It may sound overly simple, but to fill a need you must identify it. The best way to do this is to ask the person who has the need.
Recruiters can’t effectively fill a unit’s staffing needs unless they have a finger on the pulse of that unit. And that’s where frontline managers come in. They are the ones who know best what’s needed to improve nurse retention. They have the information and they are your most important connection.
Managers are the best source of information
When it comes to patient care unit operations, the frontline manager is the organization’s eyes and ears and its best source of information. It is the frontline manager who assesses, plans and oversees care. They also know which staff roles are vital and understand staff needs, such as the numbers, mix and ratios that work best.
Frontline managers are in the best position to identify patient population changes and how they will affect care and staffing needs. The best among them have skills that make them successful, but your organization can’t benefit from those skills if you’re not using them in your recruitment and retention efforts to boost employee relations.
Staffing needs can’t be filled without current facts, and your frontline managers have them. Meet with your frontline managers frequently so you can be their voice at leadership meetings anytime staffing is discussed.
Don’t send out memos, checklists or questionnaires for them to fill out and return. Make your communication face-to-face.
Ideas to connect face-to-face to improve nurse retention
- Make time to round with frontline managers on their units.
- Ask questions, walk the walk and talk the talk about staff strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures with current budgeted numbers and recent hires.
- Find out which assets and liabilities in their staffing needs they feel strongest about and what they’d like to see change.
- Plan little “let’s look at your staffing” breakfast meetings with unit day and night managers so everyone feels they have a voice in the staffing pattern and how it’s working around the clock.
Informal meetings like these examples offer a way to find out what managers are thinking and how they feel their numbers and current mix are working.
Talk with them about things happening on the unit — what’s changing and the most pressing problems they face. Ask who they think they need but don’t have, and what they have but don’t need.
Along with actual staffing concerns, you may find they’re having other issues with equipment, technology or support services. Deficits like these impact work flow and may be just as important to care as actual staff numbers and mix. All of it is good information for you to have and use in your meetings and ongoing recruitment planning to build employee relations.
Follow up and ensure you follow through
After a manager-recruiter session of any kind, don’t shut down communication. Let your managers know how valuable their knowledge and expertise are to your recruitment and retention efforts and that you are making their voices heard by those who need to hear it. Make them feel included and heard.
Don’t wait for them to reach out to you for news on a new full-time employee or staff mix or on patient-nurse ratio changes that resulted from meetings with them.
When they ask questions provide responses right away on what happened at leadership meetings and what could come of their requests and suggestions. Let them know if any new recruitment and retention initiatives are being planned or when final decisions might be communicated.
Feedback is crucial. There’s no value in asking nurse managers about staffing, telling them you’ll communicate their thoughts and then not getting back to them. They know every request won’t be implemented, but they need to know each was at least considered.
If even one small change is possible, let them know that. This kind of honest communication will go a long way in strengthening your recruiter-manager relationship.
9 tips to boost your nurse retention efforts
- Consider frontline managers one of your most valuable resources.
- Know what’s most important to them in the management of their units.
- Keep the lines of communication with unit managers wide open.
- Find out what they need and then do all you can to get it for them.
- Work on strong, collaborative, communicative relationships with them.
- Talk with managers throughout the year and not just at budgeting time.
- Help them work on the balance between quality improvement and cost containment.
- Trust their judgment and input in the recruiting, interviewing and hiring process.
- Use their knowledge in your marketing and branding programs.
If you’re challenged by how to deal with staff shortages in nursing, you’re not alone. Recruiters across the country are striving to understand how to recruit and retain nurses in a highly unpredictable market. Healthcare leaders, recruiters, and hiring managers can gain insights from the survey results that can inform your efforts to hire and retain nurses. By understanding what trends are occurring in nurses’ opinions of their roles and their salaries, you can develop strategies that help them feel supported, appreciated, and engaged with your organization.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April 2018 and has been updated with new content.