Is staff retention important?

This is one of those seemingly obvious questions, but it is deeper than it may appear at first sight. Whilst clearly losing staff is associated with concerns about the loss of experience, loss of investment & skills from the training provided and of course the substantial replacement costs (currently over a thousand pounds for a nurse in the NHS). Though some turnover is a good thing as it enables the replacement of the less well performing and is an opportunity to bring new talent into organisations. The trick is to get the right level of staff retention and a manageable optimum turnover rate.

I’m minded of the conversation between the Finance Director and the Chief Executive in relation to investing in staff health and wellbeing: the cautious Finance Director at a time of austerity expresses concern by saying “what if we spend money investing in staff health, and they leave and go and work for a competitor”, the sage Chief Executive responds “But what if we don’t and they stay as underperforming sick!”.

It is a question of balance and it is clear that two factors can make a big difference to retention and reducing staff loss:

The Macleod review highlighted that high performing organisations have high engagement and low turnover and that “health and well-being was inextricably linked”. People are simply more likely to stay in organisations that they feel care about their health and well-being. Which is why it is so important that over the last five years the ‘NHS staff survey’ data has improved significantly in the proportion of NHS staff that do believe their employer cares.

The second factor that matters greatly is management capability. Poor interactions with a line manager, produce disengagement and a feeling of not being valued. “My manager could not be bothered or didn’t know how to” etc, good staff are more likely to not only stay but deliver more if they work for someone they respect and trust.

This is a key reason I joined Empactis as we are exploring ways of using the platform to ensure managers can deliver timely and effective support to their staff and to ensure that organisations don’t lose out on opportunities to increase engagement.

I have been privileged in recent weeks to participate in two NHS masterclasses – nurse retention is a significant challenge, especially with the economic uncertainty that Brexit is creating which impacts on the potential available labour pool. It has been inspiring to see HRDs and senior nurses, participating in sharing initiatives (often simple and sometimes with minimal cost) that can help improve retention.

I was particularly struck by “mum”, one trust has been using a senior and experienced nurse who is in the process of retiring, to work part time providing direct mentorship and support to new nurses starting their careers with the Trust, helping to reduce the period of acclimatisation and reducing the chances of loss. It works for “Mum” as she gets a rewarding role and a financial cushion as she goes into retirement and it works for the Trust in improving retention.

Support can be very simple but timely support delivered using expertise from those with experience is really important, technology has a big part to play in this as well as “Mum”!