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5 Tips for Retaining Nurse Talent


Nurse leaders are often so busy recruiting new employees that it’s possible to lose focus on the employees we want to retain. These are the nurses we wish we could clone, so keeping them satisfied with their job, and your organization is important. Don’t forget to work to retain these employees by conducting retention interviews, considering changing the focus of performance evaluations, or exploring what’s important to these nurses. These efforts may help you retain them, while discovering how you might nurture more high-performing employees like them.

Identify Your High-Performers

Nursing is a challenging profession that requires a mental and physical commitment, which can lead to burnout, frustration, and nurses leaving an organization, or the profession. The nursing shortage makes every nurse valuable to an organization, although some high-performing nurses may be invaluable. The cost of turnover is high enough without losing the irreplaceable knowledge, and resulting productivity, of these high-performers.

These nurses are usually confident in their skills, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need validation and appreciation. Too often these employees are taken for granted and end up with the perception that hard work doesn’t reap rewards, but instead leads to additional demands on their time and energy. High-performers often end up receiving more responsibility, and are the quickest to leave if they’re feeling disengaged. They have high expectations of their workplace, and usually abundant opportunities if they choose to leave. Even if they’re not looking for another job, recruiters, or your competitors, might be looking for them.

Give Them a Reason To Stay

After you’ve identified your high-performers, consider how they’re rewarded and recognized. Most nurse leaders struggle to be fair with all employees, but there should be a balance of rewarding those employees who go the extra mile. Otherwise, they may become frustrated if they’re required to do more work than other employees and may lose their motivation to excel, and start doing just enough to get by. If your high-performers leave, they take years of performance and productivity gains, and other high-performers may follow.

Monetary rewards are usually appreciated, but money isn’t always enough to make nurses stay. Sometimes it’s the simple rewards that are most appreciated such as more flexibility in scheduling. Offering a better balance for personal and professional demands may show your employees that you value their time. Incorporating self-scheduling may allow these employees, and others, to develop a feeling of ownership over their position. This may enable you to increase their job satisfaction, as well as your other employees. Pairing up high-performers with other employees may often boost their performance, while enabling the high-performer to receive satisfaction from serving as a mentor. But rather than assume to know what will satisfy your high-performers, but it’s more important to ensure you know what will keep them feeling motivated and fulfilled.

Find Out What They Want

You’ve worked to create a culture and environment that fosters personal and professional growth but it’s helpful to know if it’s effective. High-performers are an asset to your organization. Most want to know that they make a difference and that they’re secure in their position. Rather than take a one-size fits all approach with performance appraisals, take the time to get their input.

Managers and employees often have the perception that performance appraisals are unsavory or punitive. They can be beneficial if they’re structured to be more effective in gaining and providing feedback. Instead of considering the provision of feedback on identifying areas of improvement, focus on when and what causes your high-performers to excel. What is their personal view of excellence?

Communicate Effectively

By using effective communication to help them gain insight into the process, it may offer opportunities to recreate and share these skills with other employees. Some other options for gaining insight into what motivates high-performing employees include:

  • Change the frequency, the length, or the process, for when you get and give feedback
  • Eliminate the stress associated with the process by looking for information about what motivates them today and tomorrow, rather than focusing on yesterday
  • Create quarterly goals specific to helping your employees grow their career instead of vague or subjective goals
  • Use the time to clarify expectations and determine what’s gone well, and what they struggle with, to work with these short-term challenges to maintain long-term employees
  • This can provide an opportunity to determine what initiatives are most effective at producing job satisfaction
  • Conduct retention or stay interviews with your high-performers and ask them what motivates them to stay, identify their challenges, and determine what might cause them to leave to demonstrate that their career is important to you
  • Encourage exit interviews for the high-performers you lose to see what could be done differently to keep others thriving

Respond and Follow Through

Most importantly, make time to thank them and show that they’re appreciated by being responsive to their needs. Follow through with your suggestions and implement measures that can fuel motivation for your high-performers. Since you can’t clone them, this might help foster a culture that nurtures the growth of all your employees.


Article Sources

3 Ways to Lighten Up the Performance Management Process

Comparison of Perception of Managers and Nursing Staff Toward Performance Appraisal

Four Measures that are Key to Retaining Nurses

How Are You Attracting and Keeping Nurses?

Take 5: How to Keep Your High Performers Happy

Talent Walks: Why Your Best Employees are Leaving

The ‘Curse of Competence’: Why Top Performers Quit Their Jobs

The Feedback Fallacy

This is How You Keep Your Most Ambitious Employees From Leaving


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