I was working with a long term care facility a little while ago that had horrendous turnover of nurses and aids – over 50% annually. Drilling down to learn more about turnover, I asked several questions about the culture and what made the particular organization stand out from its competitors.
The focus went immediately to the physical amenities for the residents and other perks. There was lots of stuff people could point at to attract new residents, but not once did the HR manager mention the staff as an asset.
Now, mind you:
This is long term care where relationships between staff and residents are key satisfiers for both the residents and the family members. This sent up a big red flag.
When I asked the HR director why she thought turnover was so high she said, “It’s the industry. People will leave us in a heartbeat for 25 more cents per hour. We can’t compete with that.”
My question back to her was, “What would this organization have to do in order to create such intense staff loyalty that employees would stay in their positions even if the competition could pay a bit more?”
After a moment of silence, she said, “I don’t think that is possible. People will always leave for a quarter per hour.” Perhaps this HR manager was a big part of the problem. Since she truly believed that money was the main loyalty-builder, nothing would change.
The truth is:
Although people want a competitive wage, they also want to work in an organization that values them and where they know they can make a difference. It’s all about culture.
Staff Tells the story
During focus groups with the staff, they talked about what is most important to them about their work. Nearly every person talked about wanting to make a difference for the residents they serve.
I also asked what inspires them to do good work. Not one person spoke of money. What they crave is recognition from their supervisors and a respectful, mission-driven organization. These crucial elements, they felt, were missing from the culture.
It’s easy to point at salaries when it comes to explaining turnover. But I contend that if leaders take time to create and sustain a culture of respect, recognition and ownership, great things will happen. I’ve seen it.