Difficult Times Call For Simple Measures

Fairly quickly, we have gone from our main priority being how to find skilled healthcare talent to considering layoffs and stalling on projects. We still need quality people, but with the fear of a low census, millions of Americans losing their healthcare insurance and the government reconfiguring how they pay for healthcare, Human Resources has been forced into a difficult balancing act.

We have open positions, but we don’t want to move too quickly. We are holding the line, but we want to keep top talent happy, engaged and retained. Recruitment budgets are tight, but we don’t want to use PRN, agency, travelers or overtime. The news seems to be bad all the time, but we need to have a good practice environment which is positive and productive.

What this really comes down to is the need for good communication and the ability to embrace employees as individuals. Typically, employees hunker down and wait for the storm to pass or they become fearful and start looking for another position even though theirs is perfectly secure. For employees during volatile times, everything becomes exaggerated. A lack of communication turns into bad news and reasons to feel panic. A bit of criticism normally taken in stride is interpreted as a reason to start looking for another position. It is more important than ever for our nation’s healthcare providers to take aggressive steps to assure employees and to embrace them individually.

In a previous blog, I mentioned a proven retention program that specifically addressed treating employees individually, and Brian Hartwick of BJC HealthCare in St. Louis asked that I elaborate. “Inventorying Your People” is a program based on common sense and the idea that we tend to take better care of material resources than our human resources.

A major hotel chain in North America took great pains to teach the housekeeping staff how to care for their new and relatively expensive bed linens, including the comforter costing around $100 each. Training and detailed instructions followed in an attempt to elongate the life of these comforters. After all, getting six months of usage as opposed to the average four months from each would be a 50 percent increase and money to the bottom line.

But while it cost almost ten times as much as the comforter to hire and train a housekeeper (cost per hire was $989), who also stayed on average four months, no one was attempting to elongate the life of a housekeeper. But wouldn’t it be better to retain a $989 investment by two months rather than retaining a $100 investment by two months? It seemed what was needed was just as much information on elongating the life of a human as currently existed on elongating the life of a comforter.

“Inventorying Your People” was developed on the belief that humans need care and that the ensuing benefits would be much greater than simply money to the bottom line. Front-line managers—the most critical element to employee satisfaction and increased retention—were provided with training that helped them understand the generational differences, how to speak the different languages of the generations, leadership styles, ethnic differences and team building.

They were also supplied with a small card that outlined things front-line managers needed to know about individual employees. By employing their new skills with the generations and how to effectively communicate, they were taught how to take inventory of each employee. What generation did the employee consider themselves a part of? Why did they work? Did they have any special skills? When was their birthday? What was important to them professionally? Where did they want to be in five years? What did they least like about their job and what did they like the most?

With this new program, retention soared 37 percent in the first six months. Employees began to interact more and work better in teams. Teams were built with employees who liked to do either “wet” work (bathrooms) or “dry” work (bed making and vacuuming). Shifts were often changed to accommodate workers with unique needs and while the managers initially thought the program would require too much time, it was quickly learned that work got finished quicker and employees felt better about their own job security. Productivity was up and the longer employees stayed, the more efficient they became with less need for costly training.

It is always a great policy to overcommunicate with employees and to look at their needs individually, but it is imperative during volatile times if you are going to keep them retained and engaged. Employees have sharp memories during bad times. They appreciate knowing where they stand, and through programs such as “Inventorying Your People,” they can feel appreciated and part of the team.

If you have a question related to healthcare recruiting you’d like me to answer on a future blog, send me an email at askgreta@tmp.com

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Thomas Delorme
Written by Thomas Delorme

VP, Digital Products & Strategy

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