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Six Research-based Steps to Employee Retention

Recent research shows that there are six key areas you should focus on to improve retention, according to Katie Owens, Vice President, HealthStream Engagement Institute, and Robyne Wilcox, Product Manager (Talent Management), HealthStream. Healthcare organizations interested in retaining valued employees are advised to:

  1. Address the gap between the employee’s dedication to their job and their dedication to their organization or employer.

    Data shows that 93% of healthcare employees are engaged with their job, but only 83% are engaged with their organizations. Your organization is at risk for turnover of your top talent if they feel that a competing employer places a higher value on their profession. Therefore, you must demonstrate that you value your top achievers. They have the greatest ability to relocate, and they often become the most frustrated when working with people who don’t carry their own weight. You must clearly demonstrate your organization’s values and decision-making regarding staff performance.  Model key organizational values and ensure that goal achievement is rewarded and recognized for those who contributed.

  2.  Ensure engagement across all staff.

    According to HealthStream’s benchmark data, the dominant shift - day shift- has much greater job satisfaction than every other shift, including night shifts, evening shifts, rotating shifts, and others. This means that non-dominant shifts often feel invisible because most leaders focus engagement efforts on the day shift only. While we know that we are responsible for patients 24/7, we know that we are not weighting our focus that way with our teams and also not with leadership development. You must block and plan time monthly to engage the “other shifts” and to develop leaders from all shifts. While we ask employees to have an “always” approach to their jobs, we do not maintain an “always” effort of engagement. If you are kicking off a special celebration or an event like nursing week or a town hall, start the event on the night shift. Put them first for every roll-out.

  3. Address the gap in manager vs. staff perceptions.

    Surveys show employees are definitely not as satisfied with us as managers as we are with our own leaders and organizations. Managers are often closer to the senior team’s vision, but they are not spending enough time relaying or cascading that vision to their own reports. You must close the gap by building trust and visibility. Can your employees pick you out of a police lineup? They need to see you on a regular basis! Also, effective purposeful senior leader rounding builds confidence and rapport between staff and leaders.

  4. Inboarding is as critical as onboarding to address retention.

    There is a huge decline after 6-months in job engagement, organizational engagement, and job satisfaction. Inboarding is the process of building commitment and engagement, instead of letting it wither. Acknowledge the reality, and take steps to address the 6-month decline. The 90-day mentality that is tied to onboarding will not provide sufficient reengagement. Embed those reengagement discussions in your annual performance reviews and ask how you can keep employees engaged.

  5. Hold your leaders accountable.

    Organizations must identify and retrain ineffective managers. It is true that people don’t quit jobs, they quit managers. It’s estimated that 80% of voluntary departures are due to bad managers. Also, a quarter of employees would take a better boss over a pay increase.  Establish leadership goals for retention and cascade them throughout all levels of management. Also, support leaders to turn employee surveys into action that results in improvement.

  6. Provide opportunity for growth.

    Never underestimate the power of progress and growth for employees. Providing your workforce with meaningful professional development can improve retention and actually repair disengagement. In a national nursing survey, 64% who planned to leave their current employer said they would stay for professional development opportunities.

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