People ask me frequently about the benefits healthcare delivery systems are offering which have proven to be effective in improving retention. There are lots of them and I am seeing a true variety of innovative benefits being developed, vetted financially and offered. Being a Baby Boomer, I have always pretty much taken for granted whatever benefits were offered to me and simply gone on being a workaholic. I always thought the flexibility of life/work balance was for Generations X and Y—until last week.
On September 8th my friend, university professor, author, tennis player, world traveler, wine enthusiast, foodie and pianist slipped from his couch where he was reading and died from a massive heart attack. He was 51-years-old. His death brought my world to a halt. I couldn’t think and I certainly couldn’t work. But there is no little section in a benefits manual about what time you get when a friend—not even a romantic one—dies. Grandmothers get so many days and spouses get a few more. Friends don’t make the cut.
I am well aware that my work is very different from those who deliver the nation’s healthcare and it was easier for my employer to let me stop, but I cannot tell you how grateful I feel for having been given the option. It occurred to me that no one was questioning my need for time off because they knew me personally. They knew what he meant to me and they acted accordingly.
Benefits are vital and must be documented and bound into manuals. But common sense and kindnesses need to be played on the run. Things happen every day that people don’t expect. –Things that bring people’s worlds to a halt. How those things are handled can be the difference between an employee feeling grateful and another feeling wounded and unappreciated.
Front line managers remain the most influential factor in whether or not an employee stays or goes. Some of those managers have good common sense and others don’t. Some inherently know how to get to know their employees individually and others hide in their offices hoping nothing explodes. Almost none of the managers have the time. But being human is vital to building teams, retaining employees and delivering great healthcare.
As employers, co-workers, managers and individuals in positions to help people live better lives, we need to make certain managers understand the importance of knowing their employees as people. They need to know what is important to them individually and they need to be taught how to live within the rules of the benefits manual as well as the rule of reaching out to an employee in need. Most of the time, needs do not involve large events such as a death, but rather, something that requires a simple kindness. –And, many times those small needs are less difficult to see.
In my speeches I often refer to a proven retention program called “Inventorying Your People” which trains managers on how to document what is important to each individual employee. Things like what generation they consider themselves to be part of, what their career goals are and why they work. This tool has proven to be exceptionally beneficial in improving retention, but it is nothing more than providing an outline on how to ensure common sense and good judgment for managers.
Employees will continue to stay because a healthcare system offers big things like subsidized child care, adoption assistance or $10,000 to go toward buying a first home. Many more employees will stay if they count their manager and co-workers among their friends who really know who they are as individuals.