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What motivates care workers and how organisations
can strengthen the psychological contract with their
Kirstien Bjerregaard
Professor Alex Haslam
Reasons for working in care, what we already know.
Importance of the psychological contract
Organisational identification = psychological contract
Research findings: about the affect of work-based
identification on motivation, wellbeing and learning.
Organisational practises to harness and build
organisational identification
Questions and ideas
Care workers’ motivation
In spite of being underpaid and undervalued care workers indicate high
levels of job satisfaction and wellbeing.
How care work meets workers’ needs
Making a Difference
Pride & Respect
Worthiness, professional pride
Family & Group
Belonging & love
Caring relationships, being part of family
Working Conditions
Fixed Term Contracts, flexible working
Enhancements to basic pay, paid sickness leave
(Research from Palmer & Eveline, 2013; Skills for Care, 2007; 2009; 2013; Wilson et al., 2009)
Importance of the psychological contract
Employment contracts
•take place between the individual and the organisation as separate
•typically focus on what needs to be done, on making it happen
• delivery of care routines
But they do not define the quality of the care experience
•the manner in which care is provided in a 15 minute slot is critical to the
quality of care
Psychological contract
How am I expected to
What acknowledgement & support is
there to be this way?
Emotional labour
Common understanding & expectations
Supervision arrangements
Peer support
The importance of the psychological contract
A way of being at work which is validated by shared expectations
Organisational culture
Actualised in relationships
•Big impact on people’s perceptions of the quality of care (Wilson et al.
•Job satisfaction (Moyle et al., 2003; Skills for Care, 2007; 2009; 2013)
•Relationship-centred care (Nolan et al., 2006;
Rather than taking place between the individual and organisation as
separate agents, the psychological contract is an integrated component
of our collective identification at work = organisational identification
Organisational identification = psychological contract
What is organisational identification?
•A perception of “oneness with and belonging to the organisation”
(Ashforth & Mael, 1989)
•Alignment of individual and organisational values (Pratt, 1999)
•Classification of self in terms of group membership (organisation,
occupation, role).
How does social identification occur?
•Rather than fixed and innate, a person’s self-concept is fluid and
interactive with the social environment.
•Sense of ourselves is simultaneously as an individual (personal
identity), in relationships (relational identity) and a member of
numerous social groups (social identity)
•The more salient or strong a particular identity the more it will shape
who I consider myself to be and my behaviour
•The strength of an identity is related to its fit in any particular context6
and its accessibility (familiarity & deep-rootedness).
Social identity research
Why does identification matter?
•People are motivated as much (if not more) by their social and relational
identities as they are their personal identity
• What is in it for us? What is in it for me? (Haslam 2004)
•The more a person identifies with a particular group the more they will
be motivated to act on behalf of and be representative of that group.
(Tajfel & Turner, 1979)
• Organisational identification = positive work outcomes (lower turnover
intentions, increased commitment, job satisfaction, communication,
leadership, citizenship behaviour ).
• Care workers’ motivation will be shaped by those work-based
identities which are meaningful to them.
• relational level (with co-workers, clients, sub-ordinates/managers)
• collective level (as a team member, an employee, and professional
care worker).
• Organisational identification creates a psychological contract
• a congruence between the values, norms and expectations of the
employee and employer
The affect of identification on motivation
Our research program explored the nature of care workers’ identification
and the affects it has on their motivation.
With staff from the Somerset Care group
•a large not-for-profit care company that delivers residential, and
domiciliary care across the south and south west of England
First stage: a qualitative study
•an inquiry about what was important to care workers about their work?
•the nature and content of their identities at work.
Second stage: organisational surveys
•measured care workers motivation over 1 year period.
•assessed the strength of their identification with different work groups and
the affect it had on motivation outcomes.
Third stage: an evaluation of professionalization training programs
•Assessed the effectiveness of a new generic training = distal identities
compared to the standard training = local identities.
What follows is a brief overview of findings. A detailed breakdown is
available in the 3 journal articles (under review).
1st study: the shared experience of caring
20 semi-structured interviews care staff working in 4 different residential
and nursing homes and from 4 community bases
Findings illustrated what was important to them about their work and why
it mattered to them.
Shared Experience
with clients
“People NOT
Recognition or
lack of it
‘us good
1st study: the shared experience of caring
Collective self-esteem primarily related to identification with clients
Evident in the inter-dependency of the work
•Shared motivation
“I feel that the clients didn’t get the satisfaction so I didn’t get the satisfaction
at the end of the day” (Female, domiciliary carer, 36 yrs old)
•Trust & rapport
“they have got to have confidence in you before you can get confidence in
them and you have got to have confidence in yourself, so its got to work both
ways so to speak.” (Male, domiciliary carer, 40 yrs old)
Identification with the organisation – related to a perception of the
organisation in terms of its caring treatment of clients and staff
“because that’s what we use’t to be, we were numbers, as a carer and as a
client” (Female, 52 yrs old, senior residential care worker).
“the company is good. It just needs a few changes to make us a more caring company
not just a money company” (Female, 56 yrs old senior residential worker).
What was important to people about their work and why it mattered to10
them was shaped by their shared experience of caring and a collective
sense of self as a care worker.
The affect of identification on motivation
2nd study
•1st survey: N. 643; 1/3 domiciliary care, 20% response rate
•2nd survey: N.1274; just under ½ domiciliary care, 33% response rate
•Longitudinal: N. 206; 1/3 domiciliary care.
•Demographically representative of the organisation workforce
•No correlation between demographics and motivation or identification
except with working domain.
Care workers’ motivation
Care workers’ motivation according to turnover intentions
The affect of identification on motivation
Key findings
•Consistent level of responses over time.
•Overall very positive about their work experience
•Attached lowest value to pay and highest value to relationships with
•In general residential workers were more positive than domiciliary
workers except on valuing relationships with clients.
• The only measures where there was no effect of working domain
was pay, identification with clients, pride and wellbeing.
•Very strong identification with clients, robust identification with the
organisation and other work groups (staff & care professional)
•But…greatest correlation between organisational identification and
increased motivation outcomes
How does identification relate to increased motivation?
Affects of incentives on motivation
Incentives lead to increased
motivation to the extent that
they build meaningful workbased identification.
Client id
Org id
Client identification predicts
organisational identification BUT it
is OI that results in increased
motivation outcomes
• Relationships with clients play a key role in care workers’ motivation,
however the effects of client identification on motivation outcomes are
largely related to the extent this builds organizational identification.
• pay plays an more important role in motivating staff, because it helps
build organisational identification (rather than being valued in its own
How identification facilitates learning
Study 3
•Evaluated a new generic professionalization training program (primarily
delivered via live television) compared to standard in-house
professionalization training.
•Conducted across 8 care homes, over a 6 month period. N. 66.
•in-house training program was more effective than the generic training
because it tapped into more meaningful, localised, work-based identities.
•Responses indicated a reduction in the learning effectiveness of the new
generic training compared to standard localised training. This was
mediated by a reduction in work-based identification.
Key message
Training which engages with and strengthen participants work-based
identities or psychological contract = increases the likelihood of the
learning being transferred into workplace performance.
Building organisational identification
In line with other research, high organisational identification equates with
better work outcomes, including lower turnover intentions.
How to build organisational identification
•Organisational identification typically built through relational identities
(supervisor / supervisee is particularly influential).
•Support congruence between the values, norms and behaviours
associated with relational and social identities.
• E.g. Identifying with the organisation can be problematic if not
seen as congruent with client identification.
“I work for Somerset Care, so you do what you got to do with them, your
loyalties are with them in a certain respect but I suppose your client comes
first because you have a bigger bond with them.”
•Where identities are aligned and the key values & norms around caring
are experienced at all levels of organisational behaviour, with clients and
staff, there is greater motivation and commitment.
“We are a caring company…”
•Lack of congruence = care workers likely to experience greater
uncertainty and stress and be more likely to leave.
Developing the psychological contract through
harnessing peoples identities
Practical recommendations
•Inquire about, acknowledge and harness those identities that are
meaningful to staff.
•Harness client identification through making continuity of care workable
(i.e. small team of carers to group of clients)
•Relational identity with supervisor is more likely to lead to OI when the
supervisor is proto-typical of organisation.
Select and train supervisors to:
• represent organisational values and behaviour,
• validate and engage with staff’s existing and developing identities
• enact this in conversations with staff and clients
• model a way of being for staff’s interactions with each other and
Concluding thoughts…
• Care workers’ motivation is shaped by their collective,
relational and personal identification with work.
• Organisational identification = increased motivation.
This form of the psychological contract can be maintained and
developed through harnessing and building on localised
identities which are meaningful to care workers.
• The creation of a caring, compassionate organisational culture
is about the creation of a shared way of being – a collective
Questions and ideas?
For further information, please contact me;
Kirstien Bjerregaard e-mail: [email protected]
Authentic leadership coaching