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A few weeks ago we talked about staff turnover in long-term care, particularly the phenomenon of the Great Resignation, or the recent wave of employees flexing their collective muscle by quitting their jobs in search of whatever was missing in their daily routine of earning a living. The issue was framed as an opportunity to solve this important problem by collaborating with your customers. After all, two (or more) heads are better than one, and maybe there’s a chance to solve a problem both sides are experiencing.

So what might that look like in real life? To begin, it appears that the jobs most in demand in nursing homes are direct care staff such as nursing assistants. For pharmacies, the position most likely to be vacant is pharmacy technician. Let’s imagine these are the job titles we want to focus on for retention and attraction.

Understand Why Staff Leaves – and Why They Would Stay

Are there a few prevalent reasons that large numbers of these employees quit or jump to a competitor? There is survey data that suggests most people leave because they’re looking for more money, but perhaps not as many as you might guess. A larger number are willing to work for less money if the position provides meaningful work.

So, what is “meaningful”? That depends on the individual, but it can include an environment where they are valued and have access to training, a career path leading to more responsibility, and the chance to mentor others.

To find out what your colleagues are looking for, consider a stay interview during which you ask probing questions to discover what you can do to keep them – or help make them – happier. Don’t assume anything, but instead verify that you actually understand what’s important to each person.

When both you and your nursing home counterpart have completed this process, schedule some time to get together and compare notes. Chances are there will be some common themes. Some team members will want structured training, others will prefer a career path that can lead them to positions of more responsibility within a defined period. For still others, a chance for a more flexible work schedule may be the answer to job longevity. Some staff may want to pursue a professional path that includes a nursing degree or Pharm.D. credentials. A few will insist that increased salary is the only thing that will keep them where they are.

Time to get creative.

Run – Together – with What You Learn

Did the results of the interviews surprise you? That’s likely. We frequently assume we know the answer to important questions, but when we take time for discovery, we find we are wrong. How different are the answers received by the pharmacy team from those by the nursing facility? Are there issues raised in one group but not raised at all in the other group?

Ideally, you now have lists of people in your organizations who value a career path and others who want a flexible schedule and still others who are looking for something else. Build a chart and enter the names of employees under the most desired work attribute. You may quickly realize that you have more opportunities to motivate staying than you considered.

Pharmacy Teamwork for the Win

Looking at your lists, can you and your counterpart work together to research available resources that help deliver the kind of experiences your employees want? You may be able to create content curriculum together or even split the cost of development if you need to bring in a professional.

Rolling out the new programs can be another opportunity for collaboration as you promote your partnership for a happier workforce. Sharing progress reports, troubleshooting the rough spots, and making changes that improve your outcomes are all part of the management process.

So, what’s the desired outcome on this? First, that your pharmacy gets a more dedicated, happier team. Turnover gets lower and productivity improves. That goes for your client collaborator as well. The side effect nearly as valuable is the camaraderie and sense of shared success that grows from you and your customer working together and seeing something useful emerge. That makes for the best kind of stickiness.

The X Factors to Collaborating for Long-Term Care Staff Retention

  • Commit to acting: Hoping staff turnover will slow down and eventually return to normal is not reasonable, given the dynamics of the workforce.
  • Commit to listening: Nothing telegraphs that you care more than taking the time to talk to the people you rely on. That act alone can begin to bring things around.
  • Commit to collaborating: Engaging a customer partner to work on this together sharpens the process, provides encouragement, and establishes accountability.

Would you consider reaching out to a client about teaming up on staff retention? What would motivate you – or make you hesitate? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Written by: Paul Baldwin, Baldwin Health Policy Group
Paul’s pharmaceutical industry experience in public and government affairs led to becoming Executive Director of the Long Term Care Pharmacy Alliance, helping lead the industry through the Medicare Modernization Act and creation of the prescription drug benefit. Paul was VP of Public Affairs for Omnicare before founding Baldwin Health Policy Group.
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