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Thompson, JA 2008, 'Explaining and predicting rural turnover intentions and behaviours in Charleville, Australia', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright JA Thompson 2008


Attracting and retaining employees has emerged as one of the most important issues currently challenging organizations worldwide, and in the rural setting it has become a genuine concern for public and private sectors. Longstanding research into turnover has historically been rather piecemeal, for example attrition and retention research has focused on employment conditions such as pay or supervision (Richards et al. 1994; Dinham & Scott 1996; Dodd-McCue and Wright 1996; Rahim 1996; Scott et al. 1998; Cheney et al. 2004; Robinson & Pillemer 2007; Gow et al 2008; Newton 2008) or personal factors such as personality (Deary, Watson & Hogston 2003; Bakker 2006). This research study adopted a multi-focus or ecological perspective and provided a holistic understanding of employee turnover, something that has been lacking from much of the previous literature.

This thesis evaluated turnover intentions and behaviours, through investigating personal, work and community variables with a group of rural public service employees in Charleville, South West Queensland, Australia. The purpose of this study was to examine the factors that influenced a rural government workers decision to stay in or leave their job, and could these predict turnover. It has implications for organizations and workforce management in rural settings but some parts may be applied to the urban context.

Eighty-nine workers from 12 state government departments were studied in 2003 and 2004. Eight variables were researched including professional, personal and community factors, job satisfaction, stress, social support, organizational commitment, intent to remain and actual turnover behaviour. The research methods used were surveys, interviews and observations. A descriptive picture of the sample was formed using some of the data in the survey. The rest of the survey data was analysed using regression analysis. This information was then used as the basis for the interviews. This data along with the observation data were analysed qualitatively.

The two main hypotheses for this study were, 1) personal, professional and community variables influence employee turnover, and 2) that it was possible to predict turnover from these three variables. Consequently, the primary research questions were ‘can we explain employee turnover intentions and behaviours by evaluating personal, professional and community variables?’ and ‘Can these factors be used to predict turnover?’

The results of this study support both hypotheses. It was found that personal, professional and community factors did influence rural government worker turnover; and that turnover can be predicted. Furthermore, that intent can be used as a predictor of turnover. It argues that employee turnover is a complex process involving personal, professional, community, stress, job satisfaction, social support, commitment and intent variables. This study identifies the factors that influence actual and intended rural government employee turnover and gives organizations a platform for operationalizing effective retention programs.

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