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Recognizing Employees for Healthcare Employee Retention

February 4, 2024

With employee retention rates declining and employee turnover rates increasing, it's important for employers to keep their workers, especially their top talent in their team, and prevent them from leaving their organization.

To ensure a successful healthcare employee retention plan, several measures must be observed, including the onboarding process, company culture, work hours, and employee engagement, as well as employee benefits like leaves, vacation time, or the option for hybrid working. Among myriad other factors, these are believed to be some that directly impact employee experience, especially employee satisfaction, which can boost employee retention in turn.

In this article, join us as we compile the salient points from the second part of our interview with Sarah McVanel from Greatness Magnified in the Caring Support podcast. We will talk about how organizations can use a culture of recognition as part of a set of effective employee retention strategies in order to prevent employee burnout, improve employee job satisfaction, promote fair treatment and support the mental health of workers, and overall create a better workplace for the employees, as part of a movement for healthcare employee retention.

If you missed the first part of our interview with Sarah, don’t forget to check that out wherever you listen to podcasts - you won’t want to miss it!

About Sarah McVanel

Sarah McVanel is a coach, author, and founder of Greatness Magnified, an organization that specializes in giving training programs and certifications to employees at large. Aiming to build a healthy and recognition-rich team, Sarah McVanel started the F.R.O.G. movement - Forever Recognize Others' Greatness. With over 25 years of experience in the field, Sarah has helped many companies, institutions, and organizations thrive in a recognition-rich environment, helping with large-scale healthcare employee retention.

Struggles of Companies with Employee Retention

Sarah McVanel claims that companies are in the business of earning people these days and not hiring them. However, she adds that many of those who are in leadership roles came up at a time in healthcare when people had to go to another country to work, but there were more numbers in favour of the employer side versus the healthcare professional. In fact, a lot of people were lost because they couldn't get jobs. Today, however, she argues that we have the opposite.

Given that the reality has shifted, Sarah maintains that there's a very good chance that we will never see an abundance of providers available to us - those days are probably gone. For Sarah, an always-earning mindset must be maintained, and she believes that recognition is the easiest way to do that. The focus must be on valuing and expressing how grateful the organization is that people chose healthcare - that they chose that organization for life.

But she argues that what we're seeing in all different professional groups is that this isn't always the case. In fact, there's an evolving employee-driven marketplace, and it's becoming a necessity that people should be recognized earlier than they might normally be.

Employers need to compensate for the fact that longevity is not always the only factor that they need to show appreciation - employers need to show loyalty, reward hard work, and invest in current employees. If employers are lucky enough to keep people for 5, 10, or 15 years, then they should be saying thank you.

Healthcare Employee Retention: What Must Be Recognized?

Sarah advocates for a strong culture of recognition, establishing that people's ingenuity and continuous improvement must be recognized, as well as their safety behaviours and their willingness to step outside their comfort zone and to retrain in a subspecialty.

For Sarah, it goes beyond recognition programs or paying a team member a little bit more to work the weekend shift. More ways to validate and value the employees must be thought of - go beyond a gift card, beyond a plaque every five years, beyond a watch at 25 years. Sarah wants to make employers realize that they should appreciate the efforts of their employees, which she believes is essential to get over some of the tough days.

Sarah also reminds the listeners regarding the hardest parts of the employees' shifts: going through vicarious trauma, small T trauma, or sometimes even big T trauma. She then pushes to leverage recognition in order to insulate against burnout and compassion fatigue.

She adds that the struggles, be they of a departing employee or a new employee, must be taken seriously, as Sarah believes that what a company recognizes demonstrates what they care about and what they value as an organization.

Above all this is employee development, which goes beyond just career development or professional development - it also entails fostering a good work environment, competitive pay, option for remote work or flexible schedules in some cases, and employee feedback for improvement, all of which measures the organization's ability and willingness to recognize talent.

Employee Retention Strategies: The Concept of F.R.O.G.

For healthcare employee retention, Sarah introduces F.R.O.G., which stands for forever recognizing others' greatness. According to her, this came out of an intervention that needed to happen in the labour and delivery unit. Some passionate and seasoned workers were totally burnt out and compassion fatigued. What used to be a centre of birthing excellence with high attraction numbers and HR professionals meticulously working to get the best new hire now got to a point where there was such a reputation for toxicity, as nobody was applying or even staying anymore. This is a far cry from their former glory.

But with F.R.O.G. for healthcare employee retention, we go beyond just employee retention programs to keep talent. Sarah explains the specialty areas of nursing and respiratory therapy, as some of those areas require six-plus weeks of being mentored before employees can be completely on their own. Obviously, losing people is an economic burden to healthcare organizations, not to mention the burden on the mentors themselves.

One of the most effective strategies for healthcare employee retention for Sarah is getting to know them, but what good would it be if the work environment is toxic? In the case of the specialty nursing areas, nobody said anything, so they turned to the matriarch of the group, and she said that she had nothing to share. Because of so much toxicity, people there were disheartened and hopeless that things could be better - people had lost their way.

So, for her own healthcare employee retention methods, she rolled the clock back and asked the employees questions like "Why did you choose to do nursing?" or "Why did they choose to work in this specialty?"

Over the course of two years, Sarah and her team worked with them, starting with self-recognition - Sarah believed that as long as they could not see that they had anything to offer, weren't they going to see it in other people, especially in their most tense moments where things are collapsing all around them, which sadly happens.

Sarah adds that this is a reality, a burden that we all know healthcare providers face every day, which is why effective methods for healthcare employee retention are important.

Sarah McVanel's F.R.O.G. movement.

To be consistent, Sarah asked the employees how they remembered this work towards the end of the program. Sarah assured them that they all worked very, very hard over two years to build the type of culture where everyone feels a sense of belonging and acquires an abundance of full staff.

The employees held onto this way of thinking by taking F.R.O.G. literally - forever recognize other's greatness - and they created frog visuals all over the unit from frog posters, as well as somebody bringing the frog cake or frog cookies every time we have a celebration, or plush frogs as a "thank you" from grateful patients. The F.R.O.G. has proven to be one of the best employee retention strategies that Sarah has ever used in her company.

Other Employee Retention Strategies to Help Healthcare Workers

To quote Sarah, "The very first thing I would suggest is that if folks do not have a tool already in which to reflect on their degree of compassion fatigue, I would get one. I have one on my website,; under Cool Stuff, there is a compassion, satisfaction and compassion fatigue one-pager.

What does compassion satisfaction look like from a behavioural, psychological and physical standpoint, right through to what are the signs that it's transitioning into compassion fatigue and then outright compassion fatigue because it's very hard to have a conversation when we don't know what we don't have a common language."

Sarah advocates for being aware and having a conversation with other people in your area to see and check in on how they're feeling - support from peers and colleagues may, in fact, be what you need immediately before you can bring this forward to leaders or HR. Building a deeper social network is part of key stress management techniques (and even employee retention strategies) beyond the base freeze.

Apart from the employee retention strategies mentioned above, you can also start with your leadership team about what seems to be the experience, whether it just be you or a few of you talking about things like compassion fatigue. As soon as you label some of those things, like rising sick time and injuries, this becomes the language that management is accountable for. It's bringing it from the individual experience into the accountability factor.

Sarah adds notes that she noticed that people are calling in sick or are not as willing to take up shifts. In fact, some people have filed for musculoskeletal injuries, and she recognizes that there's a tie between the physical body and the emotional burden of healthcare.

Sarah then asks what can be done about this - to have a talk about compassion fatigue. And because healthcare folks are used to tangible evidence, as soon as we talk about behavioural, quantifiable, measurable things, we're talking the language that all providers understand. To Sarah, this is an invaluable step among other employee retention strategies.

Additional Insights from Sarah McVanel

Aside from all the employee retention strategies mentioned, Sarah leaves us with a final message: "To all of our leaders, healthcare folks, and frontline providers who are listening to this, thank you for listening for so long. You're clearly so passionate about retention and building wonderful, healthy healthcare organizations. I want to invite you to think about this...You are already doing the best that you can."

"So before doing anything else, I invite you to think about that...Turn off your phone, silence your messages, get out a piece of paper if you need to discipline yourself to do something for a minute, put on your timer even and recognize what you are already doing well...because don't see the greatness within yourself, recognition suddenly becomes a huge uphill battle. You're doing the best you can. I hope you see that in yourself."

Read More: Empowering and Uplifting Nurses in 2023

Find Your Dream Job at Caring Support

Caring Support is an essential tool for optimizing and streamlining the hiring process in the healthcare industry. With us, healthcare organizations can efficiently attract, assess, and hire top-quality candidates to meet their staffing needs. The platform features a comprehensive database of qualified professionals, allowing employers to easily search for specific skills or qualifications desired for a role.

Additionally, Caring Support offers robust screening and assessment tools that enable employers to thoroughly evaluate candidates' competencies and fit for the organization. This ensures that only highly qualified employees are considered for employment, saving valuable time and resources. Caring Support also provides seamless communication between employers and potential employees, facilitating efficient scheduling of interviews and reducing administrative burdens.

Overall, using Caring Support results in improved efficiency in the recruitment process, higher quality hires, and ultimately contributes to enhancing patient care delivery within healthcare organizations. Helping with employee retention strategies, Caring Support is an invaluable place to start your career and for organizations to find talent. Create an account or log in to experience the benefits of partnering with Caring Support.

About The Author
Kate Piamonte
Content Writer

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