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Why retention is more important than recruitment for your medical practice success

It's a simple truth that no business can thrive without the people in it. Therefore, employee empowerment and retention should form a vital component of your business plan. You’ve likely seen it before: the hallmarks of high employee turnover in healthcare and beyond encompass high recruiting costs, less-than-ideal productivity and so much lost time. But what makes employees go and what compels them to stay?

To help you on your business journey we’ve outlined five employee retention strategies that will ensure the best talent remain with you and excel and grow in their respective roles over time.


It’s not just about finding the best – it’s foremost about keeping the best

Managing turnover is critical for a number of reasons. First of all, patients value employees who can greet them by name and offer empathetic, familiar and personal care. That's hard to achieve when the faces that make up your practice are always changing. Patients will also be inclined to return to a practice that offers the best specialists, so it’s wise to keep your team happy and to know what keeps them satisfied in their jobs.

In fact, strategic planning consultant Leigh Branham states “88% of employees leave their jobs for reasons other than pay”, but we’ll get to that below.

In addition to patient satisfaction, turnover is expensive.

Today’s business leaders of all organisations must consider:

  • The cost of recruiting.
  • The time required of established employees to train new employees.
  • The cultural cost of losing an employee, often leading to decreased morale and consequently a decrease in productivity.
  • The stress for current employees to take on extra duties while a new hire is found and brought onboard.
It’s estimated that, “Staff turnover costs Australian businesses $100 billion a year in lost productivity, training and recruitment costs”. – SMH

Furthermore, Josh Bersin, Principal and Founder of Bersin by Deloitte, suggests the loss of a single employee can even amount to 1.5-2 times the employee’s annual salary. Conversely, for businesses, bringing on new employees can be high-risk, high-cost and high-reward.


Making the change

Rather than focusing on recruitment first, the core principle of your team’s growth is focusing on keeping the best. After all, you likely have already landed some brilliant individuals who have helped to get your practice where it is today.

If you’re unsure how employees feel about their workplace, one way to find out is to ask them. An anonymous biannual or quarterly survey serves two purposes: it seeks to understand the factors that might cause employees to become dissatisfied – from which you can effect improvements – and secondly, it acknowledges employees' concerns.

You might even invite them to suggest solutions, involving them in the process and increasing a sense of ownership of their roles. Exit interviews, conducted after a resignation has been handed in, are also a chance to learn what motivates good people to move on from your practice.


Here are 5 effective employee retention strategies to consider:


1. Communicate clear career progression through your company. Invest in career growth

In the 2016 Snapshot of the Australian Workplace, Dr Lindsay McMillan OAM reports “49% of workers will likely look for a new position in the coming year”, with 35% of workers feeling that "poor leadership" is the most stressful part of their job. Such high numbers demonstrate job dissatisfaction may be more widespread than many employers think.

The result is an increased pressure (you could say it’s a good thing) for employees to compete for talent, as networking sites such as LinkedIn make it easier to compare opportunities in the present climate.

The main reason employees choose to leave is for a new career opportunity, followed by a lack of career progression at their current workplace. – AHRI PULSE SURVEY: Turnover and retention

To curb losing employees in this way, support your employee’s future with the practice by facilitating the progression they might find at similar organisations, such as promotions, salary increases, and greater involvement in the operational side of the business.

2. Build a positive culture around a shared purpose

We all know a healthy work culture is vital, but what does that look like exactly? To create a sense of shared purpose among your employees, it’s important that everyone, from day one, believes in the medical practice's vision and mission.

From day one, equip your employees with:

  • An employee handbook that states your goals, ethos and mission. Furthermore, it should cover the ‘need to know’ information for getting settled in, including who they can ask for help on specific queries.
  • A job description that states key responsibilities and key performance indicators (KPIs). When there are clear opportunities to take ownership, employees are more empowered to take action and take pride in their work.

Well equipped employees will feel confident and knowledgeable in their roles, and are more likely to feel happier in their jobs. It’s the uncertainty of how they can contribute and create tangible change that often leads to lower morale, reduced productivity and, soon enough, resignations.

It’s also worthwhile to remember that all work and no play makes for a rigid workplace. Another effective employee retention strategy is simply injecting a little fun into the office; this builds collective team spirit and makes employees actually want to be at work.

Invest time to pinpoint and equip a proactive team member with the opportunity to build a sense of camaraderie in and outside of the office. They’re your internal champion of company culture.

It’s crucial to celebrate the wins and achievements of your people. Acknowledgement can go a long way in motivating people and ensuring they feel valued. A company that creates the right culture will have an advantage when it comes to keeping good employees and attracting new ones.

3. Recognise employee contribution and growth

There is nothing better than to hear a sincere ‘thank you’ from a boss, especially when it comes with a tangible reward. You might implement an ‘employee of the month’ program that recognises impressive work – this will also serve to reinforce the professionalism and standard of work you value.

"[Medical] practices that hope to keep their best and brightest engaged must also encourage professional growth by offering offsite training, designating their most competent employees to bring new recruits up to speed, offering time off for relevant coursework, and cross-training their team." – Physicians Practice

The ultimate goal is to align the individual growth of your employees with the organisational growth of your whole team and business.


4. Offer flexibility and benefits

Minimising the number of employees leaving your organisation must begin with giving them clear reasons to stay. In addition to the career growth, recognition and culture you’re providing, you must also consider providing the benefits that will matter most to your ideal, high performing employees.

“The rewards given to employees must be meaningful in order to impact their perception of the organisation and therefore have a marked influence on its retention efforts. Moreover, if an organisation promises a reward, it should keep that promise.” – Hr.BLR.com

With 11% of employees leaving a workplace due to poor work-life balance, there are several ways you can offer the flexibility today’s workforce strives for.

For example, your medical practice can:

  • Implement a flexible work environment in which employees can take extra time off when needed.
  • Offer flexible hours or the ability to work from home for those with children or study commitments.
  • Provide incentives such as gym memberships, which prioritise physical health.


5. Offer competitive salaries

If you value your employees, showing your appreciation is a natural response. Revisiting their salary package is simply one attractive way to breed loyalty – though it’s not always an option for new practices to offer competitive salaries, especially when you’re still finding your feet and building a patient base. Instead, you could offer to pay for online training programs to encourage your employees to grow professionally. For more established practices, offering high-performing practitioners the opportunity to buy into the business is another option.

To increase employee retention in healthcare, you may consider giving employees more holiday leave. Alternatively, set individual or group goals and reward the achievement of them with gift cards, movie vouchers or a team lunch. Noticing hard work can often involve a monetary compensation, but where that’s not possible it's important to recognise employees who are committed to your practice and its growth. Building a culture of recognition can go a long way.


Over to you

Although change is inevitable in any business (after all, people do come and go), your long term success will in part depend on your employee retention and recruitment strategies, so keep continuous communication going with your employees. Regularly meet to brainstorm and help them achieve their growth goals. Investing time in mapping and implementing effective strategies is the best way to future-proof your practice.

For more on this, we’ve created the Future-Proofing Formula for your organisation. It’s a downloadable guide featuring the 3 factors for engineering strategic change, conducive to long term business growth, empowered employees and happy patients

Ready to transform your medical practice?
Clare Thompson
Clare is a Human Resources professional with over 20 years of experience. Her passion is providing HR solutions for Clinic to Cloud by building HR infrastructure through technology, compliance and people. Prior to working with Clinic to Cloud, Clare held several corporate HR/Recruitment positions in health, beauty and professional services organisations.
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