5 Healthcare Talent Retention Strategies: A List for Success

Each month in the United States, 3 to 4.5 million employees quit their jobs. 94% would stay if their employers did just one thing – develop talent retention strategies.

Retention rates are funny. They’re difficult to define and constantly fluctuate based on seemingly insignificant factors — whichever way the wind blows, retention rates follow. That’s probably because “perfect retention” is a goal no business will ever reach.

Staff turnover is just a reality we all have to deal with in professional settings, and a harsh one at that. It’s been rising for the last decade, with employee retention rates hitting record lows in 2020. Today, with one in four full-time workers planning to look for a new job within the next year, things aren’t looking much better.

And with high turnover comes a steep price.

Institutional knowledge, valuable skills, and team morale all take a hit when an employee leaves. The bottom line hurts, too, costing employers about 33% of each employee’s annual salary.

That’s $15,000 per person earning a median salary of $45,000 a year. So we get it. Retention is hard. But it isn’t going to get any easier if health systems don’t start developing long-term strategies that address critical issues.

What Causes High Turnover?

Between 2015 and 2019, the average health system burned through almost 90% of its workforce. For some, this is a surprising insight. For others, it’s old news.

But it’s alarming, nonetheless.

People leave their jobs for any number of reasons these days, and many of those reasons are outside of any employer’s control. Maybe they’ve decided to retire, or personal circumstances no longer allow them to work. This is all fairly routine, but it’s not an excuse to just sit back and let all your best employees walk out the door.

Because 75% of the reasons for employee turnover can be prevented.

Here’s a quick outline of several reasons people choose to quit their jobs and seek out something new:

  • Poor onboarding experience
  • Limited training and development opportunities
  • Poor internal communications
  • Lack of recognition and feedback
  • General lack of purpose

The list doesn’t necessarily stop there, either. Salary and benefits also play a role in attrition, though their influence on overall job satisfaction isn’t as significant as you might think. And for all the talk about what causes talented folks to leave their jobs for better opportunities, we haven’t even acknowledged that many staffing issues stem from involuntary turnover (Layoffs or termination due to poor performance or violation of internal policies).

But that’s what makes employee retention programs so essential to your success. It’s what motivates high-performing employees to stick around for the long haul. 

Let’s talk about what this looks like.

Your Healthcare Talent Retention Strategy List

The benefits of focusing on employee retention — better performance, productivity, quality of work, and enormous savings in turnover — make the value of developing a long-term strategy abundantly clear.

But it isn’t easy. It takes exceptional effort and a commitment to exploring various solutions based on your organization’s specific needs. And many of those solutions might not work out.

But the juice, as they say, is well worth the squeeze.

Here are five key elements of a successful talent retention strategy:

1. Onboarding and Orientation

A surprisingly high percentage of employees leave their company because of poor onboarding experiences. That’s because first impressions matter. And when 60% of companies don’t have clear goals and expectations for new employees, it leads to a higher possibility of turnover within just 45 days of their employment.

It’s not all talk, either. Data illustrates the need for a structured onboarding process or program:

  • Organizations with a standard onboarding process experience 50% greater retention rates.
  • New employees who underwent a structured onboarding program were 58% more likely to remain with the organization for three years.
  • 51% of employees think their company’s onboarding process could be improved.

So, even though the idea that onboarding can have that much of an impact on retention is easy to dismiss, don’t underestimate the importance here.

Your onboarding process should be fun, engaging, and smooth, teaching new employees about the job, company culture, and how they can thrive within their role. And it starts on day one.

2. Learning and Development

Studies show that a lack of learning and development opportunities — not salary or perks or benefits — ranks highest on the list of reasons people quit their jobs. In fact, 93% of Millennial and Gen Z professionals expect their employers to provide some level of on-the-job training. Yet, one survey found that 56% of employees don’t feel they have enough autonomy in the workplace.

That’s why every organization should prioritize their employees’ professional development by creating talent retention strategies. Especially, in an industry like healthcare, where technology is rapidly changing the way physicians, nurses, and other health professionals approach their work. It’s worth it, too.

This investment in training can yield massive returns for both workers and the health systems that employ them:

  • 60% of organizations (across all industries) with advanced upskilling solutions have stronger corporate cultures.
  • Continual learning opportunities increase retention rates by 25% to 60%.
  • 94% of professionals who quit their job each month in the U.S. would stay with their current employer if offered training and development.

3. Effective Communication

This is the one piece of a successful retention strategy that no one seems to be talking about. Instead, people like to discuss silly perks and benefits (think pizza parties, Fun Fridays, or slides in the lobby) that don’t have any real long-term value for employees.

But the reality is that professionals crave substance at work. So it’s no surprise that a lack of clear, empathetic, consistent communication might be driving your top performers away — and right into the open arms of your competitors.

The lesson? Every organization needs to intentionally promote timely, constructive, and positive communication across entire teams and departments. Leaders should connect with individual team members on a regular basis to ask questions and share any information or feedback that might be valuable.

This brings us to the next point.

4. Recognition and Feedback

A little acknowledgment and gratitude go a long way. That’s true for any facet of life, but particularly at work. Did you know that organizations that provide regular recognition experience 31% lower voluntary turnover? That’s because recognition makes workers feel like they’re an essential part of the team, not just another cog in the machine.

But it’s easy to forget just how powerful a simple “thank you” can be, so it takes developing a culture of feedback to get into a good rhythm. What does that mean? It means ditching the idea that feedback is only appropriate during performance reviews or when behavior becomes so problematic that disciplinary action is required.

Employees crave it, too.

According to the results of one survey, 96% of employees said that receiving feedback regularly is a good thing. What’s more, 83% of employees appreciate receiving feedback, whether positive or negative.

So when leaders meet with their team members, they should talk about short- and long-term professional goals and create a roadmap to help them get to where they want to be. It’s also a great time to get a sense of how people feel about their job, their responsibilities, and their impact on the organization. And remember, the feedback should flow both ways.

5. Rewarding Work

For many, work isn’t just about collecting a paycheck. It’s about making a difference. Having an impact. As such, employees are less likely to pursue other opportunities if they believe the work that they’re doing within your organization truly matters.

And this goes for everyone, from the front office admins to the maintenance staff to your frontline workers — they all need to feel like they’re contributing to a greater purpose.

Of course, defining an overarching purpose is easy for some and difficult for others. Still, when done right, it helps establish long-term growth and talent retention strategies and inspires and motivates employees.

So what does all that inspiration and motivation look like?

A recent study from Harvard Business Review found that productivity levels hit as high as 225% for employees who feel genuinely connected to the purpose of their organization. Another study determined that these same employees are five times more likely to stay.

The Truth About Retention and Turnover

Here’s what most people-leaders consider a tough pill to swallow: attrition, turnover, growth, change … it’s always going to be there. Employees will come and go, and some will inevitably leave your organization sooner than you’d like. You can’t stop it, not entirely, at least.

But you can put policies in place that make it a little harder for people to make the decision to cut ties. Evaluating employee turnover and retention is the first step, then it’s up to you to figure out how that data compares to industry averages so you can start to lay the groundwork for a retention strategy that makes employees feel heard, valued, and recognized throughout the duration of their employment.

Start today, so you can have higher retention rates tomorrow.

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