Increasing Retention by Investing in Employee Engagement Efforts
It’s rare something stops me in my tracks. But, it happened recently. I was reading an article online about the results of the annual Home Care Pulse Benchmarking Study. As I was reading the article, it was as if the number leaped off the screen. The study found that median turnover in the home care industry has spiked to 82%. And, that’s a 15% increase over the prior year.
According to Health Care Pulse, the top reasons cited for leaving include seeking different hours, better management, new clients and money.
The extremely high turnover rate in the home care industry is in sharp contrast to the need for staff to support its significant growth. According to Home Care Pulse, “Despite the turnover challenge, the home care industry has grown nearly 40% in the last five years.” As our population ages and people desire to “age in place,” the need for home care services will continue to grow.
Addressing turnover in your organization is a must. Having a workforce that is engaged in their work and an advocate for their employer is key to reducing turnover. Employees who are involved are invested personally in their job. They are willing to do more than is expected. They volunteer to participate on committees or assist with an event. They embody the values and culture of their employer. Great talent produces great results. And, they’re going to provide the best experience for your patients and their families.
Higher engagement translates into improved outcomes. In a study conducted by Gallup, top-performing organizations with highly engaged employees report 48% fewer safety incidents and 41% fewer patient safety incidents.
Getting retention right
Changing the trajectory of turnover in home-based care must be a top priority. Organizations that focus on culture, process and communication will succeed in retaining top employees. Here are some of the top areas to focus on:
- Onboarding: Joining a new organization can be overwhelming, especially in those first few days and weeks on the job. Help new hires assimilate and feel like an essential part of your team from the start. Consider having new staff members shadow an employee in each area of your organization, including nursing/clinical, social work, admissions, spiritual care and bereavement, for a full understanding of how all departments work together. Also, assign new staff members a “buddy.” By pairing a new employee with a more seasoned staff member in a similar discipline, such as patient care or a support area, new employees will learn the “in’s and out’s” of an organization in a less formal, but still impactful way. Similar mentoring programs have been successful for companies, such as Google and IBM. The IBM Royal Blue Ambassador program matches every new employee with a mentor for the first 30 days to help them adapt to working at the company.
- Communication: Create a strategic approach to communicate with your employees. For broad communication to all employees, focus on messaging to align staff around a common purpose (aka the “why” of “what” you do), connect their day-to-day work with the organization’s goals and objectives and share stories from staff about positive patient experiences (with appropriate consent, of course). Organization-wide communication around these topics creates a sense of teamwork and a connection to a higher purpose.
The CEO at Zappos successfully engages employees by framing the vision in ways they can act on and be part of driving corporate initiatives forward.
Communicating with remote employees can be challenging. Their immediate supervisor plays a critical role in keeping them informed and connected to the organization. Encourage these leaders to put into practice communication techniques that work best for their team. Perhaps it’s a quick stand-up meeting in person at the start of the week before the team leaves to visit patients. Others may find email more effective. One method doesn’t work for all, so test and try what’s most effective.
- Feedback: Communication is not a one-way street. Identify ways to listen to and gather input from staff. In addition to an annual survey, consider regular one-on-one meetings. Leaders of an organization can gain valuable feedback from staff through skip-level meetings. These are meetings with your direct reports’ direct reports. It’s an excellent way for leaders to hear directly from staff who are closer to your patients. You could form an employee council. Identify a group of employees representing multiple departments within your organization. Meet with the group quarterly to listen, ask questions and gather input.
Recreational Equipment, Inc., REI, uses social media to connect with employees. Through the “company campfires,” employees and leaders share their thoughts and participate in discussions.
- Professional Development: Invest in your staff through professional development opportunities. Do you know the career aspirations of your team members? Do you know the goals your staff have for growing in their current role? Provide opportunities to help employees gain new skills. From free and low-cost webinars to lunch and learns or trade magazine or newsletter subscriptions and conferences for leaders, demonstrate your commitment to employees’ professional growth.
Google is known for encouraging its engineers to use 20% of their time to pursue new projects. Engineers step out of their day-to-day routines to think differently about ways Google can provide more value to its users. As a result, services including Gmail and Google Maps were developed.
Imagine what your employees could do if they think broader than their jobs to identify new or different ways of serving patients and families.
I could go on and on with this list. There are numerous ways to create stronger connections with your employees. The more engaged your staff is, the more likely they’ll advocate for you, support you through change, strengthen your culture and help the organization grow. Sunnie Groeneveld, the author of “Inspired at Work,” sums it up well. “All things considered, it is cheaper to invest in well thought out employee engagement measures to enhance employee loyalty, than to continuously recruit new employees.”