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Workforce at Risk: Addressing Healthcare’s High Turnover Rates for Executives

Mike Supple BE Smith

Increasing workforce turnover is a significant challenge as healthcare organizations battle to maintain momentum while building the high-performing and collaborative teams required in today’s healthcare industry. The industry has kept a watchful eye on turnover over the years. However, despite the increased attention, turnover rates have climbed to record highs and show little sign of subsiding.

A recent study by Compdata places the average overall turnover rate for healthcare employers at about 19%. The American College of Healthcare Executive’s survey on CEO turnover is similar. It shows the CEO turnover rate holding steady at 18% for the last three years, just shy of the record high of 20% set in 2013. Nursing, physicians, and positions in post-acute care are also seeing significant job turnover.

Key Factors Driving Turnover

Experts are attributing the increase in healthcare’s turnover rates to several factors, including:

  • Industry consolidation
  • Increasingly competitive talent market
  • Wave of executive retirements
  • Influx of professionals exploring interim and consulting career opportunities
  • Changing leadership requirements and evolving roles

Strategies to Overcome Leadership Turnover

However, there is good news for healthcare organizations. Some providers are realizing success in overcoming and reducing the impact of leadership turnover. These providers approach turnover not in isolation, but as three interrelated strategies. Those strategies are recruitment, retention, and engagement.

Identifying and hiring the right executives is the first line of defense in preventing turnover. These steps can help organizations overcome what has become one of their biggest challenges, access to high quality talent.

  • Evaluate role changes and account for appropriate competencies
  • Cast a wide net and be open to candidates with non-traditional backgrounds or career tracks
  • Maintain an emphasis on search diversity, particularly gender, ethnic, and generational
  • Utilize interim executives to provide leadership, as well as maintain strategic direction and momentum

Improvements in recruiting will only be sustainable with an equally strong focus on retention. Healthcare organizations that are unable to secure top talent long-term will be unable to maintain momentum.

  • Develop a strong onboarding plan for new hires to position them for success
  • Monitor employee satisfaction and develop programs to positively impact staff approval and happiness
  • Evaluate the leadership style of all executives and identify opportunities for continuous improvement

Retentionis intimately linked with engagement. Satisfied, motivated employees are more loyal, making it harder for outside organizations to entice them away. There are many ways to influence engagement, but two strategies are of particular importance.

  • Offer career advancement opportunities
  • Develop a strong succession planning program, spanning the entire organization and all levels of staff

The Importance of Culture

Additionally, organizational culture is an element that transcends recruitment, retention, and engagement, significantly impacting all three. It is vital for healthcare executives to make it a priority to build a strong culture that values staff, offers engaging work, as well a chance to provide input and influence organizational direction.

Finding the Right Partner

While turnover is on the rise and can be disruptive to the strategic, clinical, and financial outcomes, healthcare executives do not have to navigate their organizations through these challenges alone. Healthcare recruitment firms can provide support and be a powerful partner in securing long-term success. But it takes the right relationship with a firm that shares your best interests and can provide solutions for all your leadership needs, both immediate and long-term.

For more information on strategies to overcome leadership turnover, check out B.E. Smith’s latest white paper - Turnover to Triumph.