Carefully selecting the right people for the company’s most important positions can be the difference between a successful enterprise and a struggling one (Zahra, 2009). Attracting and retaining the “right employees” are major factors also on influencing firm’s growth, effectiveness and competitiveness. This clearly points to the significance of managing human capital toward creating a committed and knowledgeable workforce that can earn sustainable growth and competitive advantage for the companies (Kotelnikov, 2001). The study of organizational behavior has been approached from various conceptual perspectives (Steel & Rentsch, 1997; Taber, 1991). One major perspective, job attitudes remains a topic of interest in the field, and conceptual distinctions have been historically made (Brooke, Russell, & Price, 1988).
The volume of research on employee job attitudes reflects their importance to organizations in terms of identifying satisfaction, estimating loyalty, and reducing turnover (Knoop, 1995; Porter, Steers, & Modway, 1974). The value of examining performance in terms of manufacturing or assembly has been an important area of research, in which job attitudes has a direct correlation on job performance (Anderson & Mohr, 2003; Bettencourt, Gwinner, & Meuter, 2001).Job performance on the other hand, is also critical especially on the field of treatment services to the victims of natural disasters. As of late, no studies are known to have been conducted on the job attitudes of employees providing disaster relief services. This study intends to explore the possibility of enhancing the state of employee engagement and retention in the disaster management sector (DMS), and also to explore the ways to attract quality employees to the DMS. Since this sector demands a wholehearted commitment from the employees to deal successfully with one of the noble professions in the world.
Background of the Problem
The importance of employee involvement and interaction in supporting disaster victims (Beck & Franke, 1996), who are immediately confronted with emotions that include fear, a profound sense of loss, and anxiety cannot be understated (Albano, Causey, & Carter, 2001).Disaster victims face life-altering injury and death resulting from natural disasters (Beck & Franke, 1996). The trauma of experiencing a natural disaster may result in extreme stress-related disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder (Miller & Kraus, 1994). The aforementioned consequences of disasters clearly show the gravity of the jobs associated with providing relief, and they hint at the challenge of attracting and retaining talented and committed employees in the DMS. Higher remuneration cannot be the sole driver of engaging, attracting, or retaining quality employees in this sector; prospective employees with qualifications can easily choose risk-free jobs instead. Thus, the DMS needs to strike the right chord in employees to ignite the missionary approach in them.
A brief explanation of the activities of the American Red Cross (ARC) corroborates the fact that the DMS truly needs committed and motivated workers more than anything else (ARC, 2006). The ARC’s disaster relief employees are charged with providing assistance and meeting victims’ immediate emergency disaster-caused needs, where they must support the ARC’s mission and extend every available courtesy. In response to these natural disasters, the ARC deploys volunteers to provide emergency services to victims. Each year, the ARC responds immediately to more than 70,000 disasters, including house or apartment fires, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hazardous materials spills, transportation accidents, explosions, and other natural and manmade disasters (ARC, 2006).
The magnitude of devastation can sometimes leave relief workers wondering where to start. During the 2005 hurricane season, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast of the United States. Hurricane Katrina flooded neighborhoods and literally destroyed part of the state of Louisiana, particularly the city of New Orleans, by killing more than 1,193 people and smashing most of the humanmade structures (Hine, 2005). Hurricane Rita followed Katrina weeks later, further damaging what was left in that region and causing more power outages and evacuations.
These examples highlight the gravity of disaster management and show the levels of dedication and commitment required to meet such challenges. Therefore, researching the attitudes of employees in disaster relief work may provide valuable information to first responders. The groundbreaking work by Steers and Porter (1979) underscored the importance of work and motivation. Bettencourt et al. (2001) also supported this premise. According to Steers and Porter, “The concept of the organization has long symbolized the efficient, effective and rational allocation of resources for task accomplishment” (p. 555).
According to Beck and Franke (1996), the victims of natural disasters can experience extreme stress. The significant symptomatology of the victims of natural disasters can include the following components:
1. Defense: Specific signs.
2. Shock: Confusion and psychological numbing.
3. Fear and anxiety: Sleep disturbance (e.g., nightmares, insomnia).
4. Anxiety: Substance abuse; uncontrollable and distressing images of the event; increased absenteeism at work; loss of ability for intimacy; loss of interest in interpersonal relations; hyperalertness, scanning, hypervigilance, ticks, and desire not to be left alone; hyperreeactivity to particular cues (e.g., storms) and physical changes; increased blood pressure, arthritis, ulcers, chest pains, and headaches; problems in performance at school, home, or work; and loss of sense of security.
5. Denial: Containment of feelings, unwillingness to talk about event; and cheerful or audacious reaction to trauma.
6. Mourning and depression: Frequent and endless gravesite visits.
7. Depression: Crying at the reminder of loved ones, social isolation, loss of energy, hopelessness, suicidal ideation, and memory or concentration problems.
8. Guilt and shame: Depressed moods and extreme guilty preoccupation.
9. Retaliation: Lawsuits and other acting-out episodes, temper tantrums, or argumentative communication style.
These possible responses to a natural disaster point not only to the gravity of the job responsibilities of the relief workers but also to the sensitive ambience they face.
The workers who are assigned to relief work offer their support and assistance in what may seem to the victims to be a chaotic and hopeless situation (Carruthers, 2009). Disaster relief workers are instrumental in assisting the victims to deal with and move through the crisis as well as improve functioning. They also are expected to provide emergency services in an efficient, friendly, and calm manner. The difference between high-performing and average organizations is that the top companies recognize the importance of the talent and actions of their employees and they seriously care about strengthening their talent pool.
Without such a clear approach, the purpose of recruitment and retention can result in the poor performance by the company and can become a roadblock to achieving the desired outcome (War for Talent, 2004). All companies sometimes have difficulty recruiting “the right people”, meaning those who are really capable to do the tasks provided. No company wants to see the negative outcomes of poor recruitment choices, such as losing money or reputation because of employees who are poor or average performers. Such a state of affairs can affect the rate of employee turnover, which may include both talented and poor performers.
Hiring marginal performers comes at a high cost, not the least of which is the cost of turnover. Huselid (1995) suggested that high-involvement work practices can attract and retain employees. The aforementioned factors have crucial relevance to the functioning of the DMS because the nature of the job is unique and encompasses all possible human virtues: courage, dedication, presence of mind, attitude to sacrifice, and more. The DMS needs an effective action plan to periodically motivate its workers to sustain and develop such virtues and to contribute to the process of enhancing employee involvement.
Statement of the Problem
The incidence and severity of natural disasters have been rising steadily over the last 10 years. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita amplified the importance of disaster relief services to recover or save victims and establishments. The DMS demands the highest level of employee commitment, so job attitude of the employees is extremely important. The organizations in the DMS have several primary tasks, such as recruiting talented employees, making them wholeheartedly involved by instilling in them the required spirit of service, creating an engaging atmosphere, and building a solid reputation to attract more talented employees.
To effectively manage these tasks, the organizations in the DMS need to have a comprehensive action plan that not only underpins the key drivers of employee engagement, retention, and attraction but also provides a framework to achieve them. . This mandate clearly necessitates a thorough investigation and understanding of the job attitudes of the employees that evolve from the cumulative influences of job satisfaction, job involvement, organizational commitment, and turnover intention.
Disaster relief service is a high-risk job due to its life-saving nature, and it is also tedious work since it comprises of such activities that needs to be done in a frantic pace and environment. The workers are entrusted with the immediate care of disaster victims, and their performance is responsible for fulfilling the mission of the organization. To maintain these valuable workers and protect the integrity and mission of the service agency, an exploration of employee job satisfaction, job involvement, and job commitment is warranted. At the time of this research, no previous studies were found that had specifically addressed the needs of the DMS regarding employee engagement, retention, or attraction. Although this study has taken up that task, further research on the job attitudes of disaster relief workers may have direct implications to the assistance received by the victims of natural disasters.