Occupational therapy leadership perspectives used to facilitate faculty retention











Employee retention is of paramount importance in all industries and according to the literature, critical aspects of retention appear to exist in creating and sustaining supportive relationships within the workplace, including with supervisors. Florentine (2019) determined employee satisfaction is based on daily encounters with co-workers and supervisors and influenced employee retention within the workplace. Stater and Stater (2019) concluded employee satisfaction is based on having supportive co-workers and a supervisor who cares about their workers’ well-being.

In addition, communication played an essential part in retention, including leadership style and how power and authority are utilized (Craig 2017; Puni et al., 2016; Webber 2019) determined ). DeVito et al. (2018) revealed leaders who motivate employees and provide leadership support might reduce the employee’s intent to leave. Institutions of higher learning cope with many leadership styles due to departments having multiple layers of leaders. Having multiple leaders within each department makes job satisfaction among faculty a daunting strategic endeavor (Kim & Rehg, 2028). Aggarwal and Medury (2012) examined faculty’s job satisfaction in higher education and found job satisfaction may be a predictor in facilitating faculty retention. When faculty are satisfied with their job, they tend to stay with the institution longer (Aggarwal & Medury, 2012). According to Webber (2019), faculty overall satisfaction is affected by the perceptions of the department leader’s effectiveness in communicating, particularly the program director or department chair. Leaders who do not develop a relationship with their faculty may end up with disengaged faculty, which in turn, may lead to faculty leaving a university (Lee et al., 2017). Rosser (2004) defined work-life as administrative support, committee work, professional development, and other non-paid duties within the institution, all of which impact the faculty’s satisfaction and governs the faculty’s intent to stay or leave.

The goals and perspectives of institutional leadership should be examined more thoroughly by the faculty’s perspective regarding their intent on staying or leaving (Rosser, 2004). Highlighted points in the literature reveal concepts and strategies that affect faculty retainage include, motivation, job satisfaction, communication, and leadership style. See, Morris et al. (2020) identified retention strategies or concepts are not successful in every situation, so leaders need to understand and implement the techniques that work for each faculty member. Numerous scholars and researchers provide data, concepts, and strategies of what their research revealed. However, the literature has a gap in knowledge relating to facilitating faculty retainage from the perspective of leadership and techniques used by these leaders to facilitate this in higher education.

This qualitative inquiry explored occupational therapy (OT) leader’s perspectives and techniques used to facilitate faculty retainage. Specifically, exploring the techniques suggested by OT leadership, like program directors and department chairs, may provide valuable knowledge for institutes of higher learning and for the OT profession. Throughout the literature review, the trend observed was to find a solution, action, or technique that could facilitate faculty retainage. Hom et al. (2017) suggest scholars need to embrace and continue research on turnover and retention. Exploring the knowledge that OT leaders may offer regarding faculty retainage could reduce or close the gap between knowing what improves faculty retainage, and how to appropriately apply that knowledge to facilitate faculty retainage.


Participants. The participants were OT program directors and department chairs that have at least one year of experience in the position.

Recruitment. The sampling for this qualitative inquiry was 12 OTleaders, 6 program directors and 6 department chairs, from various departments within entry-level OT programs nationwide using a convenience sampling technique.

Instruments. The primary data source used to conduct the semi-structured interviews was Zoom, followed by collecting and analyzing information from each of the participants’ interviews using Microsoft Word and Excel.

Data Collection.A semi-structured interview was used to allow for the questioning process to be more flexible, ask different questions, or expand on whether the answer required clarification (Merriam & Tisdell, 2015). The interviews were conducted synchronously online via Zoom to build rapport and recorded for the purpose of collecting data for answering the research questions. After the interview, a written transcript of the interview was provided to the participants to ensure the correct information. Following this, the transcript was analyzed for trends, patterns, or themes relating to techniques used.

The interview questions were created to guide the interview to address the research question: What are the OT leaders’ perspectives in institutes of higher education regarding techniques they use to facilitate faculty retainage? The same set of open-ended questions will be used during each interview with all participants.

Data Analysis: The transcripts were organized, analyzed, and categorized based on the themes and patterns detected from the combined data. Microsoft Word and Excel spreadsheet were used to code the data. Coding was used by identifying keywords, ideas, or techniques to highlight relationships, trends, or patterns. The technique used to help in the coding process is the rigorous and accelerated date reduction (RADaR) technique (Watkins, 2017). The RADaR process requires a revision of the data to provide concise and rigorous results implementing a fivestep orderly analysis (Watkins, 2017). The final data created a list starting with the most successful technique identified, moving down to the least successful techniques to facilitate faculty retainage.

Validity, Reliability and Trustworthiness. Having validity in research is important because it ensures the research questions measure what is intended to be measured (Cherry, 2020). A validity concern for this project was if the participants had enough recent experience with faculty related to the overall techniques these leaders use to facilitate faculty retainage and not only recent activities and/ or experiences with faculty. The participants may have anxiety that their answers will be judged for efficiency. Reliability is being consistent and having the quality of measurements when collecting data (Middleton, 2020). A reliability concern with this research would be if, during the semi-structured interview, a question is asked, and the answer leads into a conversation that the other participants did not have the opportunity to be asked and explore that area of their perspective. Trustworthiness in research aims to support the inquiries finding objectively and the protocol was followed (Connelly, 2016). Reasonable measures were taken to ensure this project is valid, reliable, and trustworthy.

Results and Discussion This section presents a summary and analysis of the study data related to the research question: What are the OT leaders’ perspectives in institutes of higher education regarding techniques they use to facilitate faculty retainage? The evaluation framework was once referred to as the “Monitoring and Evaluation Framework,” which offers and informs leadership the opportunity to enhance, develop, and improve programs and perspectives of the current situation (Mamun & Hasan, 2017). Evaluation framework can be partnered with a process known as “Resultbased Management,” so that after the data has been collected and analyzed techniques may be adjusted (Mamun & Hasan, 2017). The evaluation framework in this instance evaluated the outcomes of OT leader’s techniques and explored which components of a technique were considered successful and unsuccessful. Data were organized in a codebook consisting of one document including the emerging 147 codes and 10 themes surfaced from the codes. The themes are in bold with their corresponding definitions.

Theme 1: Relationship with their manager. This first theme was concerned with the relationship between faculty and the OT leader, and the connection with the faculty’s intent to stay at their current employer. Exploring techniques on building and developing relationships with faculty to facilitate retainage was cited by OT leaders. Identifying the importance of these relationships by open, individual communication can provide valuable insight to the faculty members’ unique motivation.

Theme 2: Quality of life. This theme was identified as a major focal point for the concept of retention. A healthy relationship environment contributes to quality of life and was mentioned in facilitating faculty members being more encouraged, dedicated, engaged, and willing to contribute to the institution’s targets and purposes. Identifying the quality of life of the faculty may give a competitive edge for keeping employees engaged and avoiding burnout.

Theme 3: Embracing the universities culture/mission statement. Employees who understand the company’s culture and norms will feel a part of acompany and build relationships more quickly. The quality of worklife among educational institutions could improve workplace culture by having the heads of departments provide a friendly workplace, which in turn, will improve the overall effectiveness of institutions. Concepts involving relationshipbuilding and nurturing relationships support a knowledge-seeking culture are continually changing. Facilitating leaders from other departments and executive leaders to attend OT faculty meetings make faculty feel more a part of the university vision initiatives.

Theme 4: Engagement and relationship building. This aspect of a relationship starts when someone joins the company, and the responsibility of engagement and relationship building is the responsibility of leadership. OT leaders revealed faculty felt disengaged from their peers at times. Sixty percent of the OT leaders reported soft skill training and communication would increase their engagement with faculty. Fostering collaboration among faculty is a strategy cited for engagement and relationship building.

Theme 5: Communication. Communication as a concept is one way to build relationships to affect faculty retention. Communication is the best skill to use when building relationships concerning employer/employee, offering an opportunity for each to share frustration. However, it was noted that when the communication line only moves from leader to faculty it resulted in reduced job happiness and less opportunity for retention. Communication relating to structural imbalances, or communication in general, will build trust and relationships for faculty.

Theme 6: Lack of motivation. Throughout the communication process, motivation is an area that needs to be created by leadership. As a predictor of retention, motivation impacts job contentment, organizational dedication, and withdrawal behaviors, all of which may lead to the intention of staying or leaving. Signs of withdrawal were cited to be the best predictor of an employee’s intention to stay or leave. OT leaders must be mindful of withdrawal signs in the workplace and effectively use student evaluations to assess this area.

Theme 7: Job satisfaction. This was cited to be created when the faculty feels that the OT leader and university appreciates them, and allows the employee to use their skills, which builds positive relationships. Facilitating multiple “touch points” with faculty in a variety of ways may facilitate job satisfaction. This is not only true with the OT leader, but with frequent encounters with co-workers

Theme 8: Trust. If trust between the OT leader and faculty is low, faculty do not want to stay at their position, but when the trust levels are high and relationships are good, retention tends to improve. When a relationship does not form between the leader and employee, employees may become disengaged, which may be costly. Having a strong trusting relationship among OT leaders can lead to the understanding of items like time off, schedule adjustments, and other external benefits concerning retention.

Theme 9: Being a servant leader. Servant leadership is a management style that assists in building strong teams with members who are satisfied both personally and professionally. Having OT faculty contribute high-quality work will not only bode well for the education of the students, but also help the university succeed. Promoting faculty growth and promoting job satisfaction, was cited to be an important foundation for job fulfillment. Mentoring is a valuable leadership practice to facilitate faculty satisfaction, especially in adjunct faculty.

Theme 10: Monetary (salary, funding). Retention setbacks may occur for organizations that do not have the funds to offer extrinsic rewards. Therefore, attempting to focus on intrinsic rewards to improve the working environment and relationships may deter faculty turnover. Improving interaction, support, and understanding opinions of faculty can impact job satisfaction, which can affect the faculty’s intent to leave or stay and in return, can affect the cost and time relating to replacing faculty that leave. In conclusion, higher education as a business focuses on students, i.e. customers, and it’s the bottom line; however, sometimes, institutes forget to recognize the institute’s true assets, the relationship between the employer and the employee (Craig, 2017). These higher education operations are not unique to the OT profession. OT leaders have many challenging trends that require attention, but it cannot ignore its faculty. As this study demonstrates, OT leaders and their institutions specifically need to focus on the faculty’s relationships within the department and leadership to foster their retention.


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