Recent articles highlight the unprecedented turnover of hospital personnel. (See http://www.htmblogg.com , May 18, 2017) . A recent poll revealed that more than half of the respondents had been at their hospital for less than 5 years, but 43% had been there less than 2 years. While the lack of longevity of any personnel is a problem for healthcare and hospitals in particular, I believe that it is a much more significant financial and safety crisis when the people who turnover frequently are both highly technical and highly scarce.
I am speaking of HTM professionals, especially Biomedical Equipment Technicians (BMETs) and Imaging Engineers. There is a common misconception among employers that all of these people possess the same skills and are interchangeable. This could not be further from the truth. While they all receive very similar training in their schools, colleges, or military education, the diversity of medical equipment causes them to quickly develop extremely unique specialized skills. And these skills often do not mature until the completion of several weeks (and tens of thousands of dollars) of specialized training schools and several years of experience. Assuring the continued employment of these valuable employees should become a priority. It just doesn’t make sense to pour thousands of dollars into an expensive asset (the employee) and then not take the proper steps to assure that it (he/she) will remain a part of the institution for many years.
What is the best way to make sure that a highly valuable employee stays with you for the long haul? Tuition Repayment? Limitation of Work opportunities for some period of time? Revokation of training certificate if employer changes?
I certainly don’t believe that the tuition repayment penalty works. In many cases, it isn’t legally enforceable. At most, it will protect the employer for a couple of years. In all cases, it creates an adversarial atmosphere between the employee and the employer. It harkens back to the days of indentured servitude. It is often employed, but is not my first choice.
Limiting a person’s employment opportunities, even with their permission is a bad thing. Saying that they cannot go to work for a competitor within a 100 mile radius is once again turning them into a slave and not allowing them to practice their chosen trade.
Some manufacturers will issue a training certificate that is valid only as long as the person trained words for a specific company. If that changes, the training becomes void. The person is not recognized as trained, cannot purchase parts, receive tech support, or access online manuals. This, too, is don’t for protection of the company and the employer, but in all reality, the training and knowledge does not evaporate because somebody’s paycheck changes. And this, too is a negative way to hold somebody as an employee.
While there is no perfect way to guarantee a person’s employment into the future, there are some things that a good manager can do to maximize the odds. The first is to hire the right type people. Having employees in key positions that want to be there – in that hospital, in that state, in that city, in that department, in that role – that makes their continued presence almost a guarantee.
The next thing is to make their job as satisfying as possible. Teamwork, a sense of accomplishment, an ability to control their own destiny, a sense of recognition – these are all things that people value in their day-to-day jobs. A good manager finds out what is important to each of his/her people and tries to provide as much of that as possible.
Pay. Your people do not have to be the best paid in the area. Pay is not a job satisfier. But is certainly a job dissatisfier. Too little pay makes one feel undervalued and opens them up to listening to offers that they might have ignored otherwise. A competitive pay plan, with a fair compensation, adequate benefits and ample time off for important events will keep almost every employee happy.
Technical training – As technical people, BMETs and Imaging engineers identify with their technical skills. They begin to feel inferior when these skill become aged. Sending all technical staff to frequent training will keep them happy and usually too busy to become dissatisfied.
Lastly, and most important, have a talk with all staff. Here is how I did it. We had a staff meeting in the shop. We had all 20 technical and support staff there. As the Director, I lead the meeting. I explained that, “After a 2 year dry spell, we were going to begin training everybody on almost everything they requested to be trained on. We have hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to spend on this. I intend to approve any and every training course that there is even the remotest justification for. But I have one request from all of you, in return.
Please, do not come back from any school and quit the hospital for another job. Here is why. The hospital, while not restricting how this money is being spent, will look at those of you that quit. If someone goes to a school and leaves soon after, before the hospital feels that they have gotten their value back for the cost of the training, will surely cut the training budget. Everyone else in this room who is left at the hospital here will suffer. It is THEIR future that you will be screwing up.
So, I ask you, as adults, do this mature thing. If you accept a school, plan to stay with the hospital for at least 2 years. If you feel that you can’t, or might not, simply turn down the school. No problem. I understand that everyone has their own lives and we can accept that you may be looking around. Just don’t mess up our department’s training in the process.”
There were questions, all went very well. Over the next 7 1/2 years, we spent almost $2 million for training. And we had 0.00% employee turnover.