How to Improve Healthcare Employee Turnover with Stay Interviews

How to Improve Healthcare Employee Turnover with Stay Interviews
Senior Director of Marketing

Federal government data confirm what hospitals, medical practices and other healthcare providers have been noticing: By 2020, the U.S. is projecting a shortage of almost a million nurses. So even if you have enough now, you need to ensure you hang onto them.

According to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute, “turnover among newly hired nurses is highest in the first two years,” and “every percentage point increase in nurse turnover costs an average hospital about $300,000 annually.” And it’s not just nurses -- facilities are also facing shortages in physicians, health care IT workers and other key employees. The results of these shortfalls can include excessive workloads, a drop in quality of care and employee dissatisfaction.

One tool that the healthcare industry can borrow from the world of business to improve retention is the concept of a “stay interview.”

“A stay interview is an employee retention tool to retain high-potential and high-performing employees,” says Jené Kapela of Jené Kapela Leadership Solutions. “The purpose of the stay interview is to find out what is motivating an employee in his/her work and to identify any potential areas where the employee might want to have a different or better experience. Ultimately, the stay interview should be used to ensure the employee stays engaged with the company and that the company is meeting the employee's professional needs.”

Here’s how to do it:

  • Schedule it at a different time than employees’ performance reviews. If you do an annual performance review with your employees, schedule your stay interview annually, six months after the performance review. This gives people a chance to talk about how they feel about their jobs without creating stress tied to a performance review.
  • Remember it’s an interview. This isn’t a survey or study; you should ask questions and listen to the answers, just like in a job interview. Show employees you’re interested in what they have to say, and ask for suggestions when they give examples of things they don’t like. This is your chance to get to know them better -- use it!
  • Create a safe, accountable space. You may be hearing things in a stay interview that you weren’t expecting -- or don’t know what to do with. “Often times, employees search for new employment rather than voice their concerns about operational challenges,” says Farrah Parker of FD Parker and Associates. “This retention strategy must be presented as part of a ‘safe zone’ where employees feel that they may be free and open. The executive who conducts the interview must refrain from promises, criticism, and judgment and should simply rely on fact gathering.” Involving neutral parties to go over the information gathered is a good idea, Parker says.

Good questions for stay interviews include:

  • What do you expect from your manager that you feel you aren’t getting?
  • What interests or skills do you have that you would like to use more at work?
  • What could be added or changed to help you do your job better? What would you eliminate?
  • What parts of your job do you really enjoy and look forward to every day? What fills you with dread when you consider your job?
  • What would you change about your job, if you could? What about your team or managers?
  • If you left this position, what would you miss? What would you not miss at all?

These questions can highlight what your employees feel they’re missing, and help you strengthen the parts of their work they love. You’ll likely find common threads among the answers from employees in the same teams or departments, giving you insight into broader issues better than a survey could.

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