Keeping your caregivers is paramount to your ongoing success, but it’s one of the biggest challenges providers face in post-acute care.
Considering you’re reading an article about strategies for improving employee retention in post-acute care, you’re obviously familiar with the state of retention (or turnover) across the industry. From home care to hospice to senior living, retaining post-acute care employees continues to be a constant challenge.
According to HCP’s 2023 Benchmarking Report (BMR), annual turnover in post-acute care reached a staggering 77.1%. That’s a 12% jump from the previous year. This upward trend in turnover impacts providers at each level of business. The cost to replace each employee is approximately $4,000, and with nearly 40% of new employees leaving within the first 100 days, some companies are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on recruitment, acquisition, and onboarding. If that wasn’t bad enough, high turnover also costs providers in terms of efficiency, workplace morale, and patient satisfaction.
Anyone who thought these issues would magically fix themselves as we distance ourselves from the COVID-19 pandemic needs to think again.
There’s still a clear and obvious turnover problem for many post-acute care providers. So, how do they stop the bleeding? Fortunately, there’s a not-so-secret recipe for retention success (11 of them, actually) that are proven to be successful in post-acute care.
Before delving into them, let’s build up from the foundation by exploring the three main factors that contribute to turnover and retention.
3 Tenets of Employee Retention
There are three core elements that keep employees from seeking out the greener grass on the other side of your walls: satisfaction, engagement, and belonging. You’ll notice there is natural crossover between the three.
- Employee satisfaction stems from both material and non-tangible factors including fair compensation, value and recognition of contributions, and good relationships with peers and management.
- Employee engagement comes from a sense of fulfillment related to their roles, responsibilities, outcomes, and goals.
- Belonging is the feeling an employee gets when they’re aligned with their employer’s mission, values, and purpose. Belonging is also established through interactions with management and coworkers.
Moving on to retention strategies, you’ll notice each of the following focuses on establishing or improving at least one of the tenets above.
11 Strategies to Improve Employee Retention in Post Acute Care
A quick caveat: having a great strategy without an accompanying plan is like having a vision of your dream home without any blueprints. There’s a ton of potential—and there’s a ton of potential for it to veer off track and come crashing down. Read this guide to reducing new hire turnover for a discussion of the importance and benefits of having a documented retention plan in place.
With that out of the way, let’s explore 11 strategies that have been proven successful for retaining post-acute care employees.
1. Fine Tune Your Recruitment Strategy
Retention starts with finding and hiring people who want to stay with your company. Doing that means putting your line in the right waters and using good bait.
Most post-acute providers lean heavily on job sites like Indeed for recruitment due to their size and reach. However, bigger isn’t always better. According to the BMR, employees acquired through Indeed turn over at a whopping 87.5%—10% above the industry average. If you’re looking for longevity and cost effectiveness, word of mouth referrals are the way to go. Peer recommendations yield the lowest turnover rate at the second lowest acquisition cost in post-acute care, per the BMR.
“Post-acute care employees acquired through Indeed turn over at a rate of 87.5%—10% above the industry average.”
Now that you know where to cast your line, you’ll want to attract the right fish. You obviously want to ensure your target employees tick the right clinical boxes, but they also need to align with your company culture if you’re looking for them to stick around. Clear a path for those who do by creating clear, accurate, and transparent job descriptions. In other words, ditch the wordy jargon and tell them what’s expected of them and what they can expect from you. Doing so will pull in better fits and improved retention.
Keep your employees engaged and on the job.
Retain is the ultimate tool for reducing employee turnover rates, especially during the first 100 days when the risk is at its peak.
2. Offer Fair Compensation
Health care workers are less driven by the almighty dollar than those in other industries. Still, people want and deserve to be fairly compensated for what they do. Fair compensation doesn’t only apply to new hires; it extends to current employees in the form of raises, bonuses, and performance-based incentives. Providing fair pay to employees makes them feel recognized and appreciated for their efforts and commitment to your company, which builds loyalty, satisfaction, and ultimately, retention.
3. Nurture New Hires
40% of new hires in post-acute care leave within the first 100 days. However, the turnover rate for those who make it past the 100-day threshold drops dramatically. Needless to say, nurturing your new hires through that inaugural period is critical. Doing so requires a plan—and if possible—a manager in place to ensure the onboarding process sets the stage for a long career with your company.
Check in regularly with employees during their first 100 days and respond to any issues. Surveys are a simple yet effective way to do this. Based on data from Retain, when employees complete just one survey, their likelihood of separation is cut in half. If managers engage with that feedback, individual turnover drops by 65%.
“When employees complete just one survey, their likelihood of separation is cut in half. If managers engage with that feedback, individual turnover drops by 65%.
In addition to checking in and responding, clearly defining roles and expectations, recognizing accomplishments and milestones, making people feel a part of the team, and providing excellent training all contribute to higher retention rates.
Employee retention solutions that focus on post-acute care make all of this easier by automatically surveying new hires, reminding you of important dates and milestones, and alerting you of potential causes for separation.
4. Establish Growth Opportunities
Being fixed in one place with no ability to move is the definition of “stuck.” And that’s exactly how employees will feel if they don’t have opportunities to move within your company. That’s not the feeling you want amongst your team if you’re trying to retain them.
Make sure you have clearly defined paths to promotion and growth, as well as to lateral movement. Not everyone will take advantage of these pathways, but it’s essential to have them in place and outlined for those that want to do so. Building a career ladder is proven to improve both recruitment and retention.
5. Provide Excellent Training
Lack of adequate training was the second biggest complaint among employees in the 2023 BMR. Obviously, opportunities to expand and hone skills are highly important to today’s post-acute employee—especially in the care sector where continuing education is a requirement. In addition to providing staff a great benefit, you’re also strengthening your workforce by heightening their knowledge, aptitude, and confidence. When these traits improve, so does employee fulfillment, patient care, and patient satisfaction.
“Lack of adequate training was the second biggest complaint among employees in the 2023 BMR.”
A combination of an exceptional training platform with opportunities to attend outside workshops, conferences, and seminars is a highly successful strategy for improving retention through education.
Proper caregiver training also gives employees the confidence they need going into a new role in which they’re often left alone to sink or swim. Many new post-acute care employees fail to show up for their first day of work after onboarding. Bolstering these employees’ confidence through rock-solid training could help to prevent them from quitting before they ever really get started.
6. Develop an Attractive Culture
Workplace culture has risen to the top of many an employee’s priority list when considering joining or remaining with a company. If an employee’s beliefs and values align with their employers, they’re much more likely to stick by them. Younger workers are especially interested in who your company is, what it stands for, and what it believes in. This extends beyond the walls of your business to the surrounding community.
Internally, an attractive culture can be developed by emphasizing individuality, creating a sense of camaraderie, recognizing accomplishments, nurturing engagement, and inviting employee feedback. A few ways to accomplish this include:
- Hosting company get togethers (both in person and virtual)
- Using rewards platforms to allow recognition of a job well done
- Checking in regularly via employee surveys
- Ensuring core values are infused into all aspects of day-to-day business
Externally, you can follow the lead of other companies with attractive cultures as follows:
- Participate in community outreach efforts as a team
- Offer a day of PTO for individual volunteer efforts
- Adopt sustainable/green business and building practices
- Partner with likeminded companies and organizations to promote awareness of important topics or events
Whichever route you choose, be sure it aligns with your company’s values and beliefs.
Creating a culture of which people want to be a part engages them, instills a sense of pride, and motivates them to be a part of something bigger. All of these outcomes directly contribute to employee satisfaction, engagement, belonging, and retention.
7. Create a Sense of Purpose
Most post-acute care employees are already instilled with a great sense of purpose by caring for others. One way of pushing that sense of purpose into hyperdrive is by setting award-winning standards.
In a study on the influence of awards on performance, Pinnacle Quality Insight found that post-acute providers who attempted to win AHCA Quality Awards experienced significant spikes in employee satisfaction in the year leading up to receipt of the award. The research, along with several supporting psychological studies, posed that the sense of purpose achieved by performing at an award-worthy level outweighed the extra work required to do so.
Qualifying for accolades like AHCA Quality Awards, Activated Insights’ “Great Place to Work” certification, or local awards still deliver a sense of purpose that supports employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention. It also offers the potential of furthering these benefits when the award is achieved and recognized within the company.
8. Open the Lines of Communication, and Keep Them Open
Practicing open communication doesn’t start and stop during the first 100 days of employment. Clear and constant upward, downward, lateral, diagonal and any other direction of communication is a must for improving retention.
Understanding the way individuals prefer to communicate is extremely important as well. Some prefer face-to-face while others favor email or company messaging platforms. A person’s preferred method of communicating can be determined during onboarding and should be used thereon. If a person’s forced to use a method of communication with which they’re uncomfortable, you’re drastically limiting their ability to ask questions, raise concerns, propose ideas, or engage in similar matters that enhance engagement, belonging, and satisfaction.
9. Embrace Technology to Simplify and Amplify Performance
“Workers expect technology when they arrive. They walk in expecting technology to help them do their job better. If we don’t have it in our business, they’re not going to stay long.” That’s how Rick Taylor of Sentrics described the importance of technology in improving post-acute employee retention at McKnight’s Power Panel in February.
“Workers expect technology when they arrive. They walk in expecting technology to help them do their job better. If we don’t have it in our business, they’re not going to stay long.”
Embracing technology doesn’t just position your company as current, it simplifies tasks, improves efficiency, minimizes mistakes, and allows for better patient care. Don’t just consider this a benefit for your younger employees either. Employees of all ages benefit from tools that make their lives easier and allow them to perform at an elite level (remember the connection between providing award-level care and a greater sense of purpose).
10. Recognize the Value of Recognition
Countless studies have proven the positive outcomes of recognizing employees. A recent one co-conducted by Gallup and Workhuman revealed that when employee recognition hits the mark, employees are 5x less likely to leave a company, 44% more satisfied, 73% less likely always or very often feel burned out, 4x as likely to be engaged, and 5x as likely to feel connected to their workplace culture.
“When employee recognition hits the mark, employees are 5x less likely to leave a company, 44% more satisfied, 73% less likely always or very often feel burned out, 4x as likely to be engaged, and 5x as likely to feel connected to their workplace culture.”
Discover how employees prefer to be recognized and do so accordingly. Some people get the same satisfaction out of a private pat on the back as others do in a companywide announcement. Recognition also shouldn’t only come from above. Allowing peers to recognize one another improves morale, motivation, environment, and team spirit.
Regardless of how it’s delivered, recognition shouldn’t be spared for special occasions only. According to the Gallup and Workhuman study, “employees who receive recognition only a few times a year from management are 5x as likely to be actively disengaged, 74% more likely to say they do not plan to be at the organization in one year, and 27% more likely to be struggling.
Similarly, those who are infrequently recognized by peers are 3x as likely to be disengaged, 39% more likely to say they don’t plan to be at the organization in one year, and 24% more likely to be struggling.”
This doesn’t mean recognition should be thrown about willy nilly. To avoid diluting its impact, recognition needs to be genuine. Not everyone gets a trophy but be sure to give them out every time they’re deserved.
11. Get Creative with Benefits and Perks
Some of the same strategies you can use to attract new employees are the same strategies you can use to retain them. Like with any business strategy, set it and forget it is not a successful approach here. The same way you need to evolve to keep up with care, documentation, and management, your perks and benefits should evolve with industry and competitor standards if you’re to keep your employees from seeking out new opportunities.
Adding new perks and benefits, adjusting what you currently have, and eliminating outdated incentives tells staff you’re constantly thinking of ways to support their professional and personal lives.
Some current benefits that can support retention include:
- Diverse medical coverage plans
- Unlimited paid time off
- Flexible schedules
- Company cell phone plans
- Continuing education allowances
- Company stock options
- On-site meals or meal allowances for remote workers
- Gym memberships
In addition to supporting retention, these perks and benefits can also tip the scales in your favor when vying for employees against competitors with deeper pockets.
Wrapping it Up
Improving retention in post-acute care requires a combination of planning, strategy, and flexibility. Following the strategies above and ensuring they result in employee engagement, satisfaction, and belonging, will help you keep more of your people and avoid the high costs of losing them.
Discover more methods for improving employee retention in this free ebook.
5 Proven Methods for Reducing New Hire Turnover
Discover 5 tried and tested strategies to retain your new employees and eliminate the high costs of replacing them.