5 Keys to an Effective Retention Strategy for Healthcare HR

Marketing Specialist

The healthcare workplace has long been plagued by a shortage of qualified workers and an employee turnover rate of around 20% in 2018, higher than the all-industry average of 15%. In the face of these challenges, healthcare HR professionals must develop thoughtful, effective retention strategies to help their organizations attract and retain top talent, reduce the costs associated with employee hiring and turnover, and remain competitive.

Here are five key elements healthcare HR should consider for an effective retention strategy.
 

1. Address Employee Burnout Factors

Healthcare workers, from support staff to physicians, deal with high rates of burnout that can cause them to seek out new opportunities. Numerous factors created a burnout rate of around 50% for healthcare providers in 2017:

  • Busy, tight work schedules
  • Emotional demands of working with patients
  • Work-life balance challenges
  • Dealing with workplace, industry, or regulatory bureaucracy
  • Safety concerns, both from workplace violence or infection exposure

Healthcare HR needs to address burnout, not only because it contributes to employee turnover, but because it can also be detrimental to patient safety due to a higher risk of medical errors and compassion fatigue. Healthcare organizations can address burnout in multiple ways:

  • Provide outlets for employee stress: tranquil environments to decompress, healthier snack food options in cafeterias and vending machines, and even animal therapy.
  • Use workplace violence prevention efforts to help employees feel safe and supported.
  • Offer more flexible scheduling and remote work options, where possible.

 

2. Onboard New Employees Appropriately

Employers should be focused on retention from an employee’s first day on the job. Start new employees out on the right foot by giving them a smooth onboarding process.

  • Make sure all new hires understand the role they play in the organization and what is expected of them. 
  • Provide a package with an agenda for their first day on the job, as well as the employee handbook, benefits package, paperwork to be completed, and a signed note or greeting card to welcome them. 
  • Be proactive about making introductions, and assign mentors or point persons so new hires know where to go or whom to ask for help.
  • Plan the new employee’s first few lunch breaks for them; this will help them get to know coworkers, remember where to find cafeterias or break rooms, and reduce feelings of awkwardness.

 

3. Improve the Way Your Organization Communicates

Good communication from an employer is key to an employee’s job satisfaction, since good communication can reduce confusion and frustration, improving morale and retention. Healthcare organizations should take steps to improve their overall communication methods. 

Department managers should clearly and regularly share job expectations, organizational policies, goals, and upcoming events with employees. Create a culture of recognition for exemplary employees, and thank all team members for their efforts. Use more than one communication method: social media, emails, bulletins, or meetings. 

Because listening is an essential part of good communication, organizations in general and HR professionals in particular must take steps to request employee feedback and listen to responses. 

  • Request honest employee feedback; allow respondents to remain anonymous.
  • Conduct “stay” or “retention” interviews to better understand what existing employees want and how they feel about their workplace.
  • Use exit interviews to understand why employees leave and what can be improved.
     

4. Create a Plan for Poor Performance

Retention strategies should not only keep top performers, but also improve low performers. In Becker’s Hospital Review, one HR professional explains that managers should have direct, specific conversations with low performers about what needs to change, and in what timeframe. 

One strategy is to implement a 90-day improvement plan, proceeding to a disciplinary process if overall performance does not improve. Holding all employees to the same standards can improve low performance while encouraging morale and engagement among high performers.

5. Formalize Your Retention Plan

Most healthcare organizations understand that employee retention is a problem, but not all of them know how to address it. Whatever your organization’s retention strategy looks like, it should be written, shared with senior leadership, and clearly explained to all departments. This ensures that all managers know how to apply the strategy, and that each department can make decisions that align with this plan.

A solid retention strategy can be difficult to build from the ground up. Understanding specific retention challenges, and creating a specific plan to address them, will help guide your healthcare organization toward lower turnover rates, lower costs, increased engagement, and stronger competitiveness among employers.

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