As healthcare industry grows, first-year employee retention is critical

The healthcare industry remains one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the field will grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, adding nearly 2.3 million new jobs.

Healthcare organizations need to consider how to engage this influx of new hires, specifically within the first year of employment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average job tenure in health services can be as low as 2.6 years, and few organizations expand their onboarding efforts past six months, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Given that it can take between eight to 12 months for an employee to become established in their new position, a successful year-long onboarding effort is necessary to improve the chances of a healthcare employee staying with the organization beyond the average job tenure.

During the first year, healthcare leaders must invest in a culture of kindness, recognition, and mutual respect. These efforts can create a more engaged workforce and also naturally create a better experience for patients. Remembering the major employee recognition and engagement milestones that occur during an employee's first year is step one.


New employee onboarding should begin before day one. Preparing a new employee for their first day before they arrive with a branded welcome kit, an email or a personal call is a great way for organizations and managers to show they care while getting a jump-start on introducing company culture expectations.

First Few Days

On day one, the manager or someone else from the healthcare organization should greet the new employee in person, introduce them to colleagues, show them where amenities are located and provide any other onboarding materials. Additionally, first day lunch plans with the new team can help the employee settle in to their new position and get to know their team members.

During the first few days, employees should become acquainted with the staff. Announcing new hires during daily meetings and by email are good ways to introduce the employee and foster positive relationships.

The First Three Months

During an employee's first few months, it is important to introduce the company's recognition program to promote participation very early on in their tenure. This includes sharing participation goals, instructions and more detail about rewards offered. As anyone who has worked in a healthcare environment can attest to, there is no shortage of recognition-worthy actions that take place each day.

Northwell Health, the state of New York's largest health care provider and largest private employer, operates a service awards program for employees, as well as a points-based recognition program to encourage productivity and behavioral expectations. Northwell Health managers also have the ability to hand out spot recognition cards to better enable recognition in a busy and/or stressful work environments.

Often, the first few months of employment are the most difficult and when turnover is most likely to occur. By offering a comprehensive employee recognition program, organizations can have a clear path to engaging employees during this critical time.

Six-Month Mark

Gallup describes the six-month milestone as the end of the "honeymoon period." For many new employees this is when engagement begins to dip. Healthcare organizations can avoid this trend by keeping communication lines open, adapting feedback according to the employee's needs, and offering informal praise and feedback.

Nine-Month Mark

Management engagement with the new employee can lag at nine months, however, keeping employee-to-supervisor relationships strong as workers approach the first-year service anniversary can help create a better workplace experience.

At nine months, it is also important to check in and ensure the new employee is socializing well with the team. Regular, but informal, progress meetings can help determine whether new hires are engaged with the company and their work. Supervisors should seek out recognition opportunities across all shifts during their rounds and give meaningful rewards and feedback.

One-Year Service Anniversary

The earlier healthcare organizations begin creating a strong relationship with an employee, the better. Previously, the five-year mark was a common milestone to start a service award program, but today's workers – where Gen X and Gen Y employees make up nearly 70 percent of the workforce – need more timely feedback.

To acknowledge an employee's first work birthday, managers should celebrate the event with their respective teams/peer groups. Supervisors can offer their thanks, as well as a few words highlighting the employee's achievements. This shows that the organization is dedicated and appreciative. Entreat as many people as you can to attend and participate in the celebration to help further engage and bond the team.

Build Genuine Loyalty

As the healthcare industry continues to grow at a fast rate, it is imperative for organizations to foster employees during their first year on board to build engagement and improve retention rates. By incorporating comprehensive recognition and reward opportunities and showing appreciation for employees, organizations can create a memorable first year while building genuine connections.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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