The right culture change can improve staff retention

Nurse Leader Insider, August 24, 2007

Want to receive articles like this one in your inbox? Subscribe to Nurse Leader Insider!

Many skilled nursing facility (SNF) managers suspect that their staff turnover is due to employees finding better pay and benefits elsewhere. But a 20-year program studying SNF retention indicates that monetary perks rank third or fourth on lists of reasons why people leave their jobs.

"Staff want the nontangibles-respect, meaningful work, input in decisions and a voice in the organization, open communication, and to know what to do in their job and why they are doing it," said Susan Gilster, PhD, NHA, a fellow of the Alois Alzheimer Center in Cincinnati.

That's not to say money doesn't fit into the equation. The program that Gilster worked on with Jennifer Dalessandro, BS, NHA, at the Alois Alzheimer Center found that the facilities they studied spent $350,000-$600,000 per year on turnover. If you could cut back on these costs, your facility would be able to offer more competitive wages.

During the American College of Health Care Administrators (ACHCA) conference in Charlotte, NC, in April, Gilster and Dalessandro discussed the following techniques that SNFs can use to improve their retention.

Stimulate and motivate

Understand that work is only a part of your staff members' lives. Make efforts to connect with them on a more holistic level. Foster an environment that focuses on staff members' successes in their jobs, as well as the other important areas of their lives, Dalessandro said. Try some of these efforts to keep work life exciting:

  • Celebrate accomplishments. Make a big deal out of it when a staff member finishes a school program or job-related training.
  • Make success personal. If an employee goes above and beyond at work, send a note to his or her home praising the person for it.
  • Go national. Nominate staff members for national awards. Many people think that they can't compete with an entire country of contenders, but the truth is that many of the awards take time to apply to, so the candidate pools tend to be small.
  • Honor your differences. A member of the ACHCA conference audience said her facility hosted an ethnic appreciation day for staff members. "At the time, our staff represented 23 countries. Instead of being part of a minority, every one of them was a star of the show," the participant said.

Editor's Note: This excerpt was adapted from the Reading Room, part of HCPro's new online resource,!

Want to receive articles like this one in your inbox? Subscribe to Nurse Leader Insider!

Most Popular