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How to Improve Retention Rates During the Great Resignation

In: Industry Insights

Updated: Tuesday, July 26, 2022 @ 10:48pm

How to Improve Retention Rates During the Great Resignation

In the late 20s and early 30s, America faced the Great Depression. From the end of 2007 to 2009, it was the Great Recession. Now, we’re in the midst of the next “Great,” which has been called the Great Resignation.

Here is an explanation of what this term means, a few of the reasons why employees are leaving their jobs at alarming rates, and the actions you can take to help boost the retention rates within your healthcare business.

The Great Resignation: What Does This Mean?

The Great Resignation is a phrase used to refer to the large number of people who are leaving their jobs amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also sometimes referred to as “the Big Quit.”

On December 8, 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 5.9 million Americans separated from their jobs in October of 2021, with 4.2 million of these separations due to employees quitting, representing a 2.8% quit rate.1 In this report, the BLS added that the total number of employee separations occurring over the previous 12 months totals more than 68 million.

Healthcare is among the hardest hit with approximately 690,000 separations in the health care and social assistance industries in October alone – and that’s in addition to the 717,000 separations the month before.2

Not only can a high quit rate put your business in a position where it is difficult to provide products and/or services effectively, but this level of mass-leaving can also have a negative impact on your company financially. The average cost of replacing an employee is somewhere between one-half and double that position’s annual salary, if not more.3 If you’re filling a lot of positions at once, this expense can quickly add up.

Plus, when employees leave, they take their skills and experience with them. Long-term employees are assets to a company in terms of their ability to help guide future plans or mentor and train new staff while being in a good position to be cross-trained to better support more business functions.4 If they leave, all of these benefits leave with them.

Why Do Employees Leave?

Many theories exist about why employees are deciding to leave their jobs as the COVID-19 numbers continue to fluctuate between surges and drops. Some experts suggest that it isn’t just one issue driving this trend, but more likely that “several converging issues are at play,” such as:5

  • Women, who are still largely the primary childcare providers, having to be home to care for their kids
  • Changes in immigration numbers, leaving job openings that this demographic typically tends to fill
  • Fear of the virus, causing some employees to not feel comfortable enough to rejoin the workforce

Others believe that the Great Resignation is more a consequence of people “reevaluating their priorities and values” during the pandemic, which is ultimately causing them to leave their positions in search of jobs (and employers) that offer them more.6 Put another way, they expect more from their employers than they feel they are currently getting in return, and they’re no longer willing to put their mental or physical health at risk for less than they deserve.

Another theory suggests that the reason employees are leaving their jobs in record numbers is rather simple: They know that there are more job openings than workers to fill them, so they’re willing to leave their current position in search of one that offers better pay, more flexible hours, the ability to remote work, and more.7

How to Keep Employee Retention Up

Although there is no real consensus behind what is driving the Great Resignation, there are a few things you can do to help retain the employees that you do have, which also means retaining their knowledge, skills, and experience. Here are a few to consider.

Offer Competitive Wages

If you were looking for a job and two positions require that you perform the same job tasks yet one pays more, which one are you more likely to take? Your answer to this question outlines the importance of offering competitive wages. If your pay scale is lower than your competitors, you may be losing employees based on this factor alone.

To determine how competitive your pay is, do a search of job openings in your area for the same positions that you have in your company. Make note of what other companies are paying, then compare them to the wages that you offer at your business. If there’s a major difference in the numbers, you may benefit from raising employee pay.

Optimize Employee Benefits

Offering a long list of employee benefits can do more than reduce turnaround rates or attract the best talent. It also helps lead to a more productive workforce, better workplace morale, and even healthier staff.8

When considering the benefits your business provides, think beyond some of the more common options such as health insurance, disability insurance, life insurance, and paid days off work. If you offer employees reduced rates for memberships at fitness facilities, at-work massages once a month, in-house childcare, or any other perks, these are important too.

This is another area where it helps to stay competitive. Research what other healthcare businesses in your region offer by way of benefits and aim to do the same, if not more. It’s also helpful to remember that not every employee is motivated by the same benefits, so the more diverse you can make your offerings, the better.

Build a Strong Company Culture

Company culture is defined as “the set of behavioral and procedural norms that can be observed within a company – which includes its policies, procedures, ethics, values, employee behaviors and attitudes, goals and code of conduct.”9 It’s essentially a reflection of the type of work environment that exists within your company’s doors, also sometimes referred to as its personality.

The thing about company culture is that it doesn’t just happen; it is something that is built. How do you build a culture that makes employees want to stay? There are a few options:10

  • Define your mission, vision, and core values so it is clear what your healthcare business stands for as well as how it intends to reach this goal.
  • Ask your employees what they want most in a workplace, then strive to implement ways to meet those needs.
  • Ask employees what in the workplace needs to change, then come up with ways to make those changes.
  • Seek feedback from your employees regularly to better identify whether your changes are working or if new ones need to be made.

Give Employees More Positive Feedback

It is often said that if you feel appreciated by your family and friends, you will go the extra mile for them because you know that they value what you do. Conversely, if your loved ones are always more focused on what you do wrong versus what you do right, it may de-motivate you to the point where you don’t do anything at all for them.

The same is true in business. When your employees feel as if you appreciate them, that you value their contributions to the workplace, they might feel more inclined to stay and continue to do a good job.

If someone in your healthcare business does a particular part of their job well or always seems to go above and beyond, let them know that you see them and appreciate all their hard work. You may even provide recognition publicly, such as giving them a shoutout in the weekly newsletter or at an annual employee recognition event. (Though, keep in mind that some people prefer to be recognized privately, so it may be best to get their permission first.)

Be Personable

The bigger the company, the harder it is to get to know every employee on a personal level. However, taking the initiative to do just that can help set your healthcare agency apart.

Get to know your employees and show interest in them as individuals. Ask managers to have regular one-on-ones with their staff to discuss how they’re feeling about their jobs and whether they have any feedback about the company as a whole or their particular department.

Taking this approach shows your employees that you see them as people versus being a number or just another staff member. And what do we do when people seem to be interested in us? We want to engage with them more.

Schedule Social Activities

Yes, your employees have a job to do. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t also offer them access to a few social activities throughout the year as well. Getting everyone together regularly can make them feel like part of a team. It also gives them the opportunities to create stronger friendships with their colleagues, making the workplace a more enjoyable place to be.

Plan a formal or informal event every few months to bring your employees together and help them create some positive memories along the way. This might include having a little get-together each month or quarter to celebrate all of those with birthdays during this time. Or you could hold an annual pre-holiday event to give time for your employees to blow off some steam before jumping into their own holiday preparations.

Create an Effective Onboarding Process

Another way to boost employee retention is to make sure that you’re hiring the right people in the first place. This means choosing people who are not just qualified for the open position but also a good fit for the company, which requires creating an effective onboarding process.

When interviewing potential candidates, talk about the company culture and what you want in an ideal job candidate. This helps the applicant determine whether they might fit in or if they’d be better off going with a different employer instead. It also enables you to set clear expectations upfront so the interviewee knows what to expect should they be hired.

It can also be helpful if your onboarding program includes pairing new hires with employees who’ve been with you for a long time. At a minimum, this gives the new staff someone to go to with any questions they may have or for some insight into how things work.

Additionally, if the longer-term employee notices any potential issues with the new hire, these issues can be addressed before they get worse. If the issues are severe enough, they may prompt you to let the new hire go before any major damage can be done.

Provide Opportunities for Advancement

While some employees step into a position and stay put, such as if it is their dream job, others are using that role as a stepping stone. They have another position that they are after and their current one is simply a means to an end.

To retain employees in the latter group, it’s important that they have the ability to advance. Prioritizing in-house hiring gives them something to work toward. This advancement could be to a higher-level role in the same general area of healthcare, such as going from a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) role to a Registered Nurse (RN) role once the necessary qualifications are met. It might also involve stepping up into a management position, giving them the opportunity to lead a team.

If your healthcare organization has limited role options, find ways to help employees advance themselves personally and professionally. Pay for them to attend training specific to their job. Or give them access to programs that can help them build skills that can benefit them both personally and professionally. This might include offering programs that teach them how to reduce their stress via healthy methods or ways to communicate more effectively with others.

Encourage a Healthy Work-Life Balance

People with poor work-life balance often have worse health, more fatigue, and are at a greater risk of misusing substances, and that’s in addition to having less quality time with family and friends.11 If employees suffer these effects long enough, they may go in search of a job that gives them the balance they desire, reducing if not eliminating all these negative effects.

Give employees access to ample time off throughout the year and encourage them to use their available time. Though this may seem like it would hurt your business due to a reduced staff, giving employees time to recharge their batteries enables them to return to work with more energy and a more positive attitude, which benefits them health-wise while also creating a better workplace.

Moving Forward Amidst the Great Resignation

It’s hard to say what the future will hold, especially until we can safely say that we have made it through the worst of the pandemic. Though, this doesn’t mean that you are helpless to the current employment trends.

At Ultimate Medical Academy (UMA), one of our goals is to connect our healthcare employer partners with the knowledgeable and skilled employees they need to help operate their businesses effectively and efficiently. Taking actions such as the ones mentioned above can help you retain your current talent while also potentially making you more attractive to qualified job applicants – enabling to you do both!


1 Bureau of Labor Statistics. Economic News Release. Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/jolts.nr0.htm

2] Bureau of Labor Statistics. Economic News Release. Job Openings, Hires, and Total Separations by Industry, Seasonally Adjusted. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/jolts.a.htm

3 Gallup. This Fixable Problem Costs U.S. Businesses $1 Trillion. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/247391/fixable-problem-costs-businesses-trillion.aspx

4 SHRM. Leveraging Long Tenure.” https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/pages/0507tyler.aspx

5 Business Insider. The Truth Behind the Great Resignation: Americans Are Sick of Low-Paying, Dangerous Jobs and They’re Fighting for Better. https://www.businessinsider.com/great-resignation-labor-shortage-major-issues-causes-2021-11

6 WTTW. Behind ‘The Great Resignation’ of Americans Quitting Their Jobs in Records Numbers. https://news.wttw.com/2021/11/15/behind-great-resignation-americans-quitting-their-jobs-record-numbers

7 Forbes. The Incredibly Simple Reason Behind the Great Resignation. https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizelting/2021/11/11/the-incredibly-simple-reason-behind-the-great-resignation/

8 Business.org. Top 5 Reasons to Offer Employee Benefits. https://www.business.org/hr/benefits/top-reasons-to-offer-employee-benefits/

9 Indeed for Employers. What Is Company Culture? https://www.indeed.com/hire/c/info/business-in-culture

10 Business News Daily. Why You Need to Create a Fantastic Workplace Culture. https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/15840-create-a-great-company-culture.html

11 Mayo Clinic. Work-Life Balance: Tips to Reclaim Control. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/work-life-balance/art-20048134


The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ultimate Medical Academy.

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