Six Healthcare Employee Retention Strategies

Healthcare Employee Retention Strategies

Six Healthcare Employee Retention Strategies


The ability to keep and retain employees at every level of healthcare organizations is critical. The costs of replacing employees in general is very high, factoring in lost productivity, recruitment, training, and on-boarding costs. Clinical staff have even higher replacement costs, with registered nurses averaging around $64,000 in total.

Low turnover enhances quality, patient continuity of care, and ultimately patient satisfaction. In addition, low support staff turnover makes providers more efficient assuming a well trained, consistent, and competent staff.

Maintaining minimal turnover is complicated by a shortage of healthcare workers and low unemployment rate. This tends to make competition amongst employees and clinicians particularly fierce and compound retention challenges. These can add upward cost pressures on organizations as they enhance compensation and perks to recruit staff. The following are tools that healthcare organizations should consider for creative retention efforts.

Promote Work-Life Balance

Organizations should promote a strong sense of work-life balance. The short-term gain of prioritizing hours and effort of employees will ultimately be eclipsed in the long run with decreased morale, lower productivity, and increased turnover. Employers may also think that they are emphasizing work-life balance but they may be sending mixed messages without realizing it, such as sending out late night emails or texts to staff. Leaders should be mindful of the emotional toll that healthcare has on staff and emphasize work-life balance as a part of the overall corporate culture.

Have a Strong Communication Strategy

Effective communication is a struggle that affects many companies and transcends industries. Leadership should develop and implement effective strategies to ensure that internal communication is effective and clear. Leaders should constantly conveying the company’s mission, values, and goals along with regular updates. How do you know if you are communicating enough? If you think you are over-communicating, you are probably getting it right. There really is no such thing as communicating too much, just ensure that the messages are clear and consistent.

Elicit Feedback Continually

Have plans in place to ensure that feedback is regularly being measured and analyzed. This could take many forms, such as stay interviews, surveys about job satisfaction, or informal conversations. Keep close tabs on new recruits to ensure the role matches their expectations upon hire, that they feel supported in learning and development, and that they are conveying and understanding the company’s mission and goals. Armed with employee feedback, companies should highlight and promote what is working well (including as a part of recruitment) while overcoming areas in which they fall short. Organizations should stick to timelines to ensure that feedback loops are ongoing and that leadership is committed to and cognizant of employee feedback.

Have Clear Advancement Opportunities and Levels of Progression

In all my years of recruiting and hiring, the most common answer to the question “why are you looking for a new position?” has consistently been due to lack of opportunities in their current role, “nowhere to go.” Most employees don’t want to spend their time in the same roles and responsibilities with no clear indicator of how their careers can progress. Leaders should develop clear lines of progression for employees at every level. At first, some organizations might say there are no clear progression paths for every position. However, there are many ways that employers can elevate any position. For example, if an organization has Medical Assistants, then they could break down those positions into different levels (MA1, MA2). Within each level, the organization should have clear objectives and criteria for each role, such as tenure or education requirements, and how roles are expanded as levels increase (along with an updated job description). Other ways to add responsibility include adding training or mentor capacities, lead positions, etc. These positions should be more than just titles, adding responsibility to staff members and ultimately adding real value to an organization..

Create a Sense of Empowerment and Ownership

Constantly engage your employees. Request their feedback and opinion. Craft and communicate the company’s mission and values constantly while reinforcing it as much as possible. Offer praise and make it genuine. It’s easy for managers to forget to say “thank you” regularly. You will find that not only will your own leadership decisions be more well-informed, but buy-in and sense of ownership that it creates amongst employees will pay dividends in many ways. Be willing to invest in staff development that is mutually beneficial to both the organization and employee’s personal and professional growth.

Don’t Ignore Leadership and Underperformers

A common expression states that “people don’t leave their job, they leave their boss.” Employers are prudent to keep this fact in mind, and should focus on if the department boss could be part of the problem. An easy way to identify this is if you determine that retention issues are mostly relegated to a certain department(s). Identify and determine what the departmental disconnect may be. If it is management related, work to develop and improve the leadership and performance of the manager and ensure that they are properly conveying the company’s mission and motivating staff towards clear objectives. The same holds true in cases of underperforming employees as well. Failing to properly address and align leaders or employees alike can have consequences that negatively impact the entire department or organization.

Efforts to increase employee retention and lower turnover are intricately linked to other company strategies and objectives. Causes of employee turnover may not always be straightforward, and in many cases they are not. By crafting a solid retention strategy, employers should be able to get closer to the root causes of high turnover and more effectively deal with them. There are numerous causes of turnover and retention efforts can and should expand upon the strategies mentioned here.

Once your organization takes the steps to create a solid strategy of employee retention, you need to keep up the momentum. Continue progress by continuing to emphasizing and reinforcing the above strategies and others. Employee turnover is a given and will never go away, but being proactive and taking concrete steps towards an engaged and informed workforce will ensure you can successfully navigate any of the challenges that arise from regular turnover.


Authored by Brett Shay, Managing Partner at Informed Concepts Consulting. Published on October 25, 2019.