Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Cultures of Success: Recruiting and Retaining New Live-In Residence Life Professionals

Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Cultures of Success: Recruiting and Retaining New Live-In Residence Life Professionals

Article excerpt

A qualitative inquiry designed to understand entry-level, live-in, professional staff recruitment and retention practices perceived as successful revealed a link to elements of organizational culture. Several important areas of understanding emerged: the actual recruitment and retention practices, the impact of leadership, and the role of organizational culture in the success of the department. This article addresses the impact of culture on the organization and its contribution to success in hiring and retaining entry-level staff. The discussion of findings and practical implications broadens our understanding of culture and better informs practice.

Although estimates of the attrition of new professionals in student affairs vary, retention is "essential to the health of student affairs as a profession" (Davis Barham & Winston, 2006, p. 64). There is a strong need for well-qualified, educated, and trained entry-level live-in professional staff in campus residence halls to support and achieve the academic and educational goals of the institution (Belch & Kimble, 2006; Belch & Mueller, 2003). Senior housing officers have acknowledged a concern with the availability of qualified professional staff interested in entry-level live-in positions (Belch & Mueller, 2003) and have indicated their greatest concern is for the impact on the housing profession rather than any individual campus (St. Onge & Nestor, 2005). Some of the recent literature has examined concerns regarding issues of compensation, amenities, and quality of life (Belch & Mueller, 2003; St. Onge & Nestor, 2005). In this article, we examine the cultures of organizations that existed in institutions identified as having best practices in recruiting and retaining entry-level live-in professional staff.

Organizational Culture

Organizational culture is a shared system of beliefs, values, and assumptions among an organization's inhabitants (Denison, 1996; Kuh & Whitt, 1988; Schein, 2004). Standard elements of culture include artifacts (e.g., traditions, rituals, myths, stories, ceremonies, customs, language, physical, and social environment), values, and basic assumptions (e.g., thoughts, unconscious perceptions) (Kuh & Whitt, 1988; Schein, 1992). Organizational members share a common understanding that unites them; helps them to understand how they fit in; and learn what is valued, appropriate, and inappropriate (Allen & Cherrey, 2000; Schein, 1992; Sims, 1994). In essence, culture guides the activities of an organization and its members (Sims, 1994).

During the last few decades, researchers have examined the effectiveness of organizations (Cameron & Quinn, 2006; Deal & Kennedy, 1982; Denison, 1990) and the impact of culture on job satisfaction, work performance, commitment, motivation, and retention (Harris & Mossholder, 1996; Schein, 1999). In a study from the business sector, Cameron and Quinn (2006) argued that when the same culture type reflects throughout an organization via policy, leadership style, reward systems, and strategies, this congruency of culture leads to high performance.

Studies of effective organizational practices and culture in higher education have focused on creating environments conducive to student development, success, and achievement (Kuh, Schuh, Whitt, & Associates, 1991; Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh, Whitt, & Associates, 2005). The focus of these studies is on student achievement, but they also offer valuable insights and lessons that are applicable to a workforce population and specifically to new professionals. Research from the Documenting Effective Educational Practice (DEEP) Project (Kuh et al., 2005) revealed that improvement-oriented campus cultures were internally driven and oriented toward innovation, openly discussed what was needed to improve, adopted best practices from other institutions, supported initiatives and invested in success, and utilized data-informed decision making practices to develop and modify policy. …

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