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5 Effective Employee Retention Strategies in Healthcare

Employee retention is a concern in every industry because employee turnover is costly and disruptive for organizations, teams, and clients. According to a report compiled by Nursing Solutions, Inc., the turnover rate in hospitals right now is 16.2%, with the average cost of turnover for a bedside RN ranging from $38,900 to $59,700, costing hospitals an average of $5.13M to $7.86M each year. When you consider that each percent change in turnover will cost or save a hospital $410,500 annually, it’s clear that employee retention strategies in healthcare are worthy of serious consideration.

However, the healthcare industry as a whole is not sufficiently addressing employee retention. The same report indicates that 85.7% of hospitals see employee retention as a key strategic imperative, but only 43.4% have a formal retention strategy. Additionally, a Leaders for Today survey showed that 37% of healthcare professionals plan to leave their current hospital within the next two years, and 68.6% plan to leave within five years, reinforcing the seriousness of this continuing problem.

5 Employee Retention Strategies in Healthcare

That being said, addressing employee retention with an ongoing strategy can help reduce turnover, increase patient satisfaction, and improve the overall experience of your employees. Consider these five approaches as you develop or update your retention strategy.

1. Improve Engagement

Low employee engagement in the healthcare industry can be the result of many factors, including unpredictable schedules, excessive overtime, heavy workloads, and a lack of flexibility in the workplace. Though some of these contributing factors may be unavoidable, leadership has the power to play a role in improving hospital staff engagement. Some examples of specific actions leadership can take include:

  • Recognizing excellence in patient care
  • Celebrating teamwork
  • Conducting surveys to learn about the most pressing issues to employees
  • Taking action on the results of the surveys
  • Doing informal check-ins with staff
  • Communicating and managing change effectively and in a timely manner

2. Foster Teamwork and Communication

Teamwork among healthcare workers is an essential element in creating a positive patient experience. Rarely do individual healthcare providers deliver service entirely on their own. Most of the time they operate in teams, and providing excellent patient service requires having the skills to do this effectively. Developing communication skills among team members is essential for reducing errors, resolving conflicts, and creating clarity around task assignments. Good communication between leadership and teams is also important. When leadership is able to clearly communicate expectations and organizational goals, teams are better able to prioritize tasks and understand how their roles fit into the larger hospital strategy. Clear lines of communication also give employees points of contact, where they know they can get answers to their questions.

3. Provide Competitive Compensation

Retaining good employees requires maintaining job satisfaction and engagement among your staff, and compensation is a primary driver in this area. As the healthcare industry continues to grow and the demand for quality employees increases, competitive salaries, bonuses, and other benefits are becoming more important for staff retention.  Given the high cost of turnover, it is the responsibility of leadership to weigh it against the cost of competitive compensation.

4. Give Recognition Where Recognition Is Due

In addition to competitive compensation, there are other ways to reward healthcare professionals for the valuable work they do. Although they may receive positive feedback from patients, it’s also important for them to feel appreciated by their leaders and peers. Ideas for recognizing good work include:

  • Annual recognition dinners
  • Awards for exceptional service
  • Extra time off
  • “Shout-outs” or other informal but public communications that recognize exceptional efforts and explain why they are worthy of recognition

Reward and recognition can help drive engagement and contribute to better staff retention. However, rewards can only go so far, especially when an employee feels that they are already compensated appropriately and performing at their highest level. Healthcare professionals want to feel that they are making a difference. For many, this is why they chose this particular career path. Recognizing healthcare staff for their contributions to the patient experience and the organizational goals can go a long way toward keeping them engaged and motivated.

5. Invest in Education and Continual Learning

Ongoing education and professional development can help healthcare professionals improve both their technical and people skills, both of which are essential for providing an exceptional patient experience, improving productivity, and increasing employee satisfaction. Here are two ways to promote continual learning at your organization:

  1. Demonstrate a clear growth path: According to the Leaders for Today survey, the lowest-ranked parameter for workplace satisfaction is having the opportunity for career advancement. Having an employee development plan will help keep valuable staff engaged with your organization because they know there will be opportunities for growth in their future.
  2. Provide training opportunities: The second-lowest-ranked parameter is having the opportunity to learn and develop new skills. Having a training program in place ensures that employees are being given the tools to help them achieve their career goals, improve the patient experience, and support the organization as a whole.

Healthcare employee retention is a significant challenge to the industry, and employee turnover is not good for anyone involved. It is expensive for organizations, worrying for employees who want a stable work environment, and does not create a positive environment for patients. Addressing some of the largest gaps with these five recommended strategies can help your hospital or healthcare organization reduce employee turnover and attract new, qualified candidates, because your employees, current and potential, will feel valued and excited about being part of the organization. It’s also important to include all employees in these opportunities—encourage everyone in the organization equally to seek improvement opportunities, and ensure they know they have your support.


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