Five ways to keep talented NHS staff

Health Service Journal published  Five ways to keep talented NHS staff >>

Valuing staff will help ensure the NHS retains its talent pool, rather than leaving staff demotivated and looking to move into the private sector, says James Brook

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has recently pledged to cut the £3.3bn yearly cost of staff hired by the NHS on a temporary basis. He is imposing a cap on rates for temporary nursing staff and aims to extend this maximum rate to include doctors, managerial and administrative staff.

Hunt’s proposal, which is expected to save £400m a year, seems to be a short term solution to the well publicised and long term problems of hiring and retaining staff in the NHS.

‘Training programmes with an emphasis on strengths result in a more engaged workforce’
The existing workforce is overstretched and under immense pressure at a time of heightened tension surrounding healthcare in the UK.

Public scrutiny is rife after a series of investigations, including the Mid Staffordshire scandal, and recent criticisms over the running of accident and emergency departments. So how can the NHS boost morale to ensure talent management doesn’t end up in A&E?

Five things need to be done:

  • focus on strength
  • appreciate employees
  • connect with employees
  • allow employees to make meaningful contributions
  • build a positive, motivational work culture

Focus on strengths

It is proven that training programmes with an emphasis on strengths result in a more satisfied, engaged and productive workforce. All individuals have natural strengths – characteristics that energise them and help them to perform to their best ability.

‘All individuals have natural strengths’
By identifying these areas of natural strength and supporting employees to stretch their capabilities in areas in which they are more likely to excel, organisations like the NHS can instill a culture of positive working which drives success and engagement.

Enabling employees to combine their strengths, skills and abilities not only empowers them to achieve their goals, but also provides an understanding of how to mitigate weaknesses, overdone strengths (strengths that are used in the wrong way or at the wrong time) and other risks to performance in the face of stress or change.

Appreciate employees

Employees who are appreciated by their employers are more likely to stay in the workplace, meaning that a focus on value is crucial.

Recognition is vital in creating an environment where employees feel their contribution to organisational performance is acknowledged.

‘The returns of transparent performance related financial rewards can outweigh the expense of losing talent’
Even when budgets are tight, the returns of fair and transparent performance related financial rewards can by far outweigh the expense of losing talent.

Implementing simple recognition schemes that are of little or no cost to the NHS will also vastly improve retention. For example, establishing internal awards for exceptional performance and training managers to spot and praise their employees for outstanding effort and results would reduce the pressures that often cause high attrition rates.

Connect with employees

An in-depth understanding of employee aspirations and needs is essential to ensure they are satisfied and engaged. Regular one to one meetings or performance feedback sessions help establish a closer connection between managers and their people.

Creating a forum where areas of difficulty can be discussed in an open, honest dialogue enables organisations to address concerns and development needs immediately. Enabling employees to interact socially also fulfills the human need for social support.

Through the introduction of spaces at work for informal meet ups, social networks and events, the NHS can create a sense of union and community among its workforce.

Meaningful staff contributions

Employees who feel they are actively involved in the running of their business are more likely to be committed to its success. Communication is instrumental in inspiring dedication, and it is especially important in larger workforces where employees can feel lost.

‘The NHS can create a more meaningful connection with its people’
Aligning individual and team goals with the organisational vision for the future provides employees with a tangible link between their own priorities and those of the company. By making goals something in which individuals can personally invest and to which they can contribute, the NHS will create a deeper and more meaningful connection with its people.

Build a positive work culture

Fostering a culture in which the development and fulfillment of existing employees is prioritised has a more effective long term impact than filling the gaps left by demotivated, disengaged talent.

Taking a strengths focused approach gives employees a sharper awareness of what their strengths are and how to optimise them. This provides the tools needed to encourage positive coaching conversations in which achievements and areas for development can be discussed openly.

‘A dramatic shift in strategy is needed to break this expensive and destructive cycle of loss’
Whether deployed in a one to one environment or as part of daily responsibilities, this mindset will create a culture of energy and motivation, continuously boosting engagement and success in the NHS.

Although the issues facing the NHS are sizeable, the national institution needs to rethink its current approach to the widely publicised retention challenges it faces. As fast as it invests in the recruitment and training of new talent, underlying problems are causing existing employees to leave.

A dramatic shift in strategy is needed to break this expensive and destructive cycle of loss. By establishing a culture in which individual strengths are recognised and rewarded, the NHS can once more aspire to excellence and keep talent management firmly away from the doors of A&E.