Leadership Development and Employee Retention

Employee turnover continues to be a major problem with healthcare providers. Retaining talented leadership-caliber staff can make for a challenging environment.

This article written by Gary Heinrich, NHA, MBA, Director – LW Consulting, Inc

The majority of people in the healthcare world were drawn to this field as a life calling: they want to make a difference in the lives of others. We all want to make the lives of those we care for (and work with) better, and to enrich our days with purpose and meaning. What is the greatest challenge in our leadership role?  Empowering others in any given position to make a difference.

Employee turnover continues to be a major problem with healthcare providers. Retaining talented leadership-caliber staff can be challenging.

In our experience in interim and permanent recruiting, we have found that candidates are often searching for more than decent salary and benefits. They are looking for mutually respectful relationships among their peers and managers, as well as support and training and the opportunity to progress in their chosen leadership track.

In a recent article by Christina Daley, Ph.D., NHA, published in McKnight's Long Term Care News, Ms. Daley stated one of the primary reasons for nursing home administrator turnover is "emotional exhaustion." She went on to define this as a feeling of being overwhelmed which can lead to "emotional distancing." Our responsibilities as leaders are not decreasing. There has never been a time in our history where the focus on compliance, audits and government take-backs have compounded  the emotional toll at such an alarming magnitude.

When our workloads push us to disengage, we have to learn and teach ourselves to re-engage and re-connect.

A number of studies show, there is a direct correlation between improved employee retention and the presence of a strong employee development program. When an organization connects with an employee's desire to learn and, in turn, invests in the potential of their employees, it is virtually guaranteed to improve both employee retention  and  employee morale. These are the basic building blocks of a healthy culture.

In the long-term care sector, most providers would agree that successful leadership training for middle and upper management is seriously lacking. For example, many nursing schools today provide minimal focus on management when training nurses, but often, those same graduates are put into supervisory positions.

For example, one organization began with LW Consulting's Leadership Education for Lead Nursing Assistants.  The result has been lower turnover and increased satisfaction of staff and residents.  The development program has since expanded the program to include a career ladder for staff nurses and a similar program extending to nurse supervisors, managers, and directors of nursing.

When organizations focus on educating staff on leadership skills, the result is not only higher retention rates of desirable employees, but also increased satisfaction, from both staff and residents.

Leadership positions in long-term care include daunting tasks that can easily spiral a good leader into a high stress routine. When the proper support and tools are not in place to aid leadership staff, it is easy for mistakes to be made.

In today's market employees have many options. Invest in your leaders or you will be investing in turnover.

As a Director in a company with a proven track record of successful interim and permanent recruiting and leadership development services, I strongly urge you to invest directly in your existing leadership staff. We need to teach our current leaders to manage efficiently and compassionately as well as show our future leaders how to lead effectively and how to build and leverage their own network of collegial support.

An outside assessment is recommended, especially for an independent organization. A second set of eyes from a seasoned consultant company can provide insight into areas for improvement, identify areas of non-compliance, and promote greater efficiencies and workplace improvements.

If you would like to review more detailed information on this subject you can review a report commissioned by AAHSA called "Retention of Long-Term Care Professionals: Assessing the Challenges."  I also welcome your comments and questions.  You can reach me at info@lw-consult.com.

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