Employee Wellbeing
September 26, 2023

How to improve NHS staff retention

Based on NHS employee data, this article offers five simple ways to increase staff retention.

Alanah Hammond
7 minutes

The data from the NHS Staff Survey 2022 highlights how staff retention is a problem amongst NHS employees. In fact, 32% often think about leaving the NHS, with this sentiment highest amongst staff in Ambulance trusts.

Employee retention relates to the ability of an employer to retain their employees, in an attempt to reduce staff turnover. This means that an organisation, such as the NHS, has to make their company attractive so that employees won’t be tempted to leave for a better offer.

Currently, NHS employees are suffering from burnout and stress forcing them to find other working environments. However, poor staff retention can be detrimental to organisations due to the cost of retraining employees. In particular, some research shows that the average employee exit costs 33% of their annual salary

In July 2023, The Guardian revealed that nearly 170,000 workers left their jobs in the NHS in England last year. The report also explains that more than 41,000 nurses were among those who left their jobs in NHS hospitals and community health services, with the highest leaving rate for at least a decade. The number of staff leaving overall rose by more than a quarter in 2022, compared to 2019.

And it’s not looking good for the future either. A survey of the members of the Royal College of General Practitioners in 2022 found 39 per cent of the GP workforce across the UK were seriously considering leaving the profession in the next five years. 

These are not sustainable figures for an organisation in which human beings are the most valuable resource, so the NHS must improve its employee retention. At Myles Wellbeing, we have researched the reasons why employees may quit and have compiled five simple ways to prevent this happening.

1. Open communication

Being honest and communicating is crucial. Honesty solves so many issues by setting both the employer and the employees expectations on the same page. 

People tend to stay in roles they're enjoying and doing well at. If employees are struggling, it's important to identify any weaknesses by communicating with your team and then coach them to improve their performance.

2. Good management 

Research shows how a lack of appropriate management skills makes employees 4x more likely to quit. It's key to have regular check-ins with your team and establish a 'safe space' to speak openly. It can often be work related issues that cause dissatisfaction in a role but equally there can be many external, personal problems.

Having regular catch-ups and being a manager that people feel comfortable to speak to about all things, not just work, allows you to spot employees likely to leave and intervene before this becomes an issue.

3. Wellbeing measures

In a post-pandemic era where remote working is on the rise, it is so important that your workplace has wellbeing measures in place. These can include flexibility for people to work from home, or even having schemes which promote wellbeing.

Apps such as Myles Wellbeing are great for advocating employee physical activity. Friendly competition is always a good incentive to get your employees moving. With a leaderboard, you can compete with your work friends in a fun and (quite literally) rewarding way. Creating a collaborative and encouraging work environment which helps your team get physical can really boost your employee’s wellbeing.

4. Benefits

Research has shown that employees who don't feel recognised when they do great work are almost 2x as likely to be job hunting. It’s therefore vital to reward your employees. Benefits can include small things, such as rewarding employees for their work by telling them they have done a good job, to having bonuses, and being flexible with holidays. 

5. Organisation growth

Recruiting replacements for employees who have left is becoming intensely competitive as organisations recognise the importance of employee benefits. However if from the start you offer your employees room to grow within your organisation, then you will reduce the amount of employees who do quit. 

For example, research shows that employees who feel that they’re progressing in their careers are 20% more likely to still be working at their companies in one year’s time. Through good management, and with mentorship, you will allow your employees to see that they can work their way up in their company if they stay. 

Ultimately, if you give your staff something worth sticking around for, you’ll save yourself the hassle of recruiting new employees.

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