Earlier this month, I attended the Lutheran Services In America Annual Conference in Chicago. At the event, like at many others I’ve attended over the past few years, there was one key topic that kept coming up again and again—staff recruitment and retention. During sessions, during networking conversations, during discussions among attendees, the conversation always circled back to the workforce challenges that are, in many ways, holding organizations back. We’ve covered these workforce issues, and some potential solutions, in the past: Workforce Shortages As A Strategy Issue; Workforce Problems? Technology As Strategy; and Recruit, Engage, Retain, Repeat—How To ‘Sell’ Your Organization In A Tight Labor Market.
Throughout the event, I heard some new and creative solutions to the staffing challenge from many different types of specialty provider organizations—some you may already be implementing within your organization, some you may have thought about trying, and some may be totally new. Here are 12 interesting ideas that are working for many organizations:
Implement specific policies to increase manager/staff interaction – An employee that feels respected and valued is more likely to stay with their organization. In the rush of day-to-day management that can be difficult, so it’s important for organizations to create policies that encourage meaningful daily interaction among all employees and their supervisors. One organization discussed their policy of encouraging supervisors to “round on employees,” meaning that every day the supervisor needs to check in with every one of their direct reports, much like a physician rounding on their patients in a hospital (see New Hanover Regional Medical Center Physician Group: The Impact of Leader Rounding on Patients, Employees, & Providers and Four Strategies to Improve Leader Rounding).
Centralize and optimize your recruiting strategy – In a tight job market, you can’t afford to have an inefficient process. If you drag things out or are unresponsive, people will accept other positions and you can miss out on potentially great hires. Several organizations suggested centralizing the recruiting process (rather than leaving recruiting in the hands of individual departments or teams) and building a clear hiring process that utilizes technology and automation wherever possible.
Formalize training for interviewers so that you hire the right people – Make sure you are hiring the right people by training interviewers on what questions to ask and what responses to look for during the hiring process. There is also predictive software that can be used to help rank potential employees and help guide your team to find the right hires.
Standardize your on-boarding process – Most employees leave within three to six months of their start date, so if you can get them over that initial stretch, they are more likely to stay. Create a formal on-boarding process that focuses on welcoming the employee to the organization as a whole; explaining your organization’s mission, values, and goals, and how the employee fits into that picture; building a relationships among the employee and their supervisor and coworkers; and training and preparing them to do their job well.
Eliminate drug screening where possible – This is a controversial option and not a real solution for direct care professionals, but there are many other positions where it may help with recruiting issues. Many organizations noted that with marijuana becoming legal in many states, it doesn’t hold the same stigma it once did, particularly among younger generations. This creates a major staffing problem. One organization explained that this became such an issue that, while they still have drug testing for employees who provide consumer care, they eliminated drug testing among housekeeping, janitorial, grounds keeping, and dining services staff at their facility.
Create a sense of camaraderie among employees – You want your employees to have multiple ties into your organization at every level. To do that, create opportunities for socialization and build a sense of community. For example, create a Young Professionals Association and allow a small budget to support their activities outside of work, or offer days of service during work hours that allow employees to volunteer together in the community.
Build connections through a peer mentoring program – Peer-to-peer mentoring can help employees to build confidence in their role and feel a greater connection to the organization. Peers can assist with on-boarding, be a part of training, demonstrate quality work, be a resource for questions and concerns, and offer encouragement in tough situations. Prioritize the role of peer mentor with employees so they don’t feel overwhelmed and unable to meet their role as mentor and employee.
Give employees a concrete personal growth plan and scholarships for continuing education – Map out the possibilities for advancement and new skill building with every staff member during reviews and then check in periodically with their process. Offer scholarships for advanced education (that come with commitments to the organization) that allow employees to meet their personal goals. Investing in employees’ personal develop helps them to grow in their positions and see a long-term future within your organization.
Create culture of visible recognition and appreciation – An email or offering a personal word of thanks is important, but you should also show that you value employees in more tangible and high-profile ways. Many studies show that recognition is a huge driver in employee performance and satisfaction (see Growing a Strong Direct Care Workforce: A Recruitment and Retention Guide for Employers), so highlight employees in your newsletter, recognize their work publicly at staff meetings, feature staff profiles on your website or social media, or invite a different high-performing employee to attend your board meetings monthly for a special introduction and thank you.
Allow for the flexibility to shift small policies that can make a big difference – Employee expectations about workplace culture are changing and creating some freedom in office policies that can have a big impact on day-to-day employee satisfaction. For example, several organizations saw employee satisfaction increase when dress code restrictions were relaxed; one organization improved morale by redesigning the break room for comfort and providing free drinks and snacks; and one noted that allowing employees to bring dogs to the office created a surprising amount of goodwill among employees.
Offer debt reduction as an employee benefit – Debt is a real concern for many people, one that often outweighs the desire to save for retirement. For many organizations, offering debt reduction, particularly student loan repayment assistance, can be a major attraction to potential employees. Across all employment sectors this has gotten a lot of attention. Last fall, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a private letter ruling stating that companies could offer contributions to 401k retirement plans matching employee contributions to student loan debt (see INSIGHT: The Good and Bad News Regarding the Recent PLR on Student Loan Repayment Assistance Programs). And in February, a bill was introduced in the Senate to make employer contributions to student loan debt tax-free in the same way contributions to retirement accounts are tax-free (see Bill Introduced to Help Employers Offer Student Loan Repayment Benefit).
Offer child care on-site or a credit towards day care at another provider – Quality affordable day care is a primary concern for many working parents and offering subsidized day can be a huge motivator for employees. Building your own day care center can be a challenge, but several organizations noted that they think of the day care as part of the employee benefit package and offer anywhere from a 30% to 50% discount for employees. That discount is then charged back to the employee’s department, like their other benefits.
In this labor market, where we face tight margins and increasing shortages, many organizations will find that they are being pushed into new territory and forced to consider new benefits, new management strategies, and new staff programs that were never options before. The bottom line is that flexibility and innovation are the only real solutions.
For more on recruiting and retention, check out these resources from the OPEN MINDS Circle Library:
- Recruit, Engage, Retain, Repeat—How To ‘Sell’ Your Organization In A Tight Labor Market
- Staff Recognition: More Important Than Ever
- The New Face Of Recruiting
- Building A Better Workforce: Talent Management Strategies For Recruitment, Retention, Burnout & Technology
- Recruiting? What Executive Competencies You Should Be Looking For
- Strategic Talent Management In A New Era
- The Art & Science Of Replacing Key Executives
- Does An ‘Agile’ Workforce Want Your Jobs?
- Reducing Paraprofessional Employee Turnover
- What Should Your Approach Be To Retaining Great Team Members?
For more on how to address the workforce challenge, join us in August in Long Beach, California for The 2019 OPEN MINDS Management Best Practices Institute, and the session, Best Practices In Workforce Development: Recruiting & Retaining Staff, featuring John F. Talbot, Ph.D., Vice President, Corporate Strategy, Jefferson Center for Mental Health, & Senior Associate, OPEN MINDS; James Carlino, SPHR, CCP, SHRM-SCP, CHHR, Chief Human Resourses Officer, Bancroft; Kiara Kuenzler, Psy.D., LP, President & Chief Executive Officer, Jefferson Center for Mental Health.