The Great Retention - retaining staff in a post-pandemic world

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Exploring five ways to help create a high-performing team in Primary Care with our consultant Helen Bessell.

With no return in sight to our perceived pre-pandemic normal, organisations in every sector are facing new opportunities and challenges in how to support a post-pandemic workforce who are demanding more flexibility in their working conditions. People are voting for better working conditions with their feet re-evaluating the type of work they want to do and importantly where they want to do it.

‘The Great Resignation’ or to put a positive twist on it, ‘The Great Retention’ are new concepts which capture this new era of greater choice for the employee and a focus for the employer to step up to create an attractive, supportive, and flexible place to work. We are aware that as many as one in four people are actively looking to move roles/jobs in the next six months but what does this mean for the NHS and in particular Primary Care?

Our GP surgeries are no different to any other organisation where the focus on staff retention is paramount. Opportunities to work from home over the last 24 months have empowered employees to recognise that they no longer need to be visible to be trusted, and no longer need to work in a communal office space to be productive. Our GP surgeries are often highly reactive, challenging, and pressurised working environments so how do we create a flexible and future-focused working environment which can exceed patient and staff demands and expectations?

Healthcare is facing similar challenges to other industries including retail and hospitality with the number of people seeking new roles and careers being at an all-time low. Our focus therefore must be two-fold, retaining our critical staff members and creating the right environment and working conditions to be an attractive option for those seeking new challenges.

Peter Drucker, an Austrian American management consultant, educator, and author described as ‘the founder of modern management’ famously stated that ‘culture eats strategy for lunch’. This re-evaluation of where the area of focus in organisations needs to be successful is still as critical as when it was first discussed. But what is culture and how does this apply to Primary Care?

Quite simply people create culture, and this has to start at the top. Culture is how it feels to be at work. If your team were to describe their working environment, is it what you would want to hear? Time to take a step back and visualise what a great place to work looks like for you. Where are you now? If there is a gap, how do we break it down into critical and impactful steps that can truly make a game-changing difference? Leadership in healthcare is no different to leadership in any other organisation so it is helpful to look at what concepts are valuable and adapt for our own purposes.

A high-performing team by definition gets results. So how can we create high-performing teams across the NHS? An article in Forbes in January 20211 identified 5 key characteristics of a high-performing team.

  1. Trust
    The first characteristic of a high-performing team is trust. Trust can be broken down into different elements which include connection and compassion both requiring an understanding of the individual and not just the role. Start with conversations. How well do you know your team and what drives them? Create new opportunities to connect and be curious. Create a safe-to-speak-up environment where individuals feel able to shape the future direction of the practice and be part of the inevitable ongoing change.

  2. Clear Communication Strategy
    A clear communication strategy is particularly important in primary care. With the goalposts constantly changing there’s been an even greater need to have a crystal-clear communication strategy that leaves no room for misunderstanding or ambiguity, where people know exactly what is required of them and are clear in terms of expectations.

  3. Well Defined Roles and Responsibilities
    In any organisation, it is very important for everyone to know exactly what the job is that they are being asked to deliver. This enables clarity on objectives which can then result in recognition and a sense of clear purpose and value.

  4. Engaged Leadership
    Leadership is a process, not a destination, and high-performing teams have leaders who seek to continually expand their leadership skills and capabilities. Personal authority is so much more powerful than formal authority which great leaders have and utilise to great effect. How much time do you take engaging with your team, understanding the opportunities and challenges and working together to achieve success?

  5. Collective Goals
    What are your practice goals? What are your key performance indicators? Are they largely data-driven, or have you included other elements such as employee engagement? Having a clear vision that everyone understands and engages with is a powerful future and shared endeavour that is critical for any high-performing team.

These elements are best implemented by starting small and taking little steps. We can’t expect to achieve extremely high-performing organizations or great places to work overnight. Instead, there must be a prioritization of what can be done simply, while simultaneously having the greatest impact. At Xytal, we can help you look at all the critical elements of your organization across these five points and support you in creating a plan that is straightforward to implement and designed to achieve maximum results.

Connect with us here at Xytal to see how we can support you in making your practice a great place to work!

Xytal is one of the leading British consultancies in the health sector. If you found this article beneficial, you might also consider checking out our Care Navigation and Enhanced Communication Skills programme.

‘The Great Retention’ is a new concept which captures this new era of greater choice for the employee and a focus for the employer to step up to create an attractive, supportive, and flexible place to work.