Five Ways to Address and Reduce Staff Turnover

Turnover plagues even the greatest physicians, and it ultimately affects everything from practice-patient relationships to the day-to-day work environment in the office—including the bottom line. Therefore, finding ways to reduce staff turnover should be a crucial part of your practice management strategy, but especially if you have plans to expand the size of your staff to accommodate an increased patient load in 2014.

Cultivating a practice culture that emphasizes loyalty, trust, and respect among the staff will go a long way to reducing turnover rates. But beyond that, there are a number of tactics you can employ from a management and human resources perspective as well. By putting these processes in place, you’ll make better hiring decisions, quickly pinpoint any issues that must be addressed, and inspire higher levels of performance from your entire staff.

Here are five specific courses of action to get you started:

Assess Your Turnover Rate

The rule of thumb for calculating your staff turnover rate is to divide the number of employees who’ve quit during the past five years by the total number of employees you’ve employed during that same time period. Multiply the result by 100. While a 15 percent turnover rate is reasonable within five years’ time, 20 percent or more is considered high; the causes of these staff departures should be looked into further and addressed immediately.

Zero In on the Main Issues

It can be tough to get your staff to open up about what’s not working. Thus, maintaining an environment of open communication is key. To foster this, you should encourage and uphold informal channels of communication, such as daily interactions and regular staff meetings.

On a more formal note, you might try utilizing quarterly or semiannual surveys with your staff.  But if you do, be sure that you respond to your employees’ feedback appropriately and within a timely manner. Another idea is to perform exit interviews with all staff members who leave the practice. (A sample exit survey, job description questionnaire, and other helpful tools can be downloaded from the AAFP website.) When done right, these forums provide honest feedback that will help you pinpoint your problem areas as well as your biggest potential areas of growth.

Evaluate Your Hiring Process

A strong employee retention rate starts with a strong and effective hiring process. When evaluating potential candidates, make sure they not only have the necessary qualifications and training to fill the role, but also the character traits that will fit within the culture of your practice. Also consider whether or not your current hiring process—the posted job description, the application form, and how you conduct your interviews—is conducted in a way that will highlight or draw out those particular aspects of each applicant and help you make sound hiring decisions. If not, then it’s time to revise your methods.

Focus on Individual Strengths and Development

Employee development begins from the first day on the job. A formalized orientation will help new staff members understand their day-to-day job requirements, as well as the culture of the practice. And it will also increase consistency of staff conduct, which is a big contributing factor to high turnover rates.

Tap into the individual strengths and interests of each of your employees. Find out what motivates them. Encourage professional growth through access to seminars, networking, leadership opportunities, and cross-training exercises. When your staff is learning and supporting one another, you’ll foster a greater sense of loyalty and boost morale.

Provide Feedback and Recognition

Encouragement is crucial to the success of any work environment, and recognizing a job well done is beneficial for both the physician and his or her staff. Informal conversations are a great way to sustain open communication and provide feedback to your staff, as are regularly scheduled performance reviews. These meetings carve out time and space for you and your employee to note progress, set goals, and offer suggestions for future growth, thereby ensuring that your employees feel appreciated and know their opinions are valued.

While promoting a positive office culture is essential to employee satisfaction, taking these five steps will demonstrate to your staff that you care about what they think and do—which will ultimately lead to happy employees, a good working environment, and reduced turnover.


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