A variety of workplace elements are critical to employee engagement which directly impacts retention. Employee engagement is the degree to which an employee is involved in and enthusiastic about their work and thus acts in a way that furthers the interests of their organization, team, and customers. When engagement is high, turnover is low. Many falsely assume that engagement is determined by pay, perks and other monetary rewards. In fact it is the quality of the on-site manager and his or her ability to meet a core set of requirements that largely determines employee retention. You already know this. Ever work for a bad boss? Would a raise, a bonus, or some kind of extra “perk” have helped you get over having to work for that person every day? Didn’t think so. And we don’t just know this anecdotally. Research suggests that 75% of the time an employee leaves an organization it’s due to their boss.
Healthcare environments especially are unique and challenging settings. Patients and families that access healthcare services are typically, to some degree, in distress. This means that on an almost daily basis and with most everyone they see, healthcare workers must navigate a myriad of emotions tied to that distress. As such, it’s critical for frontline leaders to create an environment that recognizes this dynamic and provides an appropriate balance of challenge and support. There are a variety of actions I recommend healthcare managers take to impact employee engagement and retention. These include:
Create shared purpose: Employees need to know that the work they do, even medial tasks, has an impact. It’s up to leaders to create line of sight between what workers do and a larger mission.
Focus on employee strengths: When employees are given the chance to do what they do best every day and their job role reflects their unique talents, skills, and interests, they thrive. This also creates a fulfilling work environment.
Recognition: Employees need to see and hear evidence of their contributions from their direct leaders. Whether it’s a simple and sincere “thank you” or a more elaborate form of recognition such as a gift or award, Ongoing recognition is critical for retention. Praise employee contributions at least once every seven days.
Find the fun at work: It’s up to leaders to infuse appropriate joy and humor into a workplace environment. Leaders that laugh alongside their team members create an atmosphere that diffuses the tension, conflict, and strong emotions that are often present in healthcare settings.
Cultivate team relationships: Evidence suggests having strong relationships with colleagues at work and even having a best friend at work is critical for employee engagement and retention. Leaders need to take responsibility for creating opportunities for those relationships to form at work. Even simple acts like celebrating birthdays or other life events (weddings, births, etc) can contribute.
Meet One-on-One: It should be abundantly clear that front-line leaders need to make time to meet with their employees directly. I strongly encourage leaders to set aside at least 20-30 minutes per month (minimum) to meet one-on-one with each employee. This is time for the leader to engage the employee directly beyond the operational tasks of their job and to explore several of the elements outlined here.
Now it’s your turn? What do you think are keys to retaining talent in healthcare? Share your thoughts in the comments box below!