Developing an Engaged Workforce: A Proven Framework for Retaining Staff and Building Competitive Advantage

 In Preparing for the Future, Reducing Employee Turnover

No doubt about it, staffing is the greatest challenge organizations are facing these days. In senior care, the crisis is compounded by growing demand and more complex care needs. Two weeks ago, Kristen Yntema, CEO of AuthoraCare Collective, and I spoke at the NAHC Financial Managers’ Conference on proven strategies for building an engaged workforce. The bottom line: Building an engaged workforce starts with retention. When we focus on developing the best talent we already have, we will naturally attract more of the same.

Unfortunately, our retention strategies tend to start and end with compensation. And, while market-relevant compensation is important, the research shows time and again that the real reason people leave is that an organization doesn’t consistently live an established set of values. We let bad managers continue to lead, we let bullying culture run unchecked, and we tolerate substandard performance. Again, the research doesn’t give us an excuse to avoid pay, but it should encourage us to go beyond it.

Transcend Model

At Transcend, we believe there are three essential elements to developing an engaged workforce. Coincidentally, these same elements help organizations build meaningful and sustainable competitive advantage.

  1. External value proposition, as expressed by the organization’s branding – The external value proposition helps patients, families, referrers and potential employees understand why they would want to work with you. Artfully cultivated, the brand creates competitive advantage in the market that discourages competition and attracts the market.
  2. Internal value proposition, as represented in a values- and mission-rooted culture – Your culture is what your organization is really like. Anyone who spends a few hours with your team would have a sense of who you hire, why you hire them, how team members work together and how they view their work. Leadership’s responsibility for crafting culture is heavily focused on accountability. As one of my former colleagues used to say, “You get what you tolerate.”
  3. Systems, or an organization’s way of working, which band the other two elements together and ensure accountability and consistency in delivering the value propositions – Systems span everything from hiring, onboarding and performance assessment to EMR platforms and leadership scorecards. Systems provide the accountability and oversight for the external and internal value proposition relative to strategic plan.

So, let’s look at this framework in action.

AuthoraCare Collective, a North Carolina-based hospice and palliative care provider, is an example of how competitive advantage and a strong and engaged workforce can be realized through this model. In less than two years, AuthoraCare has grown market share, slashed turnover, expanded reach to better serve African American/Black populations, increased census and extended length of stay across its continuum.

Sparked by a merger with a neighboring provider, Kristen and her team at then-Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro started their journey by evolving their brand architecture and values. A guiding possibility statement informed their work and served as true north on their purpose. Tangible projects helped enroll team members in the new organization. And, a new mission and set of core promises were created to bind team members together, foster connection and provide accountability. This language was specific and authentic to the new AuthoraCare brand and culture. Engagement activities deepened connection and help team members evolve from the prior brand and name to the new framework.

In 2020, the AuthoraCare team placed a stronger focus on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. A new possibility statement was created, and external partnerships helped the team go farther faster toward their goals. Special attention was paid to culture, systems and brand elements. One marker of progress … AuthoraCare Collective was awarded a Leaders in Diversity Award from the Triad Business Journal. Kristen and her team continue to put their focus on the future. The AuthoraCare strategic plan builds on these gains by focusing on honoring human difference as a business imperative.

Rosa Parks quote

Kristen uses a favorite quote from Rosa Parks to guide her efforts, “To bring about change, you must not be afraid to take the first step. We will fail when we fail to try.”

The AuthoraCare three-year journey is evidence of what is possible with hard work and determination. To start on your own journey toward a stronger workforce and competitive advantage, focus on checking the health of your brand and culture.

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