Do Entry Level Workers Impact Professional Retention?

As part of my job, I get to visit many of the healthcare delivery systems in this country. Small community based acute care facilities to destination health systems ranked among the best in the world. Each facility has a different personality and claim to fame, but these days they all have the big-time woes of inadequate staffing.

The inadequate part presents itself in many ways. Not enough nurses is a fairly universal complaint, but there are other professions; respiratory, pharmacy, imagining, physical therapy and lab professionals to name a few, which may need fewer bodies, but have a higher overall vacancy rate and bigger negative impact. If you only have ten physical therapists and three are missing, it’s more severe on a daily basis then having 1500 RNs with 100 open positions.

It’s easy to focus on the missing professionals as they make a larger individual statement, but it is also important not to forget those individuals who make up the somewhat silent infrastructure; housekeepers and dietary employees, the maintenance workers and the nursing assistants. If you don’t have enough of these employees, you are not going to have a happy professional workforce. It’s the number two reason professionals walk out the door and into the open arms of a competitor. Not enough support staff.

Every day, I hear Human Resource professionals lament about the fact that they need more professionals, while they dismiss the entry-level employees as little more than a number to be filled. It is routinely accepted that as the sun comes up in the morning, entry-level employees will turn over around 2006’s national average of 45.1% annually. Can’t find good ones and can’t keep the few who do accept a position. “Sometimes they don’t even show up for orientation” is something I’ve heard often and “three times late and they’re out” is another favorite from a supervisor who is one step above entry-level.

I always want to ask the dismissive professionals who have a reliable car that starts in the morning and consistent day care options for the children why they think “these people” don’t show up for orientation or often times are late?

Money makes everything easier: transportation is no longer a problem; after school care is now a financial option; gasoline is affordable. We tend to dismiss the entry level worker as if they have no name, no dreams, no need to be acknowledged. We act as though they are a number and then wonder why they feel no need to call and say they are sorry but they won’t be accepting the job at this time and consequently not showing up for orientation. They probably don’t want to go through the motions of having to explain their name one more time.

A good retention program for the entry-level worker is worth its weight in gold. I’ve seen it happen only a few of times and the results are amazing. A housekeeping manager who inherently knows how to team build and show respect for every employee can be responsible for driving thousands and thousands to the bottom line. When everyone is respected and expected to deliver, accountability is understood and appreciated.

It takes very little financially to reward in small ways, but when executed properly, the entry-level employee earns a role on the team and professionals and patients alike benefit. Better retention, productivity and employee and patient satisfaction is the obvious outcome. Everyone, no matter what age, position or color wants to feel needed and appreciated, understood and supported and human.

Because I work with hospitals nationwide, I am exposed to a lot of solutions as well as problems in staffing today’s facilities of healthcare. And even though I’ve focused on the entry-level worker here, it’s not just the entry-level problem; it affects the older workers and ethnically diverse employees as well. Benefits and retention programs are all about what is personal, and I’ll be addressing these differences in future postings – exposing what is working and what isn’t, programs you might consider and ones outside the industry which may be worth considering.

Coming soon to my blog, I’ll be answering reader’s questions. So come back soon and submit yours because I’ll be answering select questions every other week.

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Thomas Delorme
Written by Thomas Delorme

VP, Digital Products & Strategy

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