Foster care, Residential Care, Staffing issues, Uncategorized, Youth Justice

You can train a hen to crow but it is probably easier to hire a rooster: Past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour

The recruitment industry has a saying: “you can train a hen to crow but it is probably easier to hire a rooster”. Perhaps this is also applicable to the adoption of self-care  practices and reduction of burnout experienced by OoHC/YJ workers, i.e. perhaps we should recruit people who already undergo self-care practices or are resilient to burnout.

The results

The previous studies (click here and here) suggest that self-care and trauma-informed self-care strategies have a positive effect on staff, but have limited impact on burnout. In essence, they assert that:

  • adoption of self-care practices does not always result in reduced burnout
  • there is little evidence to suggest that encouraging staff to participate in such activities increases the participation rate in these activities
  • even if staff participation rate is increased, the results are still modest, i.e. people who participate are still prone to burnout, albeit at a lower rate than those who do not participate.

In short, it is likely that there a many other factors that explain why some workers are prone to burnout and do not to participate in self-care activities. 

Two hypotheses

Recall that the aim is to reduce turnover/burnout in OoHC/YJ workers. There are two recruitment-related hypotheses:

  1. Some people are pre-disposed to undertake self-care activities and that predisposition makes it more likely that they will continue to do so post-employment as OoHC/YJ workers.
  1. Some people are naturally more resilient to burnout and that disposition is evident in their personal and work life prior to the employment as OoHC/YJ workers, therefore will likely continue post-employment as OoHC/YJ workers.

How to recruit for resilience to burnout and/or preparedness to engage in self-care activities?

If  your recruitment is based mainly on the job interview (i.e. rather than the use of psychometric assessment and/or assessment centre process etc.), then behavioural event interviewing (BEI) is the optimal way to conduct such interviews. There is strong evidence that BEI is effective at predicting which candidates will be successful vs. those who will not be successful. The rationale behind BEI is that past behaviour predicts future behaviour, e.g. if you used self-care practices in the past to protect against burnout then you will likely use them in the future, i.e. when employed as an OoHC/YJ worker.

Note of warning: not all BEI training is the same

Recruiting companies regularly use BEI, or at least a version of BEI. You might have experienced their version when applying for jobs on SEEK or perhaps even with your current employer. It is important to note that recruiters rarely use BEI correctly, so the results are likely to be unreliable.  To learn how to use BEI correctly requires at least 1.5 to 2 days of training.

Targeted Selection, developed by a company called DDI[i], is the best-known approach to BEI. But it is expensive. There are many other providers of BEI training. I would avoid online training and any training that involves less than a one-day program. Realistically, most people will require two days of training to achieve proficiency.

A cost benefit approach should be adopted

As with the coaching approach mentioned in the last post, a cost benefit analysis is required to determine if a BEI interview strategy is worthwhile investment. You should compare the cost of the BEI training to the full cost of burnout and staff turnover, i.e.  the cost of staff turnover, sick leave, Workcover leave (especially stress leave), the use of agency staff to cover absences etc.

 A reminder

It is important to remember that I am not suggesting that you do not encourage your staff to participate in self-care activities or to not provide such activities for your staff. Rather, there are other issues that have to be addressed to reduce staff burnout in addition to these tactics.


[i] Note: the writer used to work for DDI – the company that developed Targeted Selection.

About graemembaird

I am a psychologist with a special interest in improving the outcomes of families, children and young people in the Out of Home Care and Juvenile Justice systems.
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