy /indicate diIIerent Iactors to be the most important
ones to predict intention and voluntary turnover (Martin, 1979; Michael and
Spector, 1982; Hotton et al., 2002; Porter et al., 1974; Williams, 1994).
However, there is no universal agreement on the determinants Iactors oI
turnover. The use oI diIIerent employee populations, nationality and the type
oI industry in the studies are attributed to the variation among the studies
(Cotton and Tuttler, 1986).

Cotton and Tuttler (1986) reviewed studies conducted Irom 1979 to 1984 oI
employee turnover using meta-analytic technique. The review identiIied 21
variables to relate to turnover. These Iactors are categorized across the
personal characteristics, organizational character and external Iactors.

Among personal characteristics: age, tenure, number oI dependents, education
and behavioral intentions are strongly related to turnover. Age, tenure and
number oI dependents negatively related, while education and behavioral
intentions to positively related to turnover. In addition, those whose
expectation is met do not have reason to leave. Weak to moderate relationship
was concluded Ior marital status and Ior aptitudes and abilities. For gender
women were more likely to leave than men.

From work related Iactors, pay produced a highly signiIicant correlation and
negatively related to turnover. Job satisIaction, i.e. satisIaction with the work
itselI, pay satisIaction, satisIaction with supervision and organizational
commitment were reported to be strongly negatively correlates with turnover.
Job perIormance, satisIaction with co workers, satisIaction with promotion
and role clarity were reported to be negatively related to turnover.

Among the external Iactors the presence oI union may inIluence turnover rate
in an organization negatively. On the other hand employee perception oI
alternative in the market was Iound to relate positively with turnover rate.

Calculating turnover:
Calculating turnover rate is one way to understand and monitor the turnover
rate in an organization. The common way oI calculating turnover expressed in
terms oI a ratio oI a group oI leavers to the average work Iorce over a period
oI time.

Turnover rate Total number oI leavers over period X 100
Average total number employed over period

There is a limitation oI this Iormula. It determines a crude rate only and
doesn`t make distinction between voluntary and involuntary turnover. The
Chartered Institute oI Personnel and Development (CIPD) (2007) encourage
calculation oI turnover separately Ior each exit Iorm. In this way an
organization will have a clear picture oI turnover according to the exit Iorms
as described above and able to monitor which exit Iorms are most common
within the organization. The other alternative according to CIPD (2007) is to
calculate stability index. It indicates the retention rate oI experienced
employees. It can be calculated Ior an organization as a whole or Ior part oI an

Stability rate Number oI staII with one or more years service X 100
Number employed a year ago

To calculate voluntary turnover rate and to classiIy it Iurther as dysIunctional
or Iunctional turnover, the causes oI voluntary turnover should be known. The
common practice oI exit interview to identiIy the cause oI resignation may not
show the true reasons Ior resignation especially iI it is conducted by line
mangers. Some argue that it should be done by outsiders. Employee opinion
survey is recognized as a useIul tool in assessing the motivation and the
attitude oI workers while at work and helps the organization to act beIore the
turnover oI those workers the organization desired to retain.

IdentiIying the most common determinants Iactor that lead to voluntary
turnover is important Irom the organization point oI view to reduce the
voluntary turnover rate and the cost incurred by it.

2.4. Workforce and Humanitarian Organizations (HO) - An Overview:

The Humanitarian Organization activity is mainly governed by humanitarian
principle to save liIe and alleviate human suIIering. Volunteerism is one oI the
basic characteristics oI the humanitarian organizations. Red Cross identiIies
volunteerism as one oI its seven principles. It deIines volunteers as:

individuals who reach out bevond the confines of paid emplovment and
normal responsibilities to contribute in different wavs without
expectation of profit or reward in the belief that their activities are
beneficial to the communitv as well as satisfving to themselves ( IFRC ,
Jolunteering Review Profect trend report, in Anheier and Salamon,

Though volunteerism is the central part oI the sector, the type oI workIorce
extends to paid volunteers and paid employee.

The past two decades witnessed a shiIt in humanitarian activities Irom relieI to
linking relieI to development and now a days to right based approach. This
result in the wide range oI activities being carried out by Humanitarian
organizations: Irom providing assistance in times oI crisis and conIlict to
taking active part in poverty alleviation and in peace mediating and peace
building process. The expansion oI the activities contributes to the birth oI
new organizations and the expansion and the reIorm oI the existing
organization (HPG report, 2002). In addition it leads to the involvement oI
new actors in the Iield. The increase involvement oI military and commercial
contractors becomes the reality oI the new humanitarianism.

The humanitarian organizations Iunding is highly governed by the type oI the
emergency going around the world and highly dependent on media 'CNN
impact. Beside to government Iunding, organization largely depend on public
contribution and private donation. However the majority oI the public and
private Iunding goes to the large organizations (Stoddard, 2003). ThereIore
the sector is not Iinancial secured as that oI private and public sector.

Another diIIerence oI the humanitarian organization Irom other sectors is the
working environment. The working environment oI aid worker is diIIerent
Iorm the ordinary set up in that aid workers are highly exposed to diIIerent
dangers and stresses. The working place may require working in the war torn
countries, working with reIugee, requires dealing with non-state actors such as
militias, witnessing suIIering in diIIerent Iorms like hunger, disease and
poverty. Even though the notion oI working as aid worker by itselI is
wonderIul, it may result in a cumulative stress and endanger the health oI the
aid workers. This may maniIest as aid workers either identiIy excessively with
the beneIiciaries or distance themselves Irom the situation as coping strategies
with the ultimate result oI selI-destructive behavior such as exhaustion,
consuming excessive alcohol and unprotected sex (Salama,1999). The
inIormal selection criteria which usually apply in the case oI acute emergency
(Salama and Macnair, 1999) may contribute to the aggravation oI the stress
level Iaced by the aid worker in the Iield (Salama, 1999). Another area that the
humanitarian and development worker Iace is the constant on going security
threat. According to security incidence data complied by David King in
ECHO security report (2004) there was 158 security incidents involving the
death oI humanitarian workers between 1997-2003.

Besides the danger and stress associated with dealing with human suIIering,
some oI the Iactors proposed to aIIect the turnover decision oI expatriate
workers Ior Multi national companies can apply Ior aid workers (Naumann,
1992). The author identiIies additional Iactors such as cross cultural
adjustment in terms oI work, interaction and general culture, the country
character in terms oI culture, economy and acceptance oI outsider and to some
extent education and the Iamily situation such as satisIaction with the location,
number and age oI dependent to aIIect the turnover intention oI the

The literature review has shown that there is a gap oI research on the turnover
oI staII in the aid business. However, certain parallels can be drawn Irom
extensive related studies undertaken Ior mainstream public and private
organizations. These studies suggest that many Iactors contribute to staII
turnover and these can be broadly grouped as individual, organizational, and
external Iactors. DiIIerent models have been proposed to link the various
Iactors that are attributed to be the causes oI turnover and to test the strength
oI the association between the variables in turnover decision.

According to the dissatisIied model`, job dissatisIaction and the availability
oI other alternative in the market lead to the decision oI voluntary staII
turnover. Beside job dissatisIaction, organization commitment and job
involvement are closely linked to turnover decision. Other variables such as
organization, personal and external Iactor contributed to turnover decision
indirectly by inIluencing job satisIaction, organization commitment and job

The unIolding model argues that job dissatisIaction only accounts Ior small
proportion oI turnover and the other decision oI turnover is determined by the
strength oI the shock in violating the individual belieI, value and image.
Shock can be positive, negative and neutral. The shock can be internal related
to organization or external which the organization has no inIluence over.

The job embeddedness model suggests employer can modiIy the employee
decision to quit by increasing employee ties with the organization he/she
works Ior and the community he/she lives in.

The existing models and the empirical evidence oI causes oI turnover have
been mostly tested on the private and public organization. There is no
available study indicating whether these models are tested on the humanitarian

The Iocus oI this study is to investigate the role oI personal, organizational and
external Iactors in turnover decision. The current employee emotional status
toward his/her work is investigated by his/her perceived expectation beIore
employment, perceived Iitness and links with the current organization. Job
search behavior and intent to leave Irom the current organization are touched
upon. The consequence oI turnover is investigated Irom employee perspective.
The conceptual Irame work Ior this study is outlined as below.

Turnover and the magnitude oI the problem are investigated in the Iirst part.
Past history oI employment and reason Ior changing employment is dealt with
in the second section. The third part assesses the current employment history
whether the expectation oI the individual was met or not and the current
intention oI move on`. In addition it examines what the organization can do
to improve the retention strategies. The eIIect oI turnover on employees
remaining behind on the job is investigated in the last section.

Frame work elements Operational deIinition
Causes oI

(To assess the
past employment
Personal Iactors Such as emotional status (Anxiety,
burnout and stress disorder),
marriage, pregnancy, spouse
relocation, sickness,
work Iamily balance, going back to

Task related
SatisIaction with pay, work load, the
type oI supervisor, with coworkers,
perIormance assessment,
communication, Iuture career
opportunities, and physical working

Role ambiguity, role conIlict
External Iactors Alternative job employment with
better terms,
cultural and language barrier,
working together with people with
diIIerent culture (social
environment), security conditions
Current status

Pre employment

Perceived Iit with the
current organization

Links with the
organization (Iormal
and inIormal)

Job search behavior

Intention to leave
Perception beIore joining the

Good Iit between the expectations
and what the organization is
currently providing - including job,
coworkers, group, agency and
organization culture

Length oI time employees
have been in their jobs,

Expected length oI stay in the
organization, active search Ior
another job

Intension to leave the organization
in the coming six months
Consequences oI
Experience when colleagues leave
the organization
Strategies to retain employees in an
Chapter 3
Result and Analysis

The Iindings Irom the primary and secondary data in relation to the speciIic
objectives are presented in this chapter. The Iirst section addresses the level oI
turnover in humanitarian sector. The second section discusses the cause oI
turnover. The third section describes the current employment status oI the
participants. The Iourth sector discusses the consequence oI staII turnover.
The last section describes the recommendation suggested outlined by the
study participants.

3.1. Level of turnover in humanitarian sector:
Turnover is reported at various rates across the sector. OxIam Great Britain
experienced turnover rate as high as 60 (Emergency Publication Net Work
(EPN), 2005). In the seventh seminar oI EPN (2005: p.13) the opening speaker
oI the seminar acknowledged in his speech that the OIIice Coordination oI
Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) experienced the highest staII turnover in
relation to the other United Nations (UN) bodies due to poor job security and
tremendous demand on proIessionals . The international and the national non-
government organizations (NGOs) working in the developing countries
admitted turnover was a problem at various rates ranging Irom no problem to
39 in case studies conducted by People in Aid (2007) covering Kenya,
Honduras, India and Pakistan. Some oI the reasons Ior high turnover that were
mentioned were increase labor market opportunity Iollowing natural disaster
in case oI Pakistan and poor leadership.

According to CIPD report staII turnover rate (2005, 2006) Ior Voluntary,
Community and Not Ior proIit organization (VCO) in UK to be higher
(15.9 and 18.9 ) than public sector (11.5 , 13.3) respectively. Like
wise Loquerico et al.(2006) based on their qualitative studies among 15
Humanitarian organizations reported that majority oI the directors who took
part in the study acknowledged turnover to be a problem and majority
believed also turnover to be higher in humanitarian sector than other sectors.
Yet, only three out oI the IiIteen surveyed agencies kept records about the
overall turnover rate, only two agencies (Save the Children and ICRC) had
calculated the cost oI recruiting staII and only three oI them systematically
monitored the reasons behind resignations (Ibid).

Recruiting and retention are also the major issues Ior organizations (Future
Skills in Hill, 2007 and People in Aid and International Health
Exchange,1997; CIPD, 2006; Emmens and Parry, 2006). The shortage oI
skilled and experienced personnel (availability oI workIorce) was cited as a
reason to make recruitment diIIicult (Taylor, 1997 and People in Aid and
International Health, 1994). It may take agencies as long as 40 days to Iill in
vacancies (Bailey et al., 2005). On the other hand the time spends with the
organization is shorter than other sector (Ibid). A study carried out on the
employees among the Interagency Working Group (IWG) to assess their
perspective on turnover Iound that the median time that respondents spent in
their current position was one year, (Emmens and Parry, 2006). Loquerico
(2006 ) reported the average duration oI a mission Ior expatriate ranges Irom
5.2 months to (Medicine San Frontier (MSF)-France) to 10.1 months (ICRC).
In terms oI Iirst mission, 33 oI staIIs leaving Ior a mission are Iirst timers in
MSF France (EPN, 2003) while 23 oI the study population in the study oI
Macnair (1995) had returned Irom their Iirst overseas assignment. Given that
the aim is to increase/scaling up emergency operational capacity throughout
the world, the IWG admitted '.satisIying the human resource capacity
demand is and will continue to be a challenge especially in a hardship posts
(Emmens and Parry, 2006 p:3).

Middle and higher manger posts are commonly reported as the most diIIicult
posts to Iill by diIIerent organizations (Emmens and Parry, 2006; Loquerico,
2006; EPN, 1997). Managers are expected to do incredible jobs and to be a
master oI everything. Brew (2002, p.26) summarized the expectation on the
Iield program mangers as a '.work oI superman and superwoman. This
overstretching expectation was summed up by Hayward in Emergency
Personnel Network Seminar (EPN, 2005 p.27) '. as overload concept oI
universal humanitarianism (OCUH). The other positions, which were cited
by International Health Exchange and People in Aid (1997) and EPN (1997)
as diIIicult positions to Iill are health proIessionals (doctors and nurse) and
country managers.

In terms oI gender, a qualitative study done by Emmens and Parry(2006) Ior
IWG, indicated that Iemales are more disengaged than their males partners
(13 vs 4). According to the study 13 oI the Iemale employees stayed
with the agency because oI no alternative choice, while 13 indicated they no
longer have a Ieeling oI belonging to the agencies Ior which they are working.
Similarly Taylor (1997) reported Iemales were marginally under represented
amongst emergency relieI personnel and the number oI Iemale personnel
employed in relieI agencies declined in the year oI 1994-96. There may be a
variation in turnover between male and Iemale in humanitarian sector.

For majority oI NGOs Irom the developed countries, the number oI staIIs
between the head oIIice and Iield location may vary considerably depending
on the activity oI the organization. II an organization works through local
partners then most oI its employees work in the head quarter. On the contrary
iI an organization directly implements its own program then some oI its
position may be Iilled by expatriate staIIs. According to Salm (1999) studies
among ten organizations (OxIam Great Britain, OxIam America, Save the
children, International Save the children Alliance, the steering Committee Ior
Humanitarian response, World Vision, MSF- France, CARE, Interaction and
Plan International) the percentage oI international staII range Iorm 0 to 75 .
Similarly the study by International Health Exchange and People in Aid
(1997) reported that expatriate personnel account Ior 14 , local country staII
Ior 58 and local UK staII account Ior 28 oI all staII among the 116
surveyed agencies in UK. Similarly Taylor (1997) in Emergency Personnel
Network Seminar noted the disparity oI national and international staIIs
employed in the Iield and acknowledged that the number oI international staIIs
was declining, while the number oI local staIIs to rise between 1994 -96. Thus,
the national and the international staIIs` turnover may not be identical and
within the international organization diIIerence oI turnover between head
oIIice and Iield staIIs may exist. Bailey et al. (2005) reported the overall
turnover rate to be 21 Ior voluntary sector and 17 Ior international
development agencies without including those staIIs in expatriate post. The
study Iurther showed voluntary turnover (12) to contribute to larger share oI
turnover rate in international development agencies (Ibid). On the other hand
Salmons (1998) estimated expatriate turnover rate to be 25 Ior expatriate.

In summary, the limited literature in the sector suggests that there is a problem
oI turnover among the humanitarian organizations. Variation exists among
occupation, gender, Iield versus head oIIice or national and expatriate staIIs.

3.2. Causes of turnover:

This section presents the Iindings oI the in-depth interview with NOHA
graduates working in Humanitarian organizations.
Respondents were asked to share their experience as aid worker in the sector.

3.2.1. Demographv characteristics of the participants.
The study population (11) consisted oI 55 Iemale and 45 male NOHA
graduates working in the humanitarian sector. The majority oI the participants
(9) are Irom Western European countries.

Table 1: Demographic characteristics oI participants
Nationality Age Sex Marital
Year oI
graduation Irom
Dutch 30 M Living together None 2004
German 38 F Married One 1998
German 40 M Married Two 2004
German 53 F Single None 2003
Italian 30 F Single None 2003
Mexican 33 M Single None 2005
Portuguese 31 F Married None 2001
Spanish 43 M Single None 2005
Spanish 35 M Married One 1997
Swedish 41 F Single None 2005
Turkish 32 F Married None 2002

3.2. Past work experience:

Six oI the participants (55) had worked beIore NOHA in humanitarian and
development organization while 45 oI the participants have started to work
in the sector aIter graduation Irom NOHA program (Table 2). Two oI the
participants have got 5 and 6 years oI experience working in the sector beIore
joining NOHA. The total year oI experience oI the respondents in
humanitarian and development agencies ranged Irom 2 to 10 years. All
participants changed jobs at least once within the sector. The maximum
number oI job changes reported is 5.

Table 2: Year oI experience in Humanitarian Organizations (HO)
Year oI
Years oI
experience in
Number oI job changed in the
past in the HO excluding the
current position
Worked in HO
beIore NOHA
1997 10 years 5 No
1998 7 years 1 No
2001 4 years 1 No
2002 6 years 2 Yes
2003 8 years 4 Yes
2003 4 years 2 Yes
2004 3 years 3 No
2004 3 years 1 No
2005 3 years 4 Yes
2005 8 years 5 Yes
2005 4 years 2 Yes

The length oI stay in an organization varies among the respondents. The
shortest stay in an organization reported was one month and the longest stay in
one organization was six years. The average length oI stay in one organization
is 16 month. The type oI employment varies Irom organization to
organization. Participants might work in the Iield and headquarters or only
worked in one oI the location beIore leaving the organization. Another
variation that was noticed is participants had worked in diIIerent Iield
locations Ior one organization beIore leaving the organization. All participants
who took part in the study have worked at some point in their career in the
Iield in AIrica, Asia and South America and Central America.

Participants changed job Ior diIIerent reasons. In general the main reasons can
be summarized in one oI the Iollowing categories: personal Iactor,
organizational Iactor, external Iactor and other (Table 3). However,
participants in their long career have got more than one reason Ior their
decisions to change jobs.

Table 3: Reason Ior changing jobs (multiple changes)
Reasons Ior looking another
Female Male
Personal Iactor
Going back to school
Relocation- to be near
spouse and Iamily


Organizational Iactor
Lack oI new challenge
1 1
External Iactor
Better oIIer Irom other


Other end oI contract 7 9

3.2.1. End oI contract:
End oI contract is Irequently mentioned as one oI the reason Ior changing jobs.
The duration oI contract varies Irom a month to two years. The term oI
employment is very short Ior Iield position and ranges Irom one to six months
with one exception oI two years. When participants were asked iI they tried to
renew their contract or ask to be retained, one oI the participant commented:

This is not a usual practice in the organi:ations I had worked for. I was told
repeatedlv to applv and to wait until I hear from them. The organi:ation then
starts to miss me when I start working for another organi:ation. I had an
experience with some organi:ation who keep on calling after I have started
work else where.

Another participant responded

'.it is really sad and a pity when employees asked me what will happen to
them once they are done with the contract. The human resource department Ior
most organizations is not well developed and deals with these situations.

3.2.2. Personal reasons:
Reasons such as getting married, decisions to go back to school such as
NOHA program and decision to be near to partners and Iamilies are some oI
the reasons mentioned by some oI the participants Ior changing jobs.

3.2.3. Organization related issues:
Lack oI the organizational vision to provide new challenges and inIlexibility
oI the organization are mentioned by some oI the participants. As one
participant illustrated
'. aIter working in the Iield Ior three years I wanted to transIer back to
headquarter however the organization have policy that say Iive years are
required to be assigned to headquarter.

3.2.4. Better oIIer:
In addition to the above, pull Iactor such as the better opportunity outside the
organization contribute to the decision to quit the job at hand. As one oI the
interview put it 'the new organization is well known, respected . likewise
another participants underlined 'an oIIer Irom a stable and recognized
organization took your burden oI worrying about the Iinancial security oI the

When asked about their view on staII turnover in humanitarian and
development aid organizations, the majority oI the participants associated it
with organizational Iactors.

Unreasonable expectation bv the emplover: Un realistic, non consistent job
description and lack oI support Irom the line manger or Irom the headquarters
is mentioned as the main reason Ior voluntary turnover by 80 oI the
participants. The unreasonable demand may extend where one is expected to
work twenty Iour hours and seven days per week to delivery the job. This is
especially true Ior the Iield work. As one oI the participants pointed out '.
sometime you are expected to work with no support staIIs or no computer or
vehicle to go around.. Most participants outline this as a major cause oI
burnout. In addition, lack oI support Irom the headquarters may aggravate the
situation as one participant put it '... you oIten Ieel quite lonely in the Iield.
Headquarters do not always realize the tough conditions under which Iield
staII is working. Lack oI interest Irom the supervisor and headquarter
including the human resource department in both work related and personal
liIe contributes to the stress experienced by Iield workers. The hard living
conditions, living in diIIerent country Iar away Irom Iamilies and Iriends,
security conditions, and witnessing suIIering contribute to the stress oI aid
workers in the Iield. The impact oI burn out may lead to loss oI conviction in
the organization and contribute to the decision to quit or employee may
engage in risky and careless behavior doing harm instead oI good to the
project and ultimately Iired by the organization. As one participant put it '.
you are good to the organization as long as you are Iunctioning well iI you are
not, then you will be history despite your contribution in the past.

Lack of career development: Seeing no Iuture Ior oneselI in the organization
contributed to the reason Ior changing jobs. The practice oI short term contract
contributes to the lack oI career development in that employer avoids taking
responsibilities in Iuture career planning oI the short term contracted
employees. Lack oI possibilities oI growth and suggestions to improve oneselI
in the organization de motivate and push employee to look Ior a better and
challenging opportunity outside.

Inconsistencies between the mission and action of the organi:ation: Another
cause that contribute to the de motivation oI an employee is when there is
inconsistency and in coherence between the mission and action oI the
organization. Examples are when organizations are engaged in activities that
are not stated in their mandate and when organization violate their principles
and Code oI Conduct. This leads to loss oI commitment and disappointment
Irom the employee side and result in looking Ior another job. In addition, at
times conIlict may arise between organization and employee interest leading
to ultimate decision to quit. Organizational culture such as lack oI
transparency in decision making, complicated and dysIunctional
administrative system and inadequate communication between employer and
employee are cited as potential organizational Iactors to contribute to the
decision to quit. One participant described her experience as:

...I need to ask and explicitlv solicited for information in regard to mv
contract and field mission other wise no bodv is bothered to inform me while
people talked, discussed and made decision at mv expense but not bothered
enough to inform me what that decision was. The communication gap extends
to the situation that people didnt know whether thev have to pack their bags
in one weeks time or get a contract extension. I found this a verv de
motivating factor. I think people management should involve in giving timelv

Short-term contract : The slowness or reluctance oI employers in oIIering
another position or extension oI the contract beIore the end oI the present
contract contribute to job insecurity and Iorce one to move on to another
position beIore the end oI the current contract. The nature oI contract doesn`t
create stability in one position so people are always in the urge oI moving.
Another draw back with this kind oI contract is it is too rigid and inIlexible
and doesn`t accommodate personal request such as extended holiday, leave Ior
Iurther training and Iamily post. This in turn has a negative impact in the
work and personal liIe balance.

Hard situation: Experiences such as living in another culture and language set
up, stress related to the security situation are mentioned as a contributing
Iactor Ior turnover. As one participant elaborate such situations are tough to
deal with in the earlier phase oI the career.

Unmet expectation: This arises Irom the unIulIilled promises by both the
employee and the employer side. As one oI the interviewee put it

Either the organi:ation or the individual or both market themselves verv
well during the time of the interview such as the fob title is so huge and
impressive and the fob ends up to be a ' man show` in the middle of
no where with no support. Sometimes the aid worker because he/she needs
a fob badlv doesnt give attention to examine the offer of the organi:ation
criticallv. From the organi:ation side as well recruitment and selection
are done under serious time pressure. A profect mav have started without
enough personnel so organi:ation tends to become reluctant in its
selection. In this wav both the organi:ation and the individual end up in
providing a highlv painted profile and do not bother to examine below the
surface the actual condition. This leads to big disillusionment and
disappointment on both sides in the long run.

In addition, disagreement with team members and poor management by the
line management or Irom head quarter are mentioned as a cause Ior turnover.
Interviewees agreed that these reasons are applicable to both head quarter and
the Iield staII with security, new culture and excessive work load dominates
Iield work by and large.

In general the causes oI voluntary turnover Ialls into one oI the categories:
personal, organizational and external Iactors with the exception oI end oI
contract. This Iinding is in line with studies that were conducted in private and
public sector. In addition this Iinding is consistent with the study conducted
by Emmens and Parry (2006) on employee perspective on staII turnover
where better pay / terms and conditions elsewhere (50), poor leadership /
values / culture (40), lack oI career opportunities and growth (38) and
burnout, disillusionment, Irustration (29) were reported to be the main
Iactors that encourage people to leave. Like wise the study conducted by
Rebecca Macnair (1995) Ior RelieI Rehabilitation Network (RRN) Network
Paper 10 identiIied organizational issues, security, workload, communication,
witnessing suIIering and expatriate colleagues to be the six most important
Iactors contributing to stress in expatriate workers. Similar Iindings are
reported by Loquerico et al. (2006).

3.3. Present employment history:
To assess the current employment status participants were asked about how
they decided to work in the current organization, whether they are happy with
the current organization and their Iuture plan in regard to another job.

3.3.1 Duration oI employment:
The length oI employment oI the interviewees at the current organizations at
the time oI the interview varies Irom 1 month to 6 years. Almost 55 oI the
employees are employed by the current organization less than six months. The
type oI contract the participants have with the current organization range Irom
9 months to permanent type oI contract. More than halI (55) oI the
participants are employed under temporary contract (Table 4 and 5).

Table 4: Duration oI stay at the current organization at the time oI interview
Duration oI stay at the current
Number oI respondents (11)
1-6 months 6
6 months - 1year 1
1- 2 year 2
2years and above 2

Table 5: Type oI contract at the current organization
Type oI contract Number
oI respondents (11)
Temporary 6
Open ended 1
Permanent 4

One oI the participants has been with the organization Ior Iour years but the
term oI employment is project based contract. Another participant has worked
in the same organization Ior 15 months in the head quarter and Ior the past 9
months in the Iield. However, the term oI employment is again temporary.

3.3.2 Selection criteria Ior choosing the current employment:
Participants use diIIerent criteria in selecting the current employment over
others Ior diIIerent reasons. Participants mainly give attention to the location
oI work, type oI work the organization oIIering, agency reputation and proIile
and whether there are possibilities oI career advancement. However more than
one criteria is used by the interviewee to select the present employment.

Location of work.
PreIerence oI location can be at the headquarters or at the Iield. Two oI
participants speciIically sought a position in the headquarters while one oI the
participants looks Ior position in the Iield. Those who preIer to work more
close to home are married and with dependents while the individual who
preIers to work in the Iield is single (Table 5). Even though 22 oI the
participants determine location as the major criteria, the location oI work
preIerence greatly inIluence the decision to take the current employment in
majority oI the interviewees. At the present 63 oI the participants work in
the head quarter while 37 work at the Iield at expatriate post.

Table 6: Location oI work
Location oI work Number oI
respondents (11)
Marital status
(married )

Head quarter 7 4 3 4
In the Iield 4 1 2 2

Tvpe of the work the organi:ation offers.
Majority oI the participants assess the compatibility oI the position the
organization oIIers and their interest beIore deciding to join the organization.
As one oI the respondent emphasizes as the
'. the oIIer oI management position in the Iield provided me with a new
challenge as another respondent outline ' another respondents explains
'. the work they oIIer me is logical, Ieasible and achievable.

Image of the organi:ation (values, profile and reputation)
Many oI the respondents agree identiIying with the mission, vision and
objectives oI the organization play a major role in their decision oI joining the
organization. Two oI the participants indicated their preIerence to work Ior a
well known organization, on the contrary another participant who preIers to
work in small organization explains '. working in big well established
organization is like being one part oI the big circle and your contribution is
only limited to the job at hand while in smaller organization your input can go
as Iar as shaping the organization. Another respondent argued why she
preIers to work Ior a well established organization '. smaller organizations`
Iinancial situation are delicate but well known organizations usually have
Iinancial security and this reduce one oI your worries. Like wise another
participant reIlects '. working Ior a big organization can grant you access to
diIIerent organization unlike smaller organization.

Another criterion that is mentioned repeatedly is the perception or the
popularity oI the organization among the aid community including the
working environment and proIessionalism oI the organization. One oI the
respondents said '. I witnessed how they work and what they deliver as an
outsider and I want to be part oI such organization. Two oI the respondents
in replying to this question emphasized the working method oI the
organizations as the main reason used Ior selection, '. the working method
Iocused on partnership with local partners and emphasis in building local
capacity, this coincides with my preIerence method oI working. Regarding
the working environment one oI the respondent commented '.getting
inIormation about the Iriendly working environment Irom a Iriend who works
there helped me in deciding ... while another reported that '.my previous
work experience in the organization and witnessing how Iriendly the working
environment in the past helped in my decision.

Career advancement possibilitv.
The possibility and the opportunity oI career advancement are mentioned as
criteria in accepting an oIIer Irom an organization. The existence oI training
modalities and career development programs in place contribute to the
decision oI joining the organization. In addition participants use subjective
measure to determine the possibility oI career advancement with the
organization. The diversity oI work and size oI the organization are used to
assess on Iuture career development with the organization by some
participants. These Iindings are in line with the Iindings reported by Emmens
and Parry (2006). They identiIied reputation/proIile oI agency (35), job
oIIer/type oI work (24), agency values (21), agency size/Iunding (17),
religious ethos oI agency (14), career prospects (8) as the main reasons Ior
participants to join the IWG.

When asked what an aid worker should take into consideration when applying
Ior a position, all participants basically agree the advantage oI assessing selI-
held values with the mission, vision and mandate oI the organization. In
addition, assessing and evaluating the quality oI the organization Irom
diIIerent angles such as whether the organization has a clear set oI job
description Ior all employees, clear rules and guidance and well outlined
structure are helpIul in making good decision. Critical review oI the human
resource practice by inquiring the existence oI support mechanism, career
development opportunity, pension and insurance plan are agreed to be useIul.
As one respondent sharing his concern

It is important to ask whether the organi:ation provide pension plan,
covers insurance, health conditions, securitv training and protection
and provide reasonable accommodation especiallv in the field
location. Some of the organi:ations entrust this responsibilities to vou.
Thev sav it is up to vou to arrange vour flight, vour accommodation
and so forth. I stronglv believe this should be the fob of the emplover.

Another participant recalling her experience said:
.as long as there is no problem nobodv is concerned about the
support mechanism in place. As soon as something happened such as
team conflict, personal health problem etc. vou are left alone to fend
for vourself. Therefore, it is important to ask about risk mitigation
plans, emergencv plans, evacuation plans and personal support svstem
including psvchological support to personnel in difficult mission.

3.3.3 Fit-in with the current organization`s
In assessing the pre-expectation and the current status within the organization,
the respondents were asked about their perception oI Iitness with the work
they are doing, with their coworkers, with the organization culture. Majority oI
the participants reported to be happy with the work and with their co workers.
Increase training and revising security condition according to the context oI
the situation are suggested by some participants to increase their Iitness more.

I believed I fit well with the work, co workers and the organi:ation
culture at the current organi:ation. However there is a room for
improvement to increase mv fitness with the organi:ation and mv work.
Support to delegates should be improved from head quarters, training
should be provided to make people fit for the demands of the fob
especiallv if vou are supposed to manage people or team then
personnel management is a necessities.

3.3.4 Intention to leave:
To understand the intention to quit the organization, respondents were asked
about their job search behavior and their intention to leave their current
employee in the coming six months. The majority oI the group stated they are
not looking Ior another job and have no intention oI quitting. While two oI the
interviewees indicated they are searching Ior new jobs but are not seriously
thinking oI quitting. One oI the interviewee who worked in the same
organization Ior Iour years in project base contract

I am looking for something closer to mv partner location and home
and something that offers me new challenge. As long as the present
organi:ation offers me compensation, new challenge and a position
closer to home then I am happv to continue mv lovaltv to the

On the contrary two oI the participants are looking Ior jobs with the intention
oI quitting Ior diIIerent reasons. In explaining their reasons one oI the
participant mentioned

. mv contract is due to end in this December. I decided not to renew
mv contract. The reason is mv work place is 3hour awav from mv home
and I tried to negotiate the possibilitv of working from home two davs
per week. Unfortunatelv the organi:ation is not willing for such
arrangement saving it is not part of its policv. However others sister
organi:ations implement this arrangement as a result of this
inflexibilitv I will not renew mv contract.

Another participant in explaining his reason Ior searching another job aIter
working Ior the organization Ior almost two years said:

According to the organi:ation policv an emplovee can not renew his/
her contract after the third time without taking some time off (minimum
three months) without pav. Unfortunatelv I have to look for fob and I
mav not come back afterward.

All participants used criteria to select the current organization they are
working Ior. The duration oI employment varies with 55 oI participants
having worked Ior the present organization less than six months. Even though
the perception oI organization Iit is high at this stage, it may change through
time because the links with the organization is too loose at the moment
meaning the length oI time employees have been in their jobs is too short to
conclude employees Iorm strong ties with the organization and the co-
workers. Another explanation is most oI the participants (55) are employed
with temporary contract with the exception oI one participant who has worked
in the current organization Ior six years under permanent contract. Among
participants who are working in the headquarters, 43 oI them are employed
under temporary contract. Those working in the Iield have temporary and open
ended contract. Thus this practice does not provide job security and inspire
commitment and loyalty and may decrease their perception about the
organization. On the other hand all participants (100) are committed to
work in the sector Ior long period.

3.4. Consequences of turnover:
Participants were asked about their view on the consequence oI turnover. The
views on the consequences oI turnover by participants are mostly similar. The
points raised can be summarized as eIIect on the remaining co workers, eIIect
on the institution and the project.

3.4.1. EIIect on the project:
Participants underline the eIIect oI turnover in the quality oI the project. As
one oI the participants shared his experience:

. it is not onlv the person who is leaving but he/ she takes with him/
her plentv of experience and knowledge. So each time we have to start
and invent the wheel again. On the process there is a possibilitv that we
will make the same mistake again as the experience and the lesson learnt
from the previous profect is lost with the personnel who left the fob. In
short no institutional learning will ever happen.

Some participants pointed out the contribution oI hand over in the impact oI
turnover. They agreed that iI there is a smooth transIer then inIormation and
knowledge can be retained. But Irom their experience this is not the common
practice or done hastily in the organizations they worked leaving the replacing
personnel with a lot oI issues. One participant who has worked in the Iield
stated the magnitude oI the problem as '.you may not know where the Iiles
are, what the arrangement were with certain parties, you don`t even have
enough inIormation to brieI the replacement properly. In addition there will be
problem with report writing or Iinalizing a project. In sharing his recent
experience with the current organization one participant stated '.. there were
delay in replacing the project administration staII in my Iirst two months with
the organization and it was though.

3.4.2. EIIect on the remaining co workers:
The reported consequence oI turnover in the remaining co workers is mixed.
Some oI the participants respond the outcome oI turnover can be advantageous
or disadvantageous depending on the situation. In elaborating their point they
argued that iI the employee had lost interest in the work and the organization
then it is an advantage that he/she leIt as one oI the participant put it '.he
should have leIt long ago. II the employee is disrupting the team with
constant disagreement then his/her leaving will do more good than harm. On
the other hand majority oI the respondents agreed that the negative
consequences oI high turnover on the remaining co-workers. As one oI the
participant shared her experience in the past:

the frequent turnover of management had a great impact on the work I
did. Whenever a new management takes over the running programs
will be reshuffled and the existing departments that were opened for
long term will be closed and new profect will be designed. And this will
lead to de motivate the co workers and the emplovee bv creating
uncertaintv for how long the current program is going to run. The
same is true for field position. As expatriates come and go frequentlv
then it will have a greater impact to the remaining work force and the
qualitv of service thev provided.

In addition the work will be spread among the remaining coworkers and will
increase the work overload as one interviewee stated:

Usuallv organi:ations are slow in replacing vacant positions and this
creates additional workload on the remaining staffs. This has got a
negative impact in two wavs. It will contribute to earlv and easv
burnout of the remaining staffs. In addition when the staffs cant cope
up with the work it compromises the qualitv of work or aid that is
being provided.

Another dimension oI how turnover oI staII inIluence the quality oI work
explained by one oI the participant:

Turnover is not avoidable, however high turnover rate contributed to
a weak association between coworkers as people come and go no
bodv bother to form a bond. This will affect the ongoing profect. At
least the organi:ation should aim to maintain or keep the kev
personnel at different profects to assure the continuitv.

The participants have discussed some oI the points oI the consequences oI
turnover. The raised points are mainly consistent with indirect cost oI turnover
that is diIIicult to quantiIy such as team spirit, demotivation, increased
workload, decrease quality oI work. The direct cost oI the turnover that is
easily quantiIiable is not raised as main point by the majority oI participants.
The positive side oI turnover in resolving conIlict and team disruption is raised
by the participants.

3.5 Recommended retention strategies :
Participants were asked to suggest what an organization can do to retain its
employees based on their negative and positive experiences in their career as
aid workers. The positive and the negative experiences are summarized as

Positive experience.
The Ieeling that you are doing good and the experience oI the positive
impact oI the work on the liIe oI the beneIiciaries
Good working environment including working with high spirited and
committed team toward the same goal .
Good pay that is proportional to the work
The opportunity oI constant learning and career development
The room Ior contribution in shaping the organization
Support Irom the headquarters
Living in diIIerent countries
A job that oIIers international net working and exchange

Negative experience.
Lack oI transparency in decision making
Lack oI clear and eIIective policies and strategies creating uncertainty
in the job and Iuture career
Lack oI timely decision Irom the management
Too much hierarchy and inIlexibility oI the organization
Inadequate pay that is disproportional to the work
Excessive turnover oI team members and mangers
Excessive workload the expectation to do the work at any cost
Poor communication - between employee and the management as well
as Iield and headquarter staIIs
Team- unsuitable staII, bad relationship with team and no support Irom
Hard living condition such as being away Irom your Iamily in non
Iamily post
Participants agreed that it is not possible to retain all staII, yet organizations
need to improve and implement some strategies to reduce the staII turnover. In
explaining the human resource department Irom his experience one participant

Human resource management does varv with the si:e and the fund of
organi:ation. In the small organi:ation the profect manager is
supposed to deal with human resource issues and if a separate
department does exist it isnt that speciali:ed and provides much of
training such as securitv training. On the contrarv big organi:ations
have a separate staff and department to deal with human resource
issues and enough budget. With the big organi:ation monev and
resource are not the issue in dealing with human resource
management but mainlv lies with the prioritv of the organi:ation and
the commitment to its emplovees.

While another participant view her concern that ' the very nature oI human
resource department is not concrete and it is not part oI development system.

Participants suggested the Iollowing improvement to reduce turnover

1. Recognition oI work and person - employers have to recognize aid
workers rights, needs and career .
2. Long term job perspective employers should try to oIIer long term
job instead oI short term contract to increase the commitment Irom the
3. Career development opportunity employer should aim, encourage
and subject employees to constant learning and try to provide a room
Ior personal development. Training, rotation between Iield and
headquarters position and on the job training have to become part oI
the organization policy.
4. Organizations need to have clear policy and should remain credible
and loyal to the principle they stand Ior.
5. Organizations need to have a clear written set oI job description Ior
6. Organization need to implement transparency in decision making and
try to be inclusive /involve staII in the decision making.
7. Communication there is a need to set up a clear communication
channel between management and staIIs.
8. Organizations need to establish and strengthen a human resource
department : to see through Iair and transparent remuneration system,
to provide tax advice, insurance, to oIIer options to seek
psychological support aIter mission ,to mediate conIlict with
supervisor, to work Ior long term plan to keep the employee within the
organization, to balance work and private liIe .
9. The need oI perIormance Iollow up / regular review: this is pointed to
be useIul the compatibility oI the employee and the task and
accordingly to provide necessary support either training or another task
to increase the job satisIaction.
10. Participants emphasized the need to implement employee survey Irom
time to time to assess their satisIaction and projection in the Iuture.

These suggestions oI retention strategies are consistent with the 'Code oI
Good practice in the management and support oI aid personnel by People in
Aid (2003).

The literature review shows that staII turnover is a problem in the
humanitarian organizations. Beside the turnover problem, organizations
experience diIIiculty in recruitment. The study participants, all participants
have changed one job in their career as humanitarian aid worker, the range
extends Irom 1 to 5.

The causes oI voluntary turnover are attributed to external Iactors, personal
Iactors and organizational Iactors. Better oIIer Irom another organization is the
leading cause oI voluntary turnover. The pull Iactors seem to play a great role
in the turnover process in this study. Eventhough the opportunity oI another
job is the triggering Iactor Ior changing jobs in the majority oI the cases, both
the dissatisIaction model and the unIolding model showed that employee
compare and contrast the advantage and the disadvantage oI the current work
and the new job beIore they make the decision to quit. ThereIore unsatisIying
pay, poor working conditions, organizational structure and place oI work can
contribute to the decision to take the new jobs. The average duration oI stay
with an organization among the study participants was 16 months thus
majority oI the participants may have Iollowed decision path 1-3 in their
decision to quit instead oI decision path 4 which is initiated by gradual
dissatisIaction through time. On the other hand personal Iactors such as getting
married, going back to school and the desire Ior relocation serve as a shock
and initiate the thought and the decision to quit. Furthermore, end oI contract
is mentioned as the major cause Ior changing jobs among the participants and
is not consistent with voluntary turnover model.

Although all participants Ieel they Iit with the current organization three oI
employees are searching Ior another job oI which two oI the participants have
the intention to quit. This perception oI Iitness changes when the participants
have chance to become more Iamiliar with the organizations and speciIic
aspects oI the work such as inIlexibility oI the organization and lack oI long
term employment. The strength oI the link between the organization and the
employee may inIluence the turnover decision. According to the job
embeddness theory, the greater the Iormal and the inIormal ties the employee
has with the organization, the lesser the turnover intention. On the contrary,
the Iinding oI the study showed that most oI the participants are under
temporary contract (55) and have been with their organization Ior less than a
year (64). Thus at the present organization strong ties are not yet established
Ior the majority oI the participants with the current organization.

The negative impact oI turnover Irom the study participants perspective
ranges Irom increase in workload among the remaining coworkers, decrease
in team bond, decrease in quality oI work, loss oI knowledge and experience
and loss oI institutional memory. StaII turnover as a solution oI team
disagreement and as a way oI reducing de-motivated and disinterest
employees is pointed out by participants as the good side oI staII turnover.
The indirect cost oI turnover is highly emphasized by participants. This
indirect eIIect oI turnover on the remaining co-workers may induce by itselI
uncontrolled turnover in the organization.

In improving retention strategies, participants based on their positive and
negative experience as aid workers suggested improvement oI organizational
structure, having clearly identiIied job description, improving communication
among the participants and the managers and headquarter and Iield oIIice,
working Ior long term employment and career, establishing and improving the
human resources department within the organization can signiIicantly play a
role to reduce the unwanted turnover in the humanitarian organizations.
Chapter 4
Conclusions/ Recommendations
This study is undertaken to examine the turnover in humanitarian organization
Irom NOHA graduates perspective. SpeciIic objectives oI the study were 1)
To assess the level oI staII turnover in humanitarian organizations, 2) to
identiIy the Iactors that contribute to turnover among humanitarian aid
workers, 3) to identiIy interventions that could lead to improved retention. To
accomplish these goals, both primary (in depth interview) and secondary data
were used. Though the number oI participants Ior in depth interview is 11
interesting Iindings were obtained.

The Iindings Irom in-depth interviews showed that changing job is common
practice among aid workers. According to the study Iinding, the number oI job
changed among the study participants in the humanitarian Iield range Irom 1
to 5. In addition, aIter graduation Irom NOHA all participants have changed at
least one job. The time oI duration spent with one employment range Irom 1
month to 4 years and the average duration oI stay was 16 months per job.
Furthermore, the literature review suggested staII turnover to be a problem
among humanitarian organizations and lately it is gaining the attention oI the
humanitarian community and was become one oI the topic oI discussions in
seminars and conIerences.

Responses indicate that participants leIt their organizations Ior many reasons.
OIIer Irom another organization is the leading shock to contribute to the
decision to quit Iollowed by personal Iactors such as getting married, going
back to school and the desire Ior relocation. From the Iinding oI the study
majority oI the participants agreed organizational Iactor to be the major cause
oI staII turnover in humanitarian sector. Even though job oIIer Irom another
organization is the immediate cause oI staII turnover in the study participants,
underlying Iactors such as poor leadership, non-transparent decision making,
inIlexibility oI the organization, poor communication, ambiguous job
description, lack oI career advancement and organizational inconsistency
make the decision to take the other job oIIer more easy.
Another interesting Iinding oI the study is end oI contract is cited as the major
causes oI the participants to leave their organizations. Even though, by strict
deIinition oI staII turnover end oI contract does not belong to any oI categories
oI turnover, the majority oI the participants attributed their Irequent job
change due to end oI contract. Short-term contract may Iorce the participants
to look Ior another job and leave the present organization beIore the end oI the
contract. It also explains the relative short duration oI stay oI the participants
with an organization which is 16 months on average. In addition short-term
contract practice does not provide a sense oI job security and it may decrease
employee commitment to the organization and hence makes the decision to
quit automatic and easy. 55 oI participants are employed with temporary
contract at their current employer. On the other hand short-term contract
oIIers the organization to be Ilexible and allow it to adapt to Iinancial
constraints it Iaces, however as new employees come and go the organization
still Iaces additional cost Irom the recruitment and training oI the new comers.
Beside the direct or visible cost it incurs, the negative impact extends to aIIect
the remaining co workers, the team sprit and bondage, and over all reduce the
quality oI work. ThereIore, there is a need Ior organizations to consider the
indirect cost to understand the true cost oI staII turnover.

Participants strongly Ielt that organization can do a lot to improve the retention
strategies. Working Ior long term employment plan, planning Ior career
advancement, improving human resource practices, perIormance Iollow-up
and appraisal and implementing employee survey are indicated as some oI the
areas that organizations need to work on to improve the retention oI their
valuable employees.

Based on the study the Iollowing points are recommended in regard to staII
Organizations need to have a clear set oI record about staII turnover
rate and causes oI turnover to understand the magnitude oI the
Organizations need to calculate both the direct and the indirect cost oI
staII turnover to have a clear understanding whether organization is
beneIiting Irom staII turnover or not.
Organizations need to examine the impact oI short-term contract on
Majority oI turnover is due to unmet expectations. Thus, organizations
can do the Iollowing to reduce the turnover Irom unmet expectation:
- Provide the new emplovee with realistic information about
their fobs and the organi:ation.
- Improve training opportunities for aid workers.
- Focus on communication through out the organi:ation.
- Conduct survev on emplovee satisfaction on a regular basis.
Studies are needed to quantiIy the signiIicance oI personal, organizational and
external Iactors in turnover decision in humanitarian sector. Another area that
needs much attention is the short-term contract practice in humanitarian
organization. There is a need Ior Iurther studies to examine the magnitude oI
turnover induced by short term practice and the cost associated with it.

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Annex 1
Semi- structured questionnaire:

1. General information

What year did you complete the NOHA programme?




Marital status

Number oI children

Do you intend to work in Humanitarian agency/ development in the long-
term? a)Yes b) No

2. Employment History

2.1 Have you worked with a Humanitarian agency (HA) / development
organization? a) Yes b) No

II yes, please complete Table 1 by starting with the most recent work

Duration oI Employment* ID Name oI
Held Start Date
Finish Date
*please state the start date and Iinish date e.g. Jan 2002 to July 2002

2.2 Have you ever managed people in a HA/development organization?
a) Yes b) No

3. Current Employment

3.1. What are the three most important criteria that you looked in the
current organization when you apply Ior employment?



3.2. How do you perceive your selI to Iit in the current organization? (with
the work, coworkers, groups, company and the organization culture)

3.3. What are the beneIits oI working in the current organization?

3.4. From your experience, please indicate the optimum tenure/ length oI
stay in an organization?

a) Up to 3 month
b) Up to 6 month
c) Up to 12 month
d) Up to 2 years
e) Up to 3 years
I) Up to 5 years
g) Other

3.5. Have you searched another employment aIter joining the current

a) Yes b) No

3.6. Do you intend to leave the organization in the coming six months?

a) Yes b) No

3.7. What can the organisation do to retain its employees and enhance their
perIormance? List in order oI priority?




4. Causes and effect of turnover

4.1 What, in your experience, are the main reasons Ior employees
to leave the organisation they work Ior/ lose interest in working with
an organisation?



4.2. What are your experiences with your coworkers leaving the job
beIore you?