Employee turnover: It’s an issue for every long-term care administrator and staff manager. However, there are tools to help organizations choose the right employees, reduce turnover, and increase employee satisfaction. Our Scientific Advisor, Dr. Frederick Morgeson, of Michigan State University, recently hosted a HealthcareSource-sponsored webinar on reducing turnover for McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. In our recent interview with Dr. Morgeson, we discussed how talent management best practices can help long-term care organizations hire the right people:
1. Why is turnover such a critical issue in the long-term care industry?
There are lot of reasons why turnover is an issue in long-term care. One reason is the industry as a whole. In healthcare, there is a fairly large turnover problem as evidenced by quit rates indexed through the Bureau of Labor Statistics. I think long-term care is particularly problematic because you have a challenging environment to work in. I think there’s a fair amount of growth in that space and as the population ages, more and more demands will come along with the job. With a growing industry, there are a lot of alternatives for workers. If you’re unhappy at one place, or if you think you can make a little more money someplace else, you’re more likely to leave–even for small increments in pay.
2. How can you prevent turnover?
There’s a lot of different ways in which people will try to reduce turnover. And a lot of these things are oriented around HR systems that work with people who are already employed–such as, compensation systems, job designs, leadership programs, or staff development. One of the areas that is often not thought about is the hiring process. Certain people are more likely to turn over or to leave an organization, and it’s possible to know about what those characteristics are before you hire someone, so organizations should look to their pre-hire practices to address turnover issues. Hiring for cultural fit can lead to a reduction in turnover.
3. What are the levers of turnover?
From a general HR perspective, if you’re going to use the hiring process to prevent turnover you need to focus on the three major levers of the hiring process–recruiting, selection, and onboarding.
The recruitment phase is where you’re really trying to develop a good applicant pool to choose potential employees. And the traditional focus has been to find people that are interested in your organization and people that can do the work. But when you think about it from a turnover perspective, you want to also try to recruit people who are more likely to stay with your organization. From a recruiting standpoint, the three levers for turnover would be: not aligning recruitment with your organization’s message, inadequate recruitment sources, and inconsistent specific recruitment activities.
In terms of recruitment messages, I think a lot of times organizations want to present themselves and the jobs in the best possible light. I think the challenge there is that you can present the job and the organization in an unrealistically favorable way. I think of the recruitment message as making a promise to candidates, and you need to be careful and make sure that you can deliver on that promise.
When you think about sources from which you recruit, recognize that sources do vary in the retention rates. As an organization, you might want to focus on those sources that produce higher levels of retention. The two sources that I would suggest to support employee retention are employee referrals and previous employees.
When current employees recruit their friends and former colleagues to your organization, it contributes to social support within the organization, which we know leads to greater retention. Employee referrals are also more likely to have a more realistic idea of what the organization and work is going to be like because they can learn from their friends. The downside of employee referrals is it produces a fairly homogeneous employee population if you rely upon them too heavily. Employees tend to be friends with and refer people who are similar to them.
Another source of new hires are your former employees. People that once upon a time worked for you, but for whatever reason left. Often times, people leave and as an organization, you don’t ever want to see them again. But there are a certain number of employees who were good employees who you wish you could have kept. With such high levels of turnover in the industry, you’re likely to have a lot of former employees out there who you wouldn’t mind having back. These people will already be knowledgeable about the organization and may be more likely to stay because perhaps they’ve seen that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Employees that leave and come back are known as “boomerang employees.”
It’s also crucial to create realistic job expectations for candidates to help people self-select out if they don’t see themselves as a fit. This is where as an organization you provide important and candid information about the job and the organization to the candidate. Realistic job previews have been shown to reduce employee turnover.
The next major step is then you have to select people. And selection is very simple–it’s whatever procedure you use to determine who to hire for jobs in the organization. From a selection standpoint, the traditional focus has been we want to hire the best people (where “best” is defined as who can perform the job the most effectively).
From a selection standpoint biodata is crucial in determining if someone is likely to stay or leave your organization. Biodata is information about past behavior, life experiences, feelings about specific situations, etc. Biodata gives organizations an idea of the extent to which a person would become embedded in your organization. We know that people that are embedded in a social system tend to stay. But also, we could get a sense of the extent that people tend to habitually commit to organizations. Some people are more likely to commit to an organization than others. In terms of work attitudes, these are really the evaluations people make about organizations, jobs or people. When assessing likelihood of turnover, we’ve looked at things like a person’s self-confidence and their motivation for employment–both predict whether someone is likely to stay or not. And then finally, you can assess someone’s personality. The personality characteristics of conscientiousness, or the extent to which a person is hardworking, dependable, and emotionally stable; the extent to which a person can handle stress and remain calm have been linked to retention.
The final main lever is onboarding. Onboarding can be critical from a retention standpoint because people typically feel the pressure to prove themselves in a new job. The extent to which you can effectively integrate them into the organization will help them begin to feel better about the organization, feel better about their place in the organization, and they’ll be able to contribute to the organization more. This is good from a retention standpoint.
4. How do you think talent management technology can help in preventing turnover?
Technology is a good way to automate mundane details, ensure consistencies, and it helps to put a standard operating procedure in place. An analogy for me is using technology in an HR setting is much like having standard operating procedures in a medical setting. So when we do a procedure, or we administer a drug, or we take someone’s blood pressure, there’s typically a set of standards about how that procedure’s supposed to be done. The use of talent management technology is really a way to implement and reinforce a standard operating procedure–but this time it’s for your people and your people management.
To learn more about understanding turnover in long-term care, watch the webinar replay “Will They Stay or Will They Go Now?” from HealthcareSource and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News!