Google ‘Employee Retention in Behavioral Health’ and stats regarding turnover, retention, engagement and recruitment can quickly become overwhelming. The bottom line: employee turnover is high, employee engagement is low, and recruiting is tough across this industry.
Domino Effect of Turnover
Simply put, the domino effect of employee turnover is a challenge. The former employee’s workload is transferred to other team members, often resulting in frustration and burn out. When a new employee is hired on, current employees take on the responsibility of training the new employee, with a high likelihood to decrease productivity and increase work hours for those involved during the training period. The impact on morale and personal stress can lead to additional employee turnover, and it can be difficult for an organization to recover once this downward spiral begins. Most importantly, being under-staffed negatively impacts the quantity and quality of care provided to those in need.
Prevention: Assessing Your Agency’s Turnover
How is this spiral prevented? It is essential to determine why employees are truly leaving the organization. Through an engaging exit interview process and a deep dive into the employee’s feelings about the organization, the reasons for leaving can be discovered. Additionally, using data to look at trends, such as when employees are leaving, who they report to, and what role or department they are in, can also be very telling. If there have been several employees reporting to the same manager that have left recently, there is a very good chance there is a leadership issue that needs to be addressed. If a high number of employees leave during a certain month of the year, what is happening with your business during that time? Is there a particular position that turns over more frequently, and if so, what are the demands of that job? Gathering and examining employment data to determine why employees are leaving allows you to proactively prevent turnover and increase retention.
2 Essentials to Increase Employee Retention
It is the job of those in leadership to create a stimulating environment for employees. An environment where each employee can thrive personally and professionally. Years of research from organizations such as Gallup and Deloitte suggests there are certain commodities employees need in order to be engaged at work. These factors boil down to the concepts of value and passion.
1. Feeling Valued
Employees want to feel that what they do is recognized and appreciated, and that their employer cares about them and their opinions. Ways employers can show employees they are valued include:
- Ask employees for their opinions and thoughts, and then truly listen. Address questions and concerns and follow-up and follow-through on any commitments.
- Involve employees in decisions or change that will impact the employee’s job in any way. Get their buy in from the beginning by showing you are thinking of them and their feedback is important.
- Recognize accomplishments regularly. Behavioral Health can be a job that leaves one sensing failure when outcomes are not favorable or rapid. Acknowledging efforts goes a long way in providing reassurance of the employee’s value.
- Show support by regularly checking in on how they are doing, and asking what support they need from you. Check in on any challenges or obstacles and help them to address those challenges and remove those obstacles.
- Provide the tools and resources necessary for them to be successful. Help to make their role as productive and efficient as possible by making sure they have the tools they need, such as a robust EHR system and the ability to access that system through mobile so they can work on the go.
- Offer opportunities for training and development. Help your employees to keep their skills and certifications current by offering opportunities to participate in training. Ensure all systems are being maximized by utilizing updated features and functionality. Offering refresher training to EHR users is a great way to keep skills fresh.
Employees need a combination of each of these factors to feel valued by their employer; excelling in one area won’t solve employee retention issues.
2. Feeling Passionate About Work
Passion fuels motivation and drives productivity. Truly caring about what we do and the results we are working towards will keep us engaged. Behavioral Health is a very purpose driven industry. What we do every day is help others to live better lives and be the best versions of themselves. This purpose can sometimes get lost if we feel it is not at the forefront of every business decision. Staying connected to this mission is critical for those employees who entered this field to make a difference. Keeping true to this passion starts with leadership. If employees feel their employer cares more about money than the people, this has a negative impact on engagement and causes employees to think about moving to an organization that is more mission driven. Sometimes unfavorable decisions need to be made to keep the organization operating successfully, but connecting those decisions to the greater purpose of being able to help others is important in the messaging and communication. This allows employees to understand the why behind these decisions.
Leadership Drives the Essentials
Ultimately, an employee’s leader is the platform through which these essentials are provided. The struggle is not all leaders know how to listen, provide feedback, recognize, encourage, motivate, develop and support well. There are a few leaders who naturally gravitate towards these abilities and can be quite successful. For others, these are skills that need to be developed and regularly refined. As the generations in the workforce change, the “how” behind the delivery of these needs shift. The driving force in employee retention is having a strong leadership team that creates an engaging work environment where employees want to be and stay.