So it comes as little surprise that Quality Life Services, a 500-employee family-owned and operated company that provides nursing care and personal care to residents at its five facilities-three of them acquired since 2002-was having difficulty filling its ranks with qualified nursing talent.
"Not only were we trying to fill additional positions as quickly as possible," says Susan Tack Beardsley, recruitment and retention director for Quality Life Services, "but we were also trying to keep the existing ones."
Nursing staff turnover at Quality Life Services was increasing costs for the company and taxing its ability to meet state-mandated staffing requirements.
"Any time you have turnover, it costs the company money and becomes a vicious cycle," Beardsley says, "and it's tough on the residents, as well."
Identifying the problems
Quality Life Services enlisted the help of The Family Business Center at Citizens National Bank, a consulting group that specializes in helping family businesses resolve their management issues, to remedy the situation. A team from The Family Business Center, led by co-founder Rich Snebold and its human resources consultant, tackled the problem by first collecting information about retention and recruitment concerns.
Anonymous surveys were sent to employees with questions about their jobs and work environment. They also formed focus groups comprised of employees selected randomly from each department and representing workers at all levels, from entry level to supervisory. The focus groups addressed workers' perceptions of their peers and their work environment. Exit interviews were conducted by telephone with employees who had resigned from Quality Life Services.
The information collected in the exit interviews was consistent with that gathered in the focus groups and employee surveys. The vast majority of Quality Life Services' employees are women, and the research revealed that some of them struggled with life-work balance, while others felt that they didn't receive recognition that was consistent with job performance.
Task forces were assembled at each facility, which included a mix of workers based on job function, and department and facility administrators. Beardsley met with each task force to develop solutions to address the needs of the staff.
The Family Business Center recommended several tools to increase employee satisfaction and reduce turnover. Some of the strategies include employee newsletters, alternative and flexible work schedules and employee recognition programs, including employee-of-the-month awards.
The measures have resulted in a reduction of employee turnover and an increase in employee satisfaction and morale, Beardsley says, and have enabled Quality Life Services to gain a reputation as a desirable place to work. And those actions combined have resulted in enhanced resident care.
Beardsley emphasizes the value of bringing employees into the process to develop the solutions. Identifying the problem is relatively easy, she says, but coming up with the right solutions that will gain employee buy-in is critical.
Says Beardsley: "Getting the employees to help develop the solution via the task force enabled us to avoid a solution being implemented directly from administration where the workers had no say."