Cara Silletto

When you’re down at halftime, every coach talks about two strategies in the locker room – going back to the fundamentals and then adjusting based on what we’ve learned in the game so far.

My friends, in the staffing game, we’re down at halftime, so here’s your pep talk!

Focus on the fundamentals

There’s no question good communication is key to having and keeping a successful team. Unfortunately, the busier managers become in their own roles, the more their communication effectiveness falls. Others around them feel they’re “bothering” the manager if they have a question or need, and leaders often fail to keep team members updated on all the changes occurring around them because they are bouncing from one fire to another.

Here are two fundamental keys to better communication that can immediately support your retention efforts so we can keep the people we cannot afford to lose. 

And don’t be fooled! While these strategies may seem elementary, it’s because they are. Yet, every day I work with leadership teams, they admit they know them but aren’t doing them. This is your reminder.

1. Communicate your expectations
A quick key to helping staff, especially new hires, meet your expectations is to let them know exactly what those expectations are. Your staff cannot read your mind, and many of them have no idea “how it’s always been done.” If people are missing the mark, you need to strengthen your communication, step up, and let them know what is appropriate or inappropriate instead of silently judging them for not knowing your unwritten rules. 

Anytime you think, “She should know better,” “I shouldn’t have to tell her that,” “Who does that,” or “That’s just common sense,” let those phrases be triggers that remind you to communicate your expectations more clearly than you ever have before.

Those in leadership have been in the work world for many years and have learned a lot in that time. They also have their own definitions of “professionalism,” which is subjective. Use these teachable moments to mentor others so they can truly understand what’s expected of them in your workplace.

2. Appreciate any job well done
Staff can go anywhere today and get a paycheck from a decent (or less) boss. We must do better if we want to keep talent in our communities.

Today, some workers aren’t showing up for shifts. Many aren’t showing up on time. And a few don’t do their job when they do show up. This current situation breeds a lot of frustration. Managers are frustrated by those not contributing and team members are frustrated that the little time managers have is focused on reprimanding poor performers. What do you think happens to the better performers in that situation? They leave due to a lack of appreciation for the work they ARE doing.

Some leaders I work with push back on the idea of thanking people for a job well done because they were taught that staff should only get praise when they go “above and beyond,” otherwise it’s just “praising mediocrity.” Well, times have changed, and at this moment in our careers, we are extremely grateful for those who show up and do their jobs, right?

Everyone is hiring today, which means we must show appreciation for not just our top performers, but our good ones too. We need them. We depend on them. We really do appreciate their consistency and continued contributions. So, tell them! It doesn’t cost a dime to thank staff, and it doesn’t take much time out of your day. 

If this one doesn’t come naturally to you, make a note to ratchet up your thank-you efforts – starting now.

Make adjustments

When we look around at the competition and realize the entire workforce landscape has changed in recent months, it forces us to think differently about how we attract and retain talent. What we’re doing right now isn’t working, so we must continue to be open to trying new approaches.

But first, let’s get the fundamentals back on track so we don’t lose more people we have to replace. 

Workforce thought leader Cara Silletto, MBA, CSP, works with organizations of all sizes to reduce unnecessary employee turnover by bridging generational gaps and making managers more effective in their roles. She is the author of the book, Staying Power: Why Your Employees Leave & How to Keep Them Longer.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.