Employee turnover in healthcare is a chronic problem affecting patient care and healthcare costs.
According to American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration (ASHHRA) fifth annual HR Initiatives Survey, the loss of a single healthcare worker costs organizations the employee’s first year’s salary. So why do healthcare workers leave their employers? More importantly, how can you get them to stay?
As a seasoned leadership recruiter I have literally chatted with thousands of healthcare professionals in my many quests to find the ideal candidate for my healthcare clients. Most of the time it's about timing. Catch a great professional at the right time -- a moment of growing frustration or career anxiety -- and most will listen carefully to the opportunity I am presenting. But sometimes there are candidates who just won't consider making a career move no matter what. Even when the money would be a significant step-up. Why, you ask?
Here are 5 reasons why healthcare employees stay:
1. Work / Life Balance. Life is not linear - not for anyone. Child care, auto repairs, dance recitals, dentist appointments, baseball games, caring for ailing parents or a spouse; life happens. Good leaders in good organizations find a way to give their good employees the flexibility to help them manage some of their competing priorities. Yes, I know that there is work to be done. But some flexibility has to be baked into the cake. It just does. Great leaders and great organizations find a way.
2. Great Leadership. Great leaders have something more than intelligence and technical skills. There is humility to them. They are disarming. Approachable. They nurture and delight in the success of others. Their passion is evident in their uncompromising commitment to beauty of their vision. The loyalty, commitment and excellence they inspire in others are the earned results of their character. True leaders serve. Turns out that when you work for a great leader, it's really hard to leave. So always hire the best leaders you can, and when you have them move mountains to keep them happy.
3. Respect. Organizations that employ shared governance generally enjoy higher retention rates. For a healthcare professional, having a real ability to influence the decision making process lays the foundation for converting an employee to an engaged stakeholder. When you couple having a seat at the table with true personal and professional respect for the ideas and insight offered by your team, you have the building blocks of loyalty.
4. Succession Planning. The one question that seems to always put a chink in the employee loyalty armor is, "So tell me, what has your supervisor discussed with you as far as next steps in your career in your current organization?" Most of the time, I get a long pause followed by, "uh, we really haven't discussed it." Leaders need to dream openly about how they intend to help grow the careers of those that they lead. As Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, once said, "Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others."
5. Connection. "I love everyone I work with. I hope I am lucky enough to retire here." Once I hear that, I know I need to get to my next call. What the bean counters always miss as they calculate quarterly revenue goals is the human connection needed to sustain human hardship. We are all hard-wired with a longing for connection, belonging and safety, and when we get what we need from our pack, our bodies reward us with powerful feelings of pride, loyalty and love (a/k/a, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin). Treat employees like you love them, and they will love you back. They will also love those you serve - your patients. That's not hippie talk. It's science.
And for you bean counters out there, there's hope. You just need to change your perspective. Consider these reasons people leave and you will find that in the long run, your healthcare organization will not only earn a lot more and spend a lot less, but improve patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes as well. It's about smart and compassionate leadership.