Accelerating Workforce Retention: New Strategies for Nurse Executives
In the Spring of 2023, Nursing Catalyst researchers examined top-performing med-surg units with low turnover to better define successful retention in 2023 and understand if traditional retention strategies, including Magnet principles, are still impactful.
By re-examining nursing’s forces of magnetism, Nursing Catalyst is equipping nurse executives with critical insights to inform retention strategy. Among these learnings, Personalization and Responsiveness emerge as top strategic considerations when applying retention strategies.
While the professional expectations of nurses have not changed much in recent years, their patience in waiting for health system leaders to align accordingly has. Nursing Catalyst researchers found that top-performing nurse managers from med-surg units with turnover well below the national average – around 8% per unit – utilize personalization and responsiveness as two new ideals at the core of a modern retention philosophy. While traditional strategies, such as recognition, career pathing, and flexible scheduling, work to some degree, the impact is limited when applied in mass. Rather, nurse managers are acutely aware of the need to individualize their approach to staff.
Here’s what nurse executives should know about deploying Personalization and Responsiveness to accelerate workforce retention:
Top Insights for Nurse Executives to Boost Workforce Retention
Top-performing nurse managers know both the specific needs and goals of their individual employees and tailor classic retention strategies to those needs. For example, to personalize their approach to shift schedules, flexibility that aligns with childcare responsibilities and/or consider school calendars is offered in lieu of rigid shift lengths.
Managers also disproportionately prioritize personalization in high-impact areas, such as:
- New nurse onboarding, growth and development
- Connection to purpose
- Re-centering employee humanity in a work environment
- Recognizing milestones
- Resourcing and advocating
- Enforcing self-care
In areas where personalization is not a prudent strategic approach, nurse managers become responsive to concerns instead, demonstrating a continued willingness to advocate for staff needs.
“I try to be transparent that [compensation] is out of my control; I can share their concerns to our executive leaders but that is the span of my control,” Nurse Manager
For example, when staff express dissatisfaction with compensation, an area in which nurse managers are advised not to approach with personalization, managers instead make staff feel heard, explain the organization’s philosophy regarding compensation, and elevate their concerns to senior leadership.
Nurse executives should note that when compensation is a significant factor driving organizational loyalty, responsiveness to compensation concerns alone may be inadequate and result in staff departure. However, generally, responsiveness is an effective retention strategy for most unit staff – especially when combined with tailored support in key areas. Responsiveness, therefore, is a critical tactic for nurse managers to display a nuanced approach to staff needs.
“Accountability doesn’t disappear when we make time for fun— attendance, timeliness, documenting, etc. I’m very clear about expectations while still getting to know my staff members,” Nurse Manager
With more and more falling to unit leadership, nurse executives can accelerate workforce retention by ensuring managers have facetime on their units to engage with staff. This isn’t easy given managers’ scope of responsibilities but will be critical for any system looking to measurably impact nurse retention.
How Nursing Catalyst Can Help
The Health Management Academy’s Nursing Catalyst program accelerates innovation by supporting nurse leaders as they pilot tests of change in their units, and by providing executive-level research and idea-sharing to develop disruptive solutions to nursing enterprise challenges.
Our members are experiencing success in implementation – isn’t it time for a different solution in your health system?
Learn more about Nursing Catalyst.