We need a new approach to boost higher retention in nursing
With the crush of COVID-19 behind us, healthcare leaders’ primary concern is reducing resignations and increasing retention in the face of a continuing healthcare staffing shortage exacerbated by the pandemic. Doing that requires a new way of thinking that focuses on the individual and a new way of operating centered on consistency. We must create a consistent, yet personalized experience that meets the needs of nurses today.
I led a panel discussion on strategies to optimize the employee’s journey at The Health Management Academy’s CHRO Spring 2023 Forum. Here are some of the key takeaways.
Respond to changing nurse expectations
Making this happen requires a lot of CHROs and CNOs to think differently about workforce expectations. As technology has enabled more personalization at scale, we’ve become conditioned to expect to be recognized – to be seen.
And for those of us who’ve been on the job a long time, working with this mindset is a transition. It’s easy for us Baby Boomers and Gen Xers to say, “I put up with that,” or “Young people are so needy.” Leaders who act on these sentiments are blaming younger generations for not being like them. That’s not fair.
The truth is, individuals of all age groups yearn for a sense of belonging and acceptance. What has changed is how and where we seek it. Older employees did not expect the same level of engagement and validation from our supervisors. Younger professionals, on the other hand, are more inclined to demand it.
Today’s nurses want the same kind of engaged and personalized treatment from their employers that they get from their favorite consumer brands. They want to be supported and celebrated more frequently than annual performance reviews and birthday parties.
Healthcare organizations that deliver such an experience understand that personalization hinges on recognizing the individual. By doing so, they not only retain their most effective employees but also attract the most qualified candidates. The ripple effect of these efforts culminates in tangible improvements in quality measures, patient experience, and safety scores, all of which impact reimbursements.
Personalize nurse engagement
In a highly competitive talent marketplace where nurses have a lot of options, they are more likely to choose employers who care about their employees as much as they care about their patients and families. What we do and say, and how we show up every day, undergird trustworthiness and drive progress on key metrics.
And trust is a critical component of effective retention strategies for front-line nurses.
Research shows that people who work in high-trust organizations perform better on key metrics like productivity, collaboration and retention. They also exhibit more energy, less stress and higher overall wellbeing.
We demonstrate care by delivering personalized and accountable employee experiences that resonate, including:
- Praising and rewarding performance
- Identifying areas needing improvement
- Creating opportunities to improve, learn and advance
- Applying policies and practices fairly and equitably
But we must acknowledge that delivering a consistent employee experience can feel like another item on leaders’ already burdened to-do lists. Even nurse managers who want to improve their interactions with staff have a hard time integrating the practice into their daily workflows.
Most nurse leaders want to show up for their employees in this way; they just don’t have the tools or time to make it possible. It can feel like this kind of interaction is another thing to put on already-overloaded to-do lists. They’re less likely to do it, and more likely to feel even more burdened – neither of which is good for nurse management or morale. It also saps productivity. In a recent survey, the number-one factor impacting their workload was administrative tasks unrelated to what they wanted to do.
Leverage healthcare workforce management solutions
That’s why we need to scaffold nurse managers with technology. It should be a blend of automation and AI –in an easy-to-use interface – that streamlines workflows, prioritizes tasks and tracks metrics so leaders are more efficient and more effective. They need to be better equipped to ensure employees have what they need to do their best work shift by shift, month by month and year by year.
For example, researchers have found that having accountable conversations have nine times the impact on loyalty than celebrating a birthday. Why? Because acknowledging birthdays is now a commodity transaction – think about all those birthday wishes you get because Facebook reminds you. A conversation, though, even if similarly prompted by technology, signifies that you are invested in nurses’ success and willing to help them achieve it. They feel recognized, supported and motivated to make the change.
A tool like Laudio serves up personalized conversation points that help frontline leaders engage with individual team members in more meaningful ways.
“That specificity changes frontline leaders’ ability to establish relationships – and changes the culture,” notes Sondra Davis, CHRO of Tupelo-based North Mississippi Health Services, one of the country’s largest rural nonprofit, independent health systems.
Waste no time
A poll we ran at the Forum found that 70% of respondents are just beginning to redesign their employee journeys. Crucial to success are adopting a personalization mindset and creating an optimized and consistent experience that’s easy for nurse leaders to deliver.
Recent survey data show an easing of the downward trend in engagement and alignment. Healthcare leaders must harness that momentum and commit to personalized, authentic, and consistent healthcare workforce management strategies to reverse the tide of nursing turnover. We can help.