HARD AT WORK: Employee Engagement Strategies Help Retain Top Talent in Home-Based Care

Today, workforce challenges are a leading concern in all healthcare settings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one of every four new jobs in the US will be in healthcare, and home-based care will be among the fastest growing segment in terms of employment growth through the year 2024. Without enough experienced professionals to go around, organizations must retain top talent to thrive with a stronger, competitive edge, according to Eric Scharber, Principal Simione Healthcare Consultants and Exact Recruiting, a Simione talent solution.

With healthcare and specifically home-based care becoming such a hotbed of opportunity, Scharber contends that the demand for talented staff brings greater urgency for organizations to be strategic about employee engagement and satisfaction efforts. “Employee retention and satisfaction are more central to leadership agendas and a top priority at strategic planning sessions and industry conferences. What was previously general ‘water cooler’ chat is now a huge issue that will remain a top priority for success in healthcare. The direct correlation between higher employee engagement and retaining staff is something that must be measured,” Scharber says.

“What gets measured, gets managed”

AseraCare Hospice, a national provider of hospice services, has a longstanding belief that employee engagement matters. With 1,400 employees in 53 locations and 19 states, AseraCare aspires to share its passion for improving quality of life through innovative healthcare – one person, one family and one community at a time.

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According to Andrew Sholly, Vice President of Human Resources, AseraCare Hospice’s work would not be possible without the support and dedication of its employees, who share their passion for the hospice mission. “Employee engagement efforts have helped AseraCare Hospice distinguish itself as a leading national provider and employer by improving communication, increasing satisfaction and reducing turnover in the workplace,” says Sholly.

While AseraCare had a longstanding habit of conducting employee engagement surveys, the organization stepped up its game with annual surveys for the past four years. Sholly says, “We wanted employee feedback to frame out what makes AseraCare Hospice a wonderful place to work. The workplace is always changing, and we realized that we didn’t have all the answers. Annual surveys help bring clarity and direction to ensure we have a mutual commitment between organization and employee that has room to grow.”

In Fall 2017, AseraCare engaged Exact Recruiting, a Simione talent solution, to complete the annual survey, expanding its ability to track results and benchmark against other organizations. “We have increased employee engagement levels,” Sholly says, “and for years thought we were doing things the best way. Exact Recruiting’s expertise and process were able to validate that, while also pointing out areas where we had work to do.”

Surveys Help Improve Communication & Reduce Turnover

Over the last several years, survey results have facilitated improvements in AseraCare’s senior leadership communication, employee onboarding and orientation, and most important, retention. New practices have included:

A monthly President’s call with employees to discuss important topics
Specific steps to increase visibility of company leaders
Dedicated staff to assist new hires
A total revamp of the onboarding/orientation process
The effort has paid off:
Survey results for leadership communication have soared well above national averages.
AseraCare locations scoring among the highest for employee engagement have seen a steady improvement in turnover rates.
AseraCare lost 40 fewer new employees in 2017 than it did in 2016, and the goal is to improve that retention number even more in 2018!
Tips for Conducting Employee Engagement Surveys

Through his 15+ years in leading recruiting, executive search and talent advisory services in home-based care, Scharber contends that employee engagement surveys are the single most valuable tool in affecting an organization’s retention strategy. “The information that can be discerned from these studies is crucial to decision-making going forward, and even small improvements in turnover rates can save organizations tens of thousands of dollars. Between lower turnover rates and the fact that engaged companies grow as fast as 3x their competitors, the ROI for doing employee engagement surveys is obvious,” Scharber says. He recommends:

Work with a 3rd party expert – This will increase your participation rate by as much as 50%. When employees know their identity is truly anonymous, they are more likely to participate and be totally honest. Create a process to get genuine thoughts and real feelings about the workplace.

Perform surveys annually – Everyone is busy, but the challenges healthcare is facing related to the workforce make engagement a top priority. Plan and budget for the survey every year.

Choose a firm that knows your industry – Simione Healthcare Consultants specializes in home care and hospice and can compare your organization (confidentially) to your immediate competitors with data that is specific to your industry.

Share the results and act – The worst thing an organization can do is complete a survey, then never identify and address issues that are uncovered. Sharing results will build trust and increase staff participation the next time around.

Sholly agrees with Scharber’s last point. “We share the results throughout our organization at every level. One of the main reasons our survey is so powerful is because of our President, Angie Hollis-Sells, RN, CHPN. She takes our results very seriously and expects all of our leaders to follow her example,” Sholly says. “The survey is an essential tool for our leaders to create positive experiences for our employees.”

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