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Healthcare Employee Retention, A Headhunter’s Perspective

Healthcare Employee Retention, A Headhunter's Perspective
By Philip Foti

Surprisingly with the state of the current economy, retaining "A" Players has never been more challenging. The unemployment rate for high value, high demand skills that drive successful business outcomes is ZERO.

Losing talented employees?

Though the first instincts of giving a raise or increasing benefits can certainly help, they won't always keep employees working for you. I'm a headhunter and throughout my 18 year career of assisting dissatisfied workers, I've noticed a main thread: that the biggest reason employees leave their jobs is not pay-related, but due to a negative work environment. So today I want to share with you a few tips for keeping your rock-star employees, i.e., the workers you do not want to lose, without spending anything more than creativity and time.

The secret to employee retention is job satisfaction.

1.    Allow employees to annually submit ideas on improving the work environment. The employee gets a reward, such as a tee shirt or mug, and those with the best ideas are publicly recognized. However, only do this if you have the ability to implement these ideas.

2.    Grant employee requests. Many will be simple, such as a parent wanting a schedule change so they don't miss their child's birthday party.

3.    Integrate the personal and professional life of your employee.  On-site health care, daycare, and a cafeteria will work wonders at cutting down hours of wasted time.  I assure you that people will stay in this environment even if offered more than twice their salary elsewhere.

To further illustrate my other methods for employee satisfaction, I've put together a system I term REPs, which stand for Recognition, Education, and Promotion.


1.    People want to feel good about what they do. Give them ownership of their decisions by asking them how they would tackle a problem, and then compliment them (and publicly) for their good work.  Never underestimate the power of a simple, well-placed “Thank You.”

2.    Reinforced recognition aligns the employees to the intentions of the business.  Create a value statement which goes on everything at the company; walls, business cards, advertisements, etc. Every four months, put employees into teams to evaluate how their fellow employees fulfill these values. The team with the highest points gets publicly recognized with a banquet, medals, gift certificates, and photos hung up in the company's offices.

3.    Find your good-as-gold workers and reward, reward, reward them.  It instills positive behaviours and makes for a better work environment.  Remember, surprise, fun, and collective fulfilment engage the employee as much as material rewards. 


1.    Provide training for your staff.  This prevents confusion and is an incredible bonus, creating invaluable self-satisfaction and loyalty to the company.

2.    Instead of telling people what to do, involve them in the decision-making. If they make a mistake avoid criticism but rather have them creatively rethink the problem by posing the question “How would you have done this differently?”

3.    Accountability at the top of the company creates alignment to the bottom. Educate your executives to realize the reality of front-line employees by having them work beside them at their jobs. Thus they won't make as many rules that impact employee satisfaction. Critiques of peer groups and direct reports further provide managers and executives with tips on how to improve themselves.

4.    Poor communication is a leading contributor to work stress. A digital marketing agency based in Toronto, cancelled internal email citing lack of prioritizing, focus, and sapped accountability.  For similar methods,  try moving managers out of the office, writing handwritten notes instead of emails, and having daily voice messages from the CEO delivered to employees.

5.    When an employee does quit, do not reject them but maintain the friendship. Former employees can make for an invaluable alumni association, and you can be certain they will think of you again if they ever decide to change jobs.


1.    Promote from within when possible.  Don't hire outside the company if an internal candidate is qualified. It frustrates people when a position they're trying to achieve is given away to a newcomer.

2.    Promotion does not always have to be monetary. One company I know provides an employee competition. Each person submits a praise for a fellow employee, as well as providing tips for their improvement. Then the company hosts a formal ceremony, awarding the workers with the most points as rock stars, king and queens, heroes, etc. You would be amazed at how people positively respond to something reminiscent of preschool games.

If you create a great working environment, then you won't have to find new people, and we all know that keeping workers is the best recruiting strategy. So, find out the truth and constantly improve.  You might find that turnover rates could be due to such minor issues as a lack of parking spaces. Finally, don't forget to smile and have a sense of humor!  It's all in a day's work.

Why Mr. Headhunter are you encouraging me to retain employee's? Isn't that bad for your business?

Quite the opposite. Company's always need to poach "A" talent to drive their business, and recruiting "A" talent is so much easier when we have so many great intangibles that make an offer irresistible to a candidate.

"A" players, self confident and capable will more often than not, accept an offer from a company that has an a positive work culture in competitive offer scenarios.

Creating a better work experience for your employees is in your best interest. Start now.

Philip Foti ( is a well-known thought leader in Information Technology and Healthcare Talent Acquisition and Strategy. He is a frequent speaker and advisor to companies nationwide and is the founder and President of Sonata Talent Staffing and RPO. He can be reached directly at  952.451.0765

© 2011 Philip Foti, All rights reserved. You are free to use this article in whole or in part, as long as you include complete attribution, including live web site link to