The secret to employee retention? Solicit feedback, and act on it, says Bon Secours Mercy talent exec

Hospitals and health systems must consider various factors when trying to recruit and retain top talent. While employee feedback has long been among these factors, it has become even more crucial amid today's healthcare challenges, according to Eric Van Duren, chief talent acquisition officer at Cincinnati-based Bon Secours Mercy Health.

Mr. Van Duren has served in his current role since February 2022. Before joining Bon Secours Mercy Health, he supported talent acquisition at Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Spectrum Health. Spectrum Health combined with Southfield, Mich.-based Beaumont Health last year.

Mr. Van Duren told Becker's he's focused on remaining nimble when it comes to employee feedback and has seen its positive effects on the Bon Secours Mercy Health workforce, which comprises 60,000 employees. He shared his strategies with employee feedback, discussed how employee feedback has evolved at his 48-hospital organization and offered some advice for his peers.

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What is the importance of employee feedback, especially amid today's shortages? Why is it crucial for recruitment and retention?

Eric Van Duren: Employee feedback is essential. It's something we highly value here, whether that's in the pre-employment process with the candidate experience or for existing employees here, making sure we hear their voice. We require our leaders to have feedback in their strategic planning processes to make sure we are delivering for those who we serve with. 

Q: What was the feedback process like at Bon Secours before the pandemic, and how has it evolved in recent years?

EVD: We partnered alongside Qualtrics, an experience management software provider, and have made it a foundation for our team members' insights. We survey team members quarterly. We ask them to measure experiences across 10 dimensions, which ultimately will enable our leadership teams' strategies based on that feedback. We've taken this feedback and expanded paid parental leave from two weeks to eight weeks. That's something that our employees were asking for. We also launched platforms to recognize workers. It's a foundational and continuous cycle, and it's an evolving cycle, and it's one where we're not afraid to be nimble. We'll stay true to who we are as an organization. But if the needs of our employee population change, we're not afraid to update practices to meet those needs.

Overall affinity for our ministry, it's up 5 percent. We attribute that to listening and taking specific action around what our team members are looking for. Behaviorally, turnover's down by up to 5+ percent in some of our key areas such as nursing. The level of importance that authentically acting and meeting the needs of these workers has been heightened over the past two or three years and the diligence of taking that feedback and authentically acting on it.

Q: How is employee feedback used?

EVD: We survey candidates who land a job with us, but also those who maybe are turned down in the process. We really try to offer personalized experiences at scale to all those who interact with us. We constantly update hiring processes. We're able to do that for team members. It could be at the local level leaders meeting with the direct teams to say, "This is what we're hearing from you. How can we use this information to better our team results together?" Senior leaders deliver this feedback directly into their strategic plan. 

Since the pandemic, we've heard a lot about needing to offer more flexible options, whether that's scheduling, benefits packages, rewards. One example we're proud of is the 100 percent tuition reimbursement for a lot of our key clinical roles. Employees can sign up, partner with us, get 100 percent paid tuition. That came from the voice of our team members, and that was delivered. As far as flexibility, traditionally, we have these work schedules and that is what we held to. We understand now that we have to find ways to offer different options.

Q: Any tips for other hospital and health system leaders looking to boost recruitment and retention? Any other strategies you'd mention?

EVD: Healthcare workers have options. So understand who you are, understand who you want to be as an organization. And then you have to understand what your patients and your candidates and your team members want you to be. And with that, you go ahead and create consistent and authentic experiences, throughout your processes, that reinforce the heart of who you are. So, practically, be nimble. Understand that we have to pull other levers. You have to try things. And then align with partners that have enabling capabilities that reinforce the heart of who you are. Learn from each other, work together, and hopefully drive some great results.

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