ASHHRA: 'Jerk Bosses' Derail Nurse Retention Strategies

John Commins, September 13, 2011

The best nurse recruiting and retention plans on the planet are no match for a "jerk boss."

"Jerk bosses have one common quality --people don't trust them," says Dick Finnegan, CEO of C-Suite Analytics, and the author of Retention Rethinking.

"If you can't close that gap, you are on an island trying to make these programs work. How many times have you heard an employee say 'I don't like it here, but if I can just hold on until employee appreciation week'?,'" Finnegan told a full room at the 47th annual convention of the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration in Phoenix, AZ.

For recruiting and retention plans to succeed, Finnegan says, so-called jerk bosses must be identified and they must be held directly accountable for the turnover of people under them. He suggests that HR set specific retention goals for supervisors, and conduct exit interviews with those supervisors every time they lose an employee.

Job turnover is a tremendous cost driver in healthcare. There is a 27% turnover rate for first-year nurses. That can be reduced, Finnegan says, if employers understand what motivates workers to stay. It's not a fear of the recession or unemployment because the unemployment rate for college graduates is about 4.5%, and nurses are in particularly high demand.

What gets workers to stay, he says, is not more money but a belief that they are getting something "unique" from an organization, that they are well-matched with their jobs, and that their supervisors have built a trusting relationship that fosters retention."

Finnegan offered seven steps to improve retention.

1. Get the C-suite on your side by quantifying the cost of turnover in dollars, not percentages. Make sure that the CEO and the CFO understand the direct and indirect costs of turnover." Once you have a number they can back, they get it," Finnegan says.

2. Provide monthly reports on retention and name names. Identify the supervisors who are not making retention goals, and make sure they understand the costs of not meeting those goals.

3. Change the hiring process. Make sure that your supervisors conduct structured, competency-based interviews. "HR is highly structured but interviewing managers aren't," Finnegan says. "Teach them to probe based on the answers they get. Don't let lousy hiring managers make lousy hiring decisions."

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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