How practices can succeed in today’s competitive job market

Health care has the second-highest turnover rate after hospitality, and it’s increasing. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, a study of 11,000 health care employers with more than 11 million employees found the average turnover was more than 20 percent in 2017, up from 15 percent in 2010.

The article noted that this is even the case for nurses, whose work directly impacts safety, quality, and patient satisfaction. Turnover is a serious problem that can cost practices time and money, as well as hurt the morale of other employees who may need to cover for a vacant position. 

Why are health care employees leaving their jobs? And what can employers do to entice them to stay? 

Hiring the right people

A key step in reducing turnover actually happens before an employee ever starts work. Hiring the right people makes it far more likely that they will stick around. Take the time to identify and evaluate candidates, not just on skills required for the job, but also on whether they are a good fit for your practice’s culture. This is not an easy or quick route, but it’s worth it not to rush the process. 

Hiring problems account for as much as 80 percent of employee turnover; take the time to evaluate candidates for job skills and fit.

According to the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), hiring problems account for as much as 80 percent of employee turnover. And MGMA estimates the cost to replace an employee in management can be as high as five times their annual salary, while replacing even an entry-level employee can cost up to 25 percent of their salary.

MGMA estimates the cost to replace an employee in management can be as high as five times their annual salary, while replacing even an entry-level employee can cost up to 25 percent of their salary. Click To Tweet

Some practices use personality tests and self-assessment tools to identify employees’ strengths and weaknesses. Similar to the Myers-Briggs test, the Enneagram is a newly popular tool that can help managers and employees work better together. For more on this topic, see How the Enneagram Can Improve Your Management Style.

A few health care providers are now using artificial intelligence to hire the right people, according to Becker’s Hospital Review. “By collecting and analyzing vast amounts of experiential data on hiring, job performance, and patient outcomes, customized predictions can be developed and can learn for each role in each department in each location that align most closely with success and longevity on the job.” 

In fact, data have shown that AI outperforms human decisions by at least 25 percent. Employees hired based on AI had higher supervisor ratings, more promotions, and better ability to learn from training.

Employee engagement through training

Speaking of training, an effective way to engage and retain staff is by investing in their ongoing learning and career development. Just as patient engagement has become an increasingly significant factor in health care, employee engagement is crucial to having a happy and productive workforce. 

Employee recognition, surveys, and training can impact engagement and reduce turnover.

While some factors that contribute to low employee engagement in health care may be unavoidable—such as unpredictable schedules or a lack of flexibility in the workplace—practice leadership does have the power to improve some aspects of engagement, according to corporate training company Eagle’s Flight. Among their suggestions are to recognize employees who are providing excellent patient care; conduct surveys to discover the most pressing issues to employees, and act on those survey results; and communicate and manage change effectively and in a timely manner. 

Investing in training programs that benefit employees and your practice is another way to create engaged staff. “High-performing employees often leave their jobs because they do not see opportunities for career development,” according to HR outsourcing company Creative Business Resources. CBR suggests online courses as a cost-effective way to allow employees to learn new skills.

Training staff to use patient education technology has the benefit of creating more engaged employees and at the same time delivering consistent messaging to patients about common conditions that you treat. For instance, train your new staff members to show patients a video about cataracts or balloon sinuplasty. This way, you’ll ensure that employees feel confident in educating patients, and patients receive the same level of care from any staff member they encounter.

Staying competitive with compensation and incentives

Of course, salary also directly affects employee turnover. Make sure you’re offering competitive wages in today’s job seeker’s market. “Failure to fairly compensate the skills and work expected of staff will also lead to a short tenure,” stated MGMA. 

Several health systems including Aurora Health and Cleveland Clinic are raising minimum wages for nurses and entry-level employees in order to reduce turnover, with the goal of providing long-term cost savings and improved patient care and quality, according to Modern Healthcare

For smaller practices that are unable to offer salary increases, other ways to attract and retain employees include offering flexible schedules and getting creative with benefits and other perks. For more on this topic, see Use Staff Incentives to Help Your Bottom Line. Here’s How.


For more hiring tips and retention strategies, download our eBook, Top Secrets to Hiring, Training, & Retaining an All-Star Medical Staff.