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6 effective employee retention strategies in healthcare

Employee retention is crucial to the success of healthcare providers. Here are six employee retention strategies to help you retain your best talent.
What we'll cover

The healthcare sector is still recovering from the effects of the 2020 pandemic and has now been hit with “The Great Resignation,” leaving turnover rates at an all-time high.

A 2022 NSI Nursing Solutions, Inc. report shows that hospital employee turnover currently stands at 25.9%, with the average cost of turnover at $46,100. As a result, an average hospital loses between $5.2m and $9m in a year.

Our survey of 1,000 UK health and social care workers in 2021 backs this up. We’ve found that 52% of frontline health workers have changed or considered changing their jobs.

The reasons for this mass exodus vary from burnout to frontline employees not feeling appreciated. But regardless of the causes, the results are the same: healthcare providers struggle to retain their frontline workers and offer quality patient care.

The solution starts with listening to, understanding, and acting on the needs of your frontline workers.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Employee retention strategies for healthcare providers

To tackle rising turnover rates, you must take a holistic approach toward employee retention. You need to address healthcare employees’ short-term and long-term goals — only then can you have a chance at boosting your employee retention rate.

1. Understand the career advancement needs of your frontline employees

Frontline workers are ambitious. McKinsey surveyed more than 2,100 frontline employees in 2022 and found that 70% had applied for career advancement opportunities with their current employers or other organizations.

The 2022 NSI Nursing Solutions, Inc. report on healthcare staff retention expands on that trend: career advancement was one of the top reasons many healthcare employees resigned from their jobs.

While both employers and employees value career growth, they have different perspectives on what they count as growth.

McKinsey found that employers prioritize higher job titles (among the bottom five priorities for employees) more than job growth and learning opportunities (among the top five priorities for employees) when considering professional development opportunities for their employees.

Career paths: employer vs. employee preferences.

That explains why frontline employees struggle to advance in their careers and resign from their positions for new jobs.

To successfully harness your best employees’ potential and retain top talent, help your frontline staff overcome these barriers to advancement. For example, here are the top career advancement needs of frontline healthcare employees, according to the McKinsey survey.

Top five career advancement attributes frontline employees value.

Put incentives in place to prioritize learning and training opportunities and reduce the intensity of work your employees feel. This will let them know you’ve truly invested in their career advancement and welfare.

Takeaway: Invest in ongoing education and training programs suited to your employees’ needs and provide working conditions that realistically support these programs. Help employees keep up with the changing technology and upskill themselves.

2. Improve internal communication and boost engagement

The average employee spends nearly 20% of their workweek searching for internal information and 28% managing email. And yet, 74% of workers still report missing out on company news.

The situation is similar for healthcare workers with their fragmented internal comms.

Because of these inefficient communication systems, healthcare workers waste more than 45 minutes daily, costing an average U.S hospital nearly $1 million every year.

Poor work environment — use a workspace employee app to improve internal communication.

Besides that, the conflicting messaging leads to poor decisions, which can lower employee morale and reduce employee retention.

An employee app provides a great solution by providing a platform to achieve faster, smoother, and more effective two-way communication with your frontline workforce.

Your healthcare workers can speak up, share feedback, and have valuable conversations with management. This helps them feel valued and engaged and enhances the employee experience.

Using the right technology will also help reduce bureaucracy and the time frontline workers spend on administrative tasks, helping them better manage their workload and do their jobs more efficiently. This will leave them with more capacity for learning and development and a better headspace to innovate and adapt to changes.

An employee app also allows you to measure employee engagement by getting insights into how workers interact with your messages, connect with other team members, and respond to various topics. This will help you detect and act on any signs of disengagement before it’s too late.

Elara Caring adopted Blink, an employee app designed for the frontline workforce, to help decrease staff turnover, boost engagement, and increase profits and revenue. Since adopting Blink, the organization has transformed employee engagement, with 95% of employees feeling more connected to Elara.

Takeaway: Use an employee app that improves frontline workers’ daily lives by giving them unified access to everything they need, resulting in improved productivity, communication, and engagement.

3. Offer competitive wages

Offering competitive wages can go a long way in making employees feel appreciated — increasing your retention rate.

It’s crucial to not just think about dollars going out with each paycheck when determining a market-competitive salary. Consider the financial burden on your business if a key employee leaves — the cost of attrition is staggering.

When your employees ask for a raise, think about their tangible and intangible assets and how losing them will impact their coworkers.

Estimate the cost of the lost experience and training. You’ll find that the amount requested is insignificant compared to losing a valuable employee.

That said, look for ways to revamp your compensation program by:

  • Following local and industry salary surveys
  • Paying attention to what job ads are offering
  • Polling employees to get their feedback

Takeaway: Offer fair compensation. When your workers know they’re fairly paid for the work, they stay with you and make the extra effort to help you achieve your goals. You also retain your best employees and their collective knowledge.

4. Give employees flexible scheduling

When organizations lack sufficient workplace flexibility, employees are unable to find work-life balance and may choose to leave the company altogether.

U.S. News shares that 60 to 75% of clinicians reported symptoms of exhaustion, depression, and sleep disorders during the 2020 pandemic.

That’s why adopting a flexible work schedule — especially in the healthcare sector — has become more crucial to many organizations.

The Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) surveyed approximately 1,200 business and HR leaders and found that 49% of respondents reported flexibility as one of the top three elements of their employee value proposition (EVP) in 2022.

Work flexibility is one of the top three elements of employee value proposition (EVP) in 2022.

The same study found that flexible scheduling significantly correlated with higher retention. That means companies that provide employees with more work flexibility have lower voluntary turnover.

While flexible work programs aren’t one-size-fits-all, you can offer flexibility in schedules: job sharing, shift working, alternating days off, compressed workweeks, and flex-time models.

You can also leverage digital tools to structure and track your staff schedules. For instance, you can use an employee app to find last-minute replacements, simplify staff schedules, and provide shift coverage.

Takeaway: Offer flexible scheduling to help your employees achieve work-life balance. Enable them to prioritize their life outside work, so they can work with minimal stress.

5. Recognize and reward your employees’ efforts

Gallup shares that when recognition hits the mark, healthcare workers are four times more likely to be engaged and five times more likely to be connected to company culture.

Team building: Recognize and reward your employees’ efforts to help them be connected to your workplace culture.

Employee appreciation also affects business outcomes such as patient safety. Gallup found that employees recognized for good work in the last seven days had fewer patient safety incidents.

That said, only 18% of healthcare workers feel that various teams are recognized and valued at their company. That’s below the national average of 22% for U.S. employees and much lower than other sectors that rely on teams — financial services stand at 34%.

Put simply, healthcare providers need to prioritize recognizing and rewarding their employees.

Recognition programs differ based on industry, generation, and individuals. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. So you need to tailor your recognition and rewards according to your frontline workers and their preferences.

You can recognize your employees with a blend of monetary and non-monetary psychological rewards, which both carry equal importance:  

  • Recognition via internal communications: You can publish achievements and recognize hard work on a platform where your entire workforce will be able to acknowledge it. That’ll foster a sense of shared success and create a culture of appreciation.
  • Direct appreciation: Frontline workers want to be appreciated by their managers, as this will speak on a personal level and make them feel seen and heard.
  • Appreciation gifts: Incentives or perks such as gift cards, experiences, events, and even benefits in the form of flexible working hours or learning and development opportunities are a great way to recognize your employees’ hard work and boost morale.  

Takeaway: Formulate an in-house employee recognition strategy that praises performing workers and recognizes their hard work. Authentic and personalized employee recognition can lower burnout, reduce employee turnover, and improve your bottom line.

6. Listen and act on employee feedback

The Great Resignation isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. PwC shares that one in every five workers plans to quit their job in 2022.

PwC: One in every five workers plans to quit their jobs in 2022. 

That’s forcing human resource officers to jump from fire drill to fire drill. As a result, they’re losing sight of crucial employee engagement aspects like employee well-being and job satisfaction.

If you want to retain your current employees during this period, you need to start collecting feedback from your frontline workers and create data-driven action plans.

Leaders often overestimate their approachability and listening skills and underestimate their employees’ challenges. So it’s important to be present, available, and proactively asking for feedback.

But listening to your employees without implementing follow-up actions can backfire.

Here’s one of the top messages employees have for senior management in Blink’s survey of frontline health and social care employees:

“Please listen to your staff and follow up on promises. Too many empty promises.”

Once you get feedback, identify ways you can improve your workers’ experiences. Create a clearly communicated, visible action plan. Without it, there’s a danger you’ll be perceived as listening but not caring enough to act.

Takeaway: Ask managers to regularly converse with the frontline healthcare workers and get feedback on work initiatives and common challenges.

Final Thoughts: 6 effective employee retention strategies in healthcare

Healthcare workers are constantly on the move. Their needs differ from those of desk-based employees. That’s why implementing the strategies above is crucial — especially using digital tools to improve internal communication and boost engagement.

Using Blink’s employee app, you can analyze and act on your workers’ feedback, make them feel valued, and prioritize their wellness and mental health.

Kickstart your healthcare employee retention strategy with Blink.

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