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The Future of Your Workforce: How to Attract, Retain, and Engage Top Performers

Key Takeaways From Our NatCon19 Panel Session

NatCon19 brought with it many great conversations and insights on how Health and Human Services organizations can continue to provide the highest quality of care to the people they serve. During the conference, our CEO, Erik Marsh, led a riveting panel session with guest speakers Peggy Chase, CEO of Terros Health, and Nelson Burns, CEO of Coleman Professional Services. The room was packed as we explored the future of the workforce, and specifically, how organizations within this industry can attract, retain, and engage top performers.

During the session, we highlighted some key workforce trends and challenges that are currently shaping the Health and Human Services industry. Peggy and Nelson provided great insights and gave us a peek at the specific strategies they have applied at their own organizations to improve things like workplace culture and the employee experience. Whether you were at the session and want to refresh on some of the key points or weren’t able to join us this time, here’s a brief recap on some of the many great insights shared during this special panel discussion.

Attract, Retain, Engage

Our discussion centered on three key workforce management trends: attracting, retaining, and engaging top performers. In the 2019 DATIS State of Workforce Management Report, these were areas that Health and Human Services executives identified as top priorities for the coming year. We explored each of these topics in turn.

Attracting New Talent

Being able to attract top talent to your organization requires a positive employer brand as well as a strong recruiting management plan. An organization needs to create a culture that makes people want to work there and then create a smooth recruiting and onboarding process to help a new hire in the door.

In the panel, Peggy Chase shared that at Terros Health their internships and residencies are an important part of this process. These programs help them bring new talent in the door and give them a chance to truly experience the unique company culture. They once had an individual who completed a residency at Terros and then completed her rotations at various other organizations. At the end of this process, she came back to Terros looking for a full-time position, stating that she loved the culture and it was her favorite place to work of all of her rotations. For non-clinical roles, such as HR and Finance, internships can be used in the same way to showcase culture and help train them to qualify for full-time positions at your organization in the future.

In many cases, organizations within the Health and Human Services industry struggle to offer competitive pay, making other elements of the employee experience, like company culture, that much more important in helping to attract top talent. In addition to its focus on culture, Terros also strives to offer competitive benefits as another way to take care of its workforce. For example, in addition to offering medical, dental, and vision benefits, Terros also offers a white glove program that brings medical care to the employee’s home for a low fee.

At Coleman Professional Services, Nelson agrees that competing on the salary level is not the most feasible option. One way that the organization helps bring in new talent is by offering a bonus system to existing staff for referral hires. Nelson also notes that recruitment should really be viewed as a strategy and prioritized accordingly:

“We [as an industry] don’t put enough resources, actual resources, into recruiting and workforce.”

Another key strategy at Coleman is the personal touch. They incorporate one-on-one touch points among staff, senior leaders, and the CEO, even as early as the recruiting process, truly making this a priority. As the CEO, Nelson might reach out to a top applicant via email to see if they have any questions they would like to ask the CEO. This helps applicants feel valued and demonstrates the accessibility of senior leadership and the organization’s priority to hire candidates that are the right cultural fit for the organization.

Engaging Your Workforce

Employees who are engaged at work are known to be happier, more productive, and more likely to stay at the organization long term. While 87% of executives in the industry say they make a conscious effort to engage employees, only 63% believe their employees would recommend their organization. To help improve engagement, organizations need to take active steps to create an engagement strategy as well as measure its effectiveness.

Both Terros and Coleman rely on a 12-question employee engagement survey developed by Gallup to measure engagement at their organizations. This survey asks simple questions such as: do you know what is expected of you at work, and do you have the equipment and materials to do your job right? Getting input from employees is essential for gauging current levels of engagement and taking action to address any issues. Nelson explains the importance of these measures:

“As human beings we want to be connected to [our work], and if I’m not sure of what I’m doing in my role, then it is hard for me to really take chances and to share ideas and really enhance what I’m doing.”

At Coleman, the results of these surveys are shared with everyone because they’re not intended for evaluating the individuals, but rather as a measure of the culture. And by sharing this information across all teams and at all levels, this allows everyone, from upper management to front-line staff, to be accountable and part of the engagement plan. Getting everyone invested in the culture is essential. As Peggy put it:

“Typically, people come to companies and they leave supervisors…so engagement can’t just be at the top. It has to be throughout every single supervisor, manager, or coach at your company. It has to be permeating everywhere.”

These surveys and touch points are not enough on their own, though. They need to be followed by action, changes that speak to the feedback that has been received. At Terros, for example, one of these surveys indicated that employees didn’t find any fun in their work. So, they began to think of “fun as a strategy” and incorporated events like sports, yard games, and educational skits as ways for employees to have fun and share information together. Nelson also points out that in the Health and Human Services industry specifically, people chose their profession based on a desire to improve the lives of the people they serve. Therefore, giving them opportunities to hear directly how they made an impact can go a long way. Nelson mentions that when clients or patients mention the difference an employee has made in their lives, this can be some of the most valuable and rewarding feedback for the employee.

Retaining Top Performers

Considering the time and cost involved in the recruiting and onboarding process, not to mention the hit to morale when good employees leave a company, retaining top performers is another area that executives need to continue to prioritize. Retention strategies often closely tied to talent management and professional development strategies. Just as leaders want to see the organization grow and succeed, your workforce wants to grow and succeed at an individual level, and it’s important for leaders to help employees find alignment between those two goals.

At Terros, they use a quarterly Terros Learning Community to set up a professional development strategy. This is complemented with monthly check-ins which help to keep engagement high in this initiative, and also helps with alignment. Everyone is using the same language and experiencing the same journey as they learn and grow together. As Peggy explains:

“Even if they want to stay in the same role, they want to feel that they are growing within that role and that there is always a learning and development process for them.”

Today’s workforce also craves more frequent and customized conversations. They want to know what they can do today and tomorrow to improve themselves and their work. Nelson notes that communication with managers and personalized training are essential here. And that starts by having candid conversations with employees about what they want to do in the future, even if that future doesn’t involve them staying at your organization. While it can be intimidating to start up these conversations, it is important to know what employees want in order to engage them effectively. As Nelson put it:

“Leading into tomorrow, management and training need to be very much individualized – to be very, very clear what choices existing employees have for training and where they want to go.”

Digital Tools That Tie It All Together

When it comes to attracting, engaging, and retaining top talent, digital tools play an essential role in many of these strategies. Both Terros Health and Coleman Professional Services rely on DATIS for their HR and Payroll software, which helps keep employee information, talent management strategies, and budgeting and reporting resources all in one location. This software and other tools can help employees throughout the organization collaborate effectively, share information, and rally behind the organization’s mission.

At the end of the day, these digital tools can enable you to easily and efficiently view and manage your workforce, freeing up you and your team to focus on the people that are working to drive the organization forward.

Written by Kristen McPherson

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