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How to Not Lose Employees

December 18, 2017

All of a sudden you realize more of your employees are leaving.

You need to solve the retention puzzle, ASAP.

We’re here today to hear from Todd Tangeman, the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Human Resources Officer for Newton Medical Center, a hospital in north central Kansas with about 700 employees.

This episode of Healthcare Simplified is going deviate a bit from the traditional medical arena and dive into a very, very critical HR discussion.

Folks who work in healthcare are in that role because they’re fulfilling a calling in their lives to care for people. So when you talk about retention, you’re talking about the opposite of turnover.

How do you help healthcare professionals want to care for people at your hospital as opposed to anywhere else?

What We Talk About When We Talk About Retention

“Retention is really the positive side of turnover,” Tangeman said.

People want to know, What’s your turnover? Meaning, how many people are leaving or quitting? “I like to look at it on the flip side—the positive side—which is, What’s your retention?” Tangeman said. “How many people are you keeping or retaining?”

This is a thing that employers care about a lot. It’s a business factor.

Retention represents a lot of value. “There are costs associated with hiring and training and on-boarding folks,” Tangeman said. “There’s a cost when good members leave.”

Here’s the train of thought that ends up striking every HR that’s ever been asked what to do about retention.

At Newton Medical Center, Tangeman said they face the question of why people are departing with a big-picture look at the whole employee experience.

“When we look at that employee overall experience, we see it’s not when they leave. It’s when they’re here, when they’re working,” Tangeman said.

Is there more? Yes—it could even be their experience as a candidate, when they’re getting hired.

“This overall employee experience is a continuum that starts when they start looking at us as a potential candidate,” Tangeman said.

Retention touches every point of an employee’s encounter—maybe even before they’ve applied. They’re just checking you out because they heard something about you that made them think they’d like to work there.

The retention puzzle starts before your employee is even part of your team.

“Is there something that we can do intentionally so that no matter where someone engages—whether it’s as they’re starting as a candidate or whether they have been with us for several years—that experience that they have with us is such that they want to stay?” Tangeman said.

Pieces of the Retention Puzzle

Some of the factors of retention are giant. And how they influence each other is incredibly complex.

1) Department leaders

You’ve heard the axiom: People join companies, but they need managers.

It’s kind of true. The person managing a team has a huge impact on them.

“As we look at what are we doing with our employee experience, the manager is one factor,” Tangeman said.

Obviously, creating a team climate that focuses on providing excellent care for people is one of the most influential issues in retention.

2) Team members

Newsflash: There are other people on teams.

Sometimes they love new coworkers and are super welcoming. Other times they can be harsh on a new team member.

“The tone and the tenor of the team might make or break a new employee’s experience or make or break an existing employee’s experience,” Tangeman said.

3) The individual

The employee is not just an innocent bystander waiting for the manager to take care of their needs or waiting for the team to include them.

“Each of us of course brings our own perspective attitude to our work environment,” Tangeman said.

The employee’s skills, values, perspective, resilience, and motivation are not just happening in a vacuum. It’s a complex network of interactions that makes up a team of 7, much less 700.

“These are factors that will add to a person’s success and their choice to either stay or leave,” Tangeman said.

This is the framework of the problem that HR is trying to tackle.

- What can we do to help our managers to be successful in their role?

- What can we do to help teams welcome new team members and support each other?

- What can we do to help team members individually as they come on board as they begin to integrate and operate as a member of the team?

These three pieces have to connect in just the right way to create an experience that makes people want to stay.

“It’s an experience that is compelling, that is attractive to folks who want to come be a part of who we are and what we’re doing, to stay in, and to continue living out their mission in support of our mission,” Tangeman said. “So that’s a lot.”

Helping Folks Be Their Best: Analysis

Just like a coach pulls the best out of players, HR wants employees to do their best work—and be fulfilled.

“How do we help our folks to be their best,” Tangeman said. “It’s the vision that we have for building out and implementing and making this people strategy really a part of our culture.”

In order to do that, Tangeman uses a matrix to explore the influence of each of the three factors above on each of the three stages of an employee’s lifecycle: applicant, candidate, and ongoing engagement.

So this way you come up with a 3x3 spreadsheet with a bunch of empty cells—or potential.

“Our approach is to begin to fill in the boxes,” Tangeman explained.

You could think about the individual applicant box in terms of motivation.

- National unemployment rate 4.9%

- Healthcare unemployment rate 2.3%

- Hospital unemployment rate 1.3%

“The demand for healthcare workers is increasing,” Tangeman said. “Yet they’re already capped out—most are already employed.”

That means candidates aren’t going to spend a lot of time on the job hunt. In fact, they’re looking for information that takes the fewest clicks on their mobile devices.

“We looked at our own application process,” Tangeman said. The 30 questions they had were a carryover from paper applications.

“So we shortened our list to just seven quick questions—to give us enough to have a conversation with somebody,” he said.

Bringing that kind of examination to each of the nine boxes will really shed some light on what’s going on with retention.

Helping Folks Be Their Best: Culture

It all boils down to the mission statement.

The values of the hospital have to permeate every step of an employee’s experience so that the employee knows what you see is what you get.

This is the idea behind the term employment brand.

“People are looking for more than just the job of tasks,” Tangeman said. “They’re looking for a place that aligns with their own values.”

It’s important to convey who we are, what we do, and why we do it—especially online.

Employees today don’t care so much that Newton Medical Center is a 103 bed hospital. They want to know what the work culture is like.

Such as the impression created by the first day of work, the first day orientation process. If all you’re doing for the employee is making them fill out a zillion forms and listen to a six-hour lecture on safety, well, they don’t love that.

“I want someone to go home after their first day and tell their friend or their spouse or their kids, Man, I love working at Newton Medical Center. I can just tell because the first day was great. I know I made a good choice in choosing to work there,” Tangeman said. “That’s the target.”

Closely examining milestones in the employee lifecycle (guided by the matrix) can really help to show the employee what kind of culture your hospital is really committed to.

“We’ve got to be relevant,” he said. “We’ve got to be meaningful for the employee experience.”

If you’re an employer struggling with this idea of improving retention and reducing turnover, you're not alone.


Get in touch with Tangeman by email at The strategies he’s been using are really showing a difference in retention.

Thanks for listening to Healthcare Simplified! Tune into Healthcare Simplified by subscribing to the show on iTunes or your favorite podcast player.

Until next time!


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