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Nurturing Your Employees

April 19, 2012
by Tim Tolan
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Tips for retaining to employees at a time when demand for HCIT talent has never been higher

After more than four years the tides are shifting in the workforce in the United States, and the healthcare IT industry is already starting to feel the effects of employee turnover. In our industry, unlike many others, the loss of talent has a much greater impact, given the shortages many healthcare organizations are already dealing with as they are knee-deep into new implementations as a result of meaningful use initiatives. This is particularly true if your organization is in the middle of a large implementation, as the demand for talent in HCIT has never been greater. Employee turnover has been on the decline in recent years due to the recession—as employees were less likely to take the risk of making a career change given the uncertainty and overall risk tolerance driven by the Great Recession. It’s still unclear to me why the label “Great Recession” stuck as I personally never found anything great about it!

To better understand how to keep and retain talent, it helps to know the reasons employees decide to leave. According a recent Gallup poll the reasons employees leave are:
• unsatisfied with pay and benefits;
• limited career advancement/promotional opportunities;
• lack of fit to a job;
• management and general work environment;
• lack of flexible scheduling; and
• lack of job security.

Several items listed on the Gallup poll are easier to deal with than others, but overall give us some insight into why employees become disgruntled and look for greener pastures. I strongly believe that employee retention could improve with a few tweaks to the way you manage your own team, including:

Provide a culture of constant learning. Most employees want an environment where they can learn and grow. Unfortunately some organizations never understand this issue at the root level. Sending an employee to one conference a year does not establish your organization as one that promotes ongoing education and training. To keep employees motivated, organizations need to find ways to build a culture of learning, so employees feel like they are growing and acquiring a steady diet of new skills on an ongoing basis. Find out what makes them tick by asking!

Having a score card matters. Providing feedback to employees is a critical part of the role you play in their growth but please know that it shouldn’t happen once a year during their annual review. Feedback needs to be given regularly and it needs to be specific and actionable. Feedback, positive and negative/constructive is much more effective when given “real time.” Negative/constructive feedback given is useless if it’s given after the action itself, as the employee feels powerless to make positive changes “real time.”

Face time. Scheduling one-on-one meetings can be a very effective way to keep your top performers. These meetings should be scheduled months in advance so employees can better understand your expectations and how they are performing against them. Each meeting gives the employees a chance to discuss major accomplishments (a chance for you to personally recognize them in addition to public recognition) as well as upcoming projects, weekly/monthly goals, feedback and any concerns they have. This is a chance for you to listen to them—give them the floor! Make sure you take notes during each meeting to document their concerns so you will be able to discuss improvements during your next one-on-one.

Recognition. This is far more valuable to your employees than a few extra bucks in their paycheck. While incentive pay is important, employees have to know how they are being measured and how they are doing against the goal. Recognition needs to be done in a public forum and needs to spell out exactly what the employee accomplished and what it meant to the overall organization. I am a big fan of public recognition regarding employee actions that impact the organization—as they occur. I like recognition to be a part of monthly meetings so there is some form of instant gratification to reward outstanding performance. It matters!