Hiring and Retention Strategies to Retain ‘A Players’

By Zach Donisch, Director, AEHIS, AEHIT, AEHIA Membership

Hiring and training new employees is a costly endeavor, one where retention of top performers can play a critical role in reducing the hit to budget and morale that high turnover often brings. Retention may be especially challenging in industries like healthcare, where the stress level can be high and the pay less competitive than in other, less demanding settings.

Even with entry-level or relatively unskilled labor, poor employee retention is detrimental to the bottom line and can cause a team’s morale to plummet. CBS News reported in a 2012 study that “the average cost of replacing an employee amounts to fully 20 percent of their annual salary.” When you consider productivity lost in interviewing, onboarding, and retraining new skills, finding ways to retain top employees in high-skill positions is critical to every healthcare IT shop.

Michael Ruiz, chief digital officer of MedStar Health, likes to emphasize the mission of healthcare and the IT employee’s role in advancing patient care. “You’re not just securing a database or posting an update to social media for our marketing team. You’re contributing to the care of a person.” he said.

It is the responsibility of the IT team’s leadership to help employees see how they fit into the continuum of care, he said. “We need to do a better job of showing them the role they play.”

The overall culture of a healthcare organization can be a magnet for attracting and retaining talent. An organization that rewards a healthy lifestyle, for instance, or supports a good work-life balance may appeal to like-minded IT staff. The use of perks such as onsite services like childcare or catered meals may offer a way to counter wage discrepancies in competitive labor markets.

Conversely, as a leader within your organization, you can’t let the cost and time of hiring and training buffalo you into inaction. As a leader, you’re responsible for the results of your department and personnel, something John Henderson, CIO of Children’s Hospital of Orange County, holds in high regard. “It’s not a scenario that you take lightly,” said Henderson, “but if [an employee] really can’t perform in their role, the longer you keep them the more damage it does to the team and to the morale.”

Realizing your place as a compassionate but competent leader within the lifecycle of a team is important not only for your ability to manage employee costs, but team morale as well. Hiring and firing is a delicate balance, hiring an artform with no masters and firing a decision with a murky sweet-spot. The best leaders get it right only some of the time. The better you are at finding this balance, the easier it will be to identify and retain top performers.

More AEHIT News Volume 1, No. 2:

Looking to contribute to the AEHITechnology Newsletter? Email your contributions to [email protected].