5 team building practices that will make your staff WANT to stay (LTL mag online)

Here’s my latest article in Long-Term Living Magazine online:

5 team building practices that will make your staff WANT to stay

According to a 2011 American Health Care Association study, the average nursing home turnover rate is 35 percent for all staff and 43 percent for CNAs. By contrast, Fortune magazine reports that the 100 best companies to work for in 2011 had a turnover rate of 3 percent or less. Clearly, most nursing homes are in need of staff retention strategies. One of these strategies is team building, which has a “long term positive relationship between employee morale and retention.” When it comes to building a team, forget corporate retreats and singing “Kumbaya” around the campfire. Here are five practical, easy-to-incorporate strategies you can use at your nursing stations starting today.

1. Develop a clearly communicated larger purpose for your organization.

Give people a reason to show up for work beyond their paycheck. If you were asked to fill in the “X” of the statement, “We do X here,” what would your answer be? Is your facility goal getting a great survey? While that may be energizing for you, it’s not likely to be motivating for most of your staff. Generate a vision that excites the team. For example, Signature Healthcare, which ranked in Modern Healthcare’s top 100 best places to work in 2009 and 2010, states that part of its mission is to “earn the trust of every resident, family and community we serve.” A staff member can use this barometer to make decisions about how to handle situations, i.e., “Is this going to earn trust?” A vision for a company or facility dedicated to addressing the mental health as well as the physical health of its residents could be, “We treat the whole person,” giving staff the impetus to care for both the physical illness and the emotional distress it causes. Elaborate upon ways in which your “X” is accomplished through your mission statement, employee training, staff recognition programs, and other communications.

2. Recognize staff members who further the organization’s values.

Whether or not your facility has developed a specific mission, there are certain qualities that stand out as desirable and create an environment more conducive to staff retention, such as teamwork, helping others and kindness. Staff recognition programs provide an opportunity to promote qualities that are valued within an organization. They are the “carrot” to the “stick” of disciplinary action. Schools use this technique when, for example, they discourage bullying by presenting their students with award certificates for “helping” or “caring.” Similarly, LTC facilities can offer kudos of varying types (certificates, gift certificates, parking spaces, free lunches, first choice of holiday schedule, etc.) for good customer service, going the extra mile for the team, helping a coworker care for a resident, and other valuable contributions. Employee recognition can be done on a facility-wide or unit-by-unit basis, allowing for great flexibility and the opportunity to institute this tool immediately.  For example, a charge nurse inspired by this idea could ask in the next change-of-shift report: “Let’s try to encourage each other.  Did anyone notice any good qualities about a coworker today?”

3. Help new employees integrate into the team.

For more, visit LTL mag online: 5 team building practices that will make your staff WANT to stay

2 thoughts on “5 team building practices that will make your staff WANT to stay (LTL mag online)”

  1. Dr. El,

    Once again, you have provided us with a collection of clear cut ideas on how we can improve life in the nursing home for both staff members and residents.

    While all are important, I particularly like number 1, which would give each individual staff person a barometer for measuring their interactions and actions against facility goals.

    Awesome! Thank you.

  2. Thanks, Sue. Giving staff members a clear sense of direction can be very helpful in decision-making on a day-to-day basis and unifying as an organization. It can also appeal to residents and families looking for a facility that meets their needs.


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