Increase Employee Retention: Give Them a Dose of Nurses’ Medicine

By LeAnn Thieman

With increased workloads, demanding staff ratios, and challenging work conditions, many employees are feeling burned out – not just those in the healthcare industry, but across all industries. Today’s workers are not signing on and staying on just for the money. They are opting for employers who care about them, professionally and personally. How they are treated on the job is a primary factor in their satisfaction, their resistance to burnout, and their willingness to be a long-term loyal employee. Work-life balance is often a top priority.

Recent data from a Harris Interactive survey reveals enlightening information on workforce attitudes. It shows a continued disconnect between employers and employees, relating to the effectiveness of various staff retention tactics. The study claims only thirteen percent of employees say their employers put effort into keeping them on their jobs.

Considering that it costs thousands of dollars to recruit and hire a new employee, organizations are eager to retain the ones they have, in addition to attracting the emerging workforce. Many have learned that in order to recruit and retain, they cannot simply offer more money or bigger benefits. They need to give employees a hefty dose of nurses’ medicine.

All businesses, including medical organizations, can benefit from these ten tips, treating their employees with the same competent, compassionate TLC that nurses give their patients. By doing so, your organization will inspire talented workers to sign on and stay on. These tips include:

Smile a lot. Be kind. Visit them often: Keep an open door policy. Don’t just ask to speak with your staff members when they make a mistake.  Visit with them when they’ve done a great job. Commend them in person rather than in an email or memo. No matter how busy you are, don’t act rushed or distracted. Make your employees comfortable around you and allow them to speak their feelings, ideas, and needs.

Ask “How can I help you?” Don’t assume that you, the supervisors, or the HR department knows. Hold a staff meeting on the topic or create a survey and grant anonymity. Ask them what they need during the next employee evaluation. You may be surprised by what you learn when you simply ask the right question.

Do an assessment on a regular basis: Ask for their input on their “condition” or their job position. Note what you observe. Evaluate the situation with each person, then make a plan and implement it. Give your employees access to the support they need – technically or personally – to perform at their best. Not only will they do a better job and be more satisfied, your company will profit, too.

Be prompt in answering their call lights: When a patient has a need, they “call” for assistance; watch for instances where your employee “calls” for help, verbally or otherwise. Address each concern and attempt to meet their needs as soon as possible.

Explain all procedures and changes: Make sure your staff members know why the changes are taking place and reiterate their importance. While it may not be an easy course, make clear the good that will come from it. Reinforce how their cooperation and positive approach will greatly affect the workplace.

Communicate often and clearly: Keep your employees up-to-date with what is happening so they feel more involved and less afraid of change. If they have concerns, be sure to listen first – without talking or interruptions. A gentle touch on the hand or shoulder conveys sincerity and interest.

Ease their pain: Though it is sometimes impossible to take away all the discomfort, honest efforts to do so go along way toward relieving it. If the pain is work related, ask for their suggestions to ease it. If the pain is personal, such as a relative passing away, be considerate. Offer them a day off or an additional paid day of vacation. Send flowers or a sympathy card to the employee’s family to show that you care.

Promote independence and self-sufficiency: Help them be stronger. Encourage continuing education. Compensate them and their schedules so they can gain the additional skills that will make them better employees. Give them as much control as possible, and they are more likely to cooperate with the “treatment plan” and other changes that come along.

Change positions: Being in the same position too long can sometimes be uncomfortable or stifling. Offer flexible shifts, telecommuting, or job sharing.  Encourage your employees to grow in their skill sets and job responsibilities. Perhaps you could even suggest a transfer within the department or organization.

Provide them nourishment: Help nurture their minds, bodies, and spirits. Remind them to take breaks, eat meals, and ask for help. Provide inspirational, encouraging books, periodicals, and speakers. Bring in a massage therapist after a particularly stressful quarter or show your appreciation with a free company lunch during a successful period.

Implementing these ten tips creates a “care plan” that does not coddle employees; instead, it strengthens and empowers them. This transcends to their work, which promotes a positive company culture, increased productivity, promotes creativity, inspires loyalty, and leads to a healthy bottom line.

Giving employees a dose of the same medicine nurses give their patients results in greater retention. With a little TLC on their part and yours, everybody wins.

LeAnn Thieman, LPN, CSP, is a nationally acclaimed speaker and co-author of the new book,  Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul, Second Dose. As an expert in healthcare recruitment and retention, LeAnn provides insights on improving productivity and profits. For more information about her books, seminars, or speaking engagements, call 877-844-3626.

[From the April/May 2008 issue of AnswerStat magazine]