Stop the Bleeding: Employee Retention in Healthcare Practices
Originally published on July 25, 2023
While nearly every industry has its troubles with employee retention, healthcare faces additional challenges with lingering COVID issues, a tough labor market and general burnout. It makes finding and keeping qualified employees more difficult than ever.
Thankfully, you can take steps to beef up your recruiting strategy, hiring process and general operations to improve employee retention. Many of these options don’t cost much (if anything!), yet they go a long way toward mitigating your staffing issues.
Assessing the situation
The numbers don’t lie. According to Salary.com, the healthcare industry had a 23% turnover rate in 2022 – the highest of all industries they surveyed. The impact is particularly hard on smaller practices, assisted living facilities and other smaller healthcare providers without the deep pockets or vast resources to easily look for new talent. For them, employee retention is a much bigger issue due to these costs and limits.
And yet the need for qualified practitioners and office staff keeps increasing. An aging U.S. population and lingering pandemic complications mean an uptick in healthcare workload. Without the right staff in place, your quality of patient care will suffer.
Adding insult to injury, there’s also an inadequate pipeline of trained professionals. This includes not only healthcare practitioners, but also the office managers and staff who run your practice. It’s not easy to find people knowledgeable in medical billing and coding, insurance claims and other aspects of healthcare accounting and operations.
Some healthcare professionals have opted out of the industry entirely due to stress. They cite the emotional toll of healthcare jobs, long hours, the nature of shift work and lack of opportunity for advancement and professional growth. It’s one of the biggest factors bringing employee retention in healthcare way down.
More, however, are finding better options in a more competitive hiring landscape. Larger hospitals and clinics often provide better salaries, expanded career paths and more flexible work arrangements. They might also offer more robust benefits and attractive perks.
To stop the bleeding at your practice, you have to find the right people, hire them… and keep them.
Is your idea of “recruiting” throwing together a job description and posting it in one place online? If so, you’re missing out on a trove of qualified applicants. Take the following steps to cast a wider net and better ensure a strong candidate pool.
Make your job posting stand out. With so many job openings for fewer candidates, your post needs to attract the best and brightest. And that means it needs to stand out.
A job posting should sound exciting yet be concise, realistic and true to your practice. According to LinkedIn, shorter job posts receive 8.4% more applications per view – which makes sense since the average time spent reviewing a job post is only 14 seconds. So if you don’t get to the meat quickly, they’ll likely move on. Avoid laundry lists of minor responsibilities or lengthy descriptions with trite, overused terms. Instead, use action verbs and goal-oriented language.
You might also consider writing your post with skills-based hiring in mind. This is the practice of focusing on skills relevant to a position instead of a degree or years of experience. While not feasible for nurses or other caregivers that require licensure and education, it can expand your applicant pool for more administrative and operational positions.
Finally, make sure your practice’s work culture is apparent in your post. You’re most likely to boost employee retention if your culture is a good fit for the people you hire. Does your office have a lighthearted or fun atmosphere? Use casual and friendly (yet professional) wording to describe the job. Do you encourage volunteer work and a sense of a higher purpose? Include that information. Don’t get too wordy, but find a way to let your practice’s personality shine through.
Know where – and how – qualified candidates search for work. Indeed is probably the most well-known online job forum, but it’s far from the only one. ZipRecruiter and Simply Hired are also excellent places to get your open position noticed.
But don’t just wait for responses; peruse posted resumes for possible candidates. If you find one, contact them to gauge their interest in working at your practice. Even if they’re not currently looking, you might intrigue them with the right opportunity.
Next, leverage your social media, especially LinkedIn or Facebook, to publicize your opening. You can also use LinkedIn’s job posting function to get more traction. And much like online job forums, you can search their posted resumes to proactively recruit candidates. (If your practice doesn’t have a social media presence, establish one ASAP.)
Offer attractive compensation and benefits.
The pay transparency movement is gaining momentum, and not just for current employees. According to Glassdoor, 67% of job seekers believe a job post should include salary and benefit information. And per LinkedIn, 61% of candidates say salary range is the most important part of a job description. So include salary information if you can.
Also mention the benefits you offer, starting with standards like paid time off, holidays, health insurance and retirement plans. Then add other in-demand perks you have, such as flexible schedules or wellness programs. These employee retention-boosting benefits are highly regarded by today’s job seekers.
If competition is really tough, consider offering a sign-on bonus. Do some research to find an appropriate amount, and require they stay employed with you for a certain number of months (or else the bonus must be returned).
Establish a robust onboarding process.
Once you’ve found the right candidate, move on to an onboarding process that gives them a good start on day one. Better onboarding leads to increased employee retention in the long run, and you can start with these steps.
- Conduct reference checks and any other clearance procedures.
- Formalize the deal with an offer letter or email outlining their compensation and other important terms.
- Once they formally accept, send a congratulations email. You can use this opportunity to send paperwork that must be completed timely, such as Forms W-4 and I-9.
- Make sure all job-related resources are ready for your new employee before they start. When they walk in on day one, they shouldn’t have to wait for a computer or other necessary equipment.
- On the start date, conduct an orientation that introduces your new employee to their workspace, their team and important resources. Provide an up-to-date employee handbook that clearly states expectations, policies, benefits, etc.
- Make sure they’re trained within a reasonable time on practice-specific procedures and operations.
Attracting the right people is half the battle; now you need to keep them. And successful employee retention requires investing in your workforce. Yes, that sometimes involves spending money. But it’s often just a matter of providing a positive workplace where they can flourish professionally.
Create policies that allow flexibility. Burnout is one of the biggest reasons people leave healthcare jobs. You can help mitigate this with flexible scheduling policies that allow them to balance their personal lives without sacrificing patient care and office productivity. You should also make sure your practice is adequately staffed on a regular basis so people aren’t habitually working overtime.
Understanding that your staff has a life outside of your practice can help them avoid burnout. And that in turn contributes to better employee retention.
Check in regularly with your staff. This can be as simple as occasionally checking in with them to see how they’re doing (and genuinely listening to their response). See if any needs aren’t being met or they’re noticing issues at the office that should be addressed.
If possible, go a step further by conducting regular stay interviews. These are relaxed, one-on-one meetings in which you ask your employee about their experiences at your practice and gauge how they feel about working there. Stay interviews are one of many tools to boost employee engagement, a state in which employees work with passion and feel a connection to their company. Higher employee engagement means higher employee retention.
Recognize good work and achievements. Has someone at your practice provided a patient with exceptional care or service? Did a member of your staff catch a billing or accounting error that saved you thousands of dollars? Has a staff member been employed with you for a significant amount of time?
Recognize them for it! Part of employee retention is making sure those who work for you feel valued, and even small pats on the back help. So show them you notice when they go that extra mile or reach an important milestone.
Make sure your office management is effective and positive. According to Gallup, half of people who quit their jobs do so because of a bad manager. At your medical practice, your office manager (or similar position) might run business operations while you focus on patients. While that’s great for patient care, it can unintentionally shield you from issues in the workplace.
You can improve employee retention by reducing the chances of creating a toxic work environment. Make sure whoever runs your practice is trained not only on technical matters but management and interpersonal skills as well. Check in every now and then (like we mentioned above) to ensure no concerns are left to fester. And have procedures in place for employees to confidentially report concerns or file complaints.
Offer opportunities for professional development. Continuing education and training allows employees to better perform their jobs and contributes to their overall career success. These opportunities might include online training modules, attendance at a seminar or conference, even continuing education toward a degree.
Add benefits that contribute to their well-being. Remember those health-related perks we suggested you include in your job posting? They’re not just to bring in new people. Healthy employees are more likely to be happy employees. And happy employees tend to stick around, leading to higher employee retention.
Workers today value overall health and wellness, from physical fitness to emotional and even financial health. So give them the tools to achieve it all. Wellness programs and access to mental health resources are some of the most popular offerings. But it can be as simple as regular steps challenges, financial tips, healthy snacks at the office, and other inclusive initiatives to encourage holistic health.
Provide regular performance reviews – and raises. It’s a task bosses and business owners often dread. But without regular reviews, your team members won’t know where they stand or have the ability to correct any concerns you have with them. That uncertainty can lead to their departure — and a plummeting employee retention rate.
Set a schedule for performance reviews (at least annually) and stick with it. And if at all possible, provide raises to keep your salaries competitive. If this hasn’t been done consistently at your practice, a survey of healthcare salaries in your area might be in order. An HR consultant can help you with this and other measures to ensure your compensation is fair, relevant and attractive.
Employ sound human resources practices throughout your operations. In addition to all we’ve specified here, make sure you update your employee handbook whenever policies change. And look at all of your policies from a HR perspective to make sure you’re fostering an engaging environment and staying in compliance with employment law. If you don’t have human resources personnel on staff, consider outsourcing this work (or obtaining help on a consultative basis).
Employee retention is a long game, stretching from when a candidate first hears about your practice to their 20th (or more!) anniversary at work. Establishing good practices throughout this timeline helps ensure you’ll assemble a team that takes care of your patients — and your practice.
All content provided in this article is for informational purposes only. Matters discussed in this article are subject to change. For up-to-date information on this subject please contact a James Moore professional. James Moore will not be held responsible for any claim, loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of any information within these pages or any information accessed through this site.
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