Have you ever been tempted to explore “greener pastures” with another prospective employer? What keeps you trucking along at your current place of employment? These are questions executives consistently try to head off with regards to the retention of their staff. In an effort to learn best practices of employee retention, we went to the market and spoke with several hospital pharmacy leaders who have been noted by their peers as some of the nation’s best at retaining top talent.
The HealthCare Initiative’s Annual Hiring Survey reported that leaders from 47% of the organizations that responded claimed retaining key employees was an issue that keeps them up at night. Yet only 38% of organizations claimed to have formalized retention programs in place. Common sense would tell us that those organizations with retention programs in place would have higher rates of employee retention, right?
To our surprise, that wasn’t necessarily the case. Rather, most organizations that reported low-turnover rates in pharmacy, 5% or below, claimed to not have formalized retention programs. After digging a bit further, we finally uncovered a common theme among these institutions who consistently report low turnover rates. It seems that the actual culture in the department was the most important factor contributing to the retention of employees. As Suzanne Shea, Vice President of Pharmacy Operations for Cardinal Health Pharmacy Solutions best put it, “it’s the warm fuzzies that make people feel good”. It was also apparent that these executives, in an effort to foster a strong, positive culture, would rather cover shifts by relying on existing staff rather than making a hiring decision too quickly. “We don’t just hire to the minimum specifications and we will work short rather than just taking the next person off the street,” says Perry Flowers, System Executive, Patient Support and System Pharmacy, for Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston, Texas. Taking a step further in an effort to uphold a consistent, thriving culture, Mr. Flowers also went on to stress the importance of taking time during new-hire orientation to teach concepts related to business ethics, team member treatment, and philosophies upheld within the organization.
In organizations that continuously struggle with turnover, mostly those reporting rates between 15-20%, management turnover rates were usually high. Obviously, this leads to a lack of trust from employees which often is accompanied by lower morale, low employee satisfaction scores, and ultimately higher costs associated with having to recruit more employees. A culture either company-wide or within individual departments starts at the top. Like a game of Jenga, when pieces are unstable at the top, the rest of the unit is sure to suffer.
Top 10 Best Practices found at low turnover facilities:
- Complete orientation program in the hospital and pharmacy department with 30, 60, 90 day feedback. Director of Pharmacy makes sure to remain visible to new hire and is available for questions and support.
- Dedicated mentorship either assigned specifically to the new hire, or within each unit of the pharmacy (e.g. IV Room, Decentralized Services, Central Pharmacy, etc.).
- Management takes the time to know each employee on a personal level. “A family culture and not just a place to come get a pay check,” says Craig Frost, Director of Pharmacy at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston, Texas.
- Opportunities for reimbursement upon completion of continued education such as Board Certification. Flexible PTO to attend leadership conferences in an effort to support continued professional development.
- Management and Peer recognition in the form of hand-written notes, verbal recognition at departmental or hospital-wide meetings.
- Monthly all-staff departmental meetings to keep employees informed on the latest happenings. Opportunity to present milestone awards and certificates of appreciation. Some organizations have even created a Rewards and Recognition Committee.
- Employee Satisfaction Surveys routinely taken allowing management to address concerns early and often.
- Management training programs providing opportunities for advancement within.
- Hold Directors accountable for both developing a forced ranking of employees (A, B, C) primarily based on job performance evaluations and an action plan to increase productivity from low-performers and continuously challenge high performers.
- Develop and maintain strong clinical programs.
The time we spent speaking with these Pharmacy Leaders has led us to believe that high retention rates are a result of a positive, inviting culture more than anything else. Birthday cake, a hello in the hallway, a “great job” announced in front of peers at a meeting, are all small gestures that apparently seem to go a very long way. I encourage you to go back to your team today and take an objective look at the current state of your department’s culture. If you haven’t already, begin implementing some of the best practices noted above, and you will slowly but surely begin to see a difference in your rate of retention and overall employee satisfaction.