Ephraim McDowell Health
Employee retention strategy rapidly reduces turnover.

The Success Story

High turnover can cost millions. Reduce turnover by finding out what your employees think and how to make yourself the most attractive employer.

The Challenge

Ephraim McDowell Health (EMH) saw an alarmingly high number of Associate leave within the first year of employment which largely contributed to turnover rates that exceeded industry averages.

The Solution

Using open-ended, Associate in control questions, respondents were able to define issues in their own words. Leader and department specific results were compared to EMH’s organizational benchmarks.

  • Work Institute implemented telephonic exit interviews to uncover the main reasons Associates were leaving the health system.
  • Work Institute conducted quarterly current employee and onboarding interviews to understand Associates’ emerging concerns that impacted their intent to stay.

The Impact

  • Monthly turnover decreased from 1.77% in 2004 to 1.2% in 2009, a 32% decrease
  • Annual cost savings of $942,480

Commitment To Improvement

Suddenly faced with an unexplainable spike in Associate turnover, Ephraim McDowell Health realized they had a major problem facing the health system. The Senior Leadership Team realized they needed a deep-rooted plan to understand its organizational strengths and opportunities for improvement. EMH wanted to improve Associate retention to decrease turnover and its associated costs, as well as attract new top talent.

Taking Action

To fulfill this objective, EMH turned to Work Institute. Together, they implemented a structured process to collect regular feedback from new, tenured, and former Associates to identify how to make EMH the most attractive employer in the area. The results indicated four main areas for development:

  • Improve communication
  • Revamp the retirement savings program
  • Establish pay for performance
  • Implement a comprehensive onboarding experience

In 2006, 10.5% of respondents indicated communication was the most important area for improvement. One respondent told Work Institute, "HR needs to keep the Associates clearly informed about policy," while another mentioned the need to "improve communication between staff and supervisors." EMH installed flat screen monitors throughout the hospital which display instant information. The monitors assured consistency of messaging and provided a more visual, real time method of communicating, two attributes that Associates emphasized in the verbatim comments. By 2008, not a single respondent specified communication as an area for improvement.

Additionally, Associates indicated that their highest benefits priority was the retirement savings plan. Therefore, EMH implemented a new, standardized plan with an enhanced matching formula that allowed an individual to have up to 8% of his or her pay matched by EMH. Because of this, the percentage of “Excellent” responses when asked about benefits increased by 47.8%.

While compensation was as an area of concern, the open-ended questions revealed that Associates wanted a performance-based compensation system as opposed to a general economic adjustment. Following the institution of this system, the percentage of people noting compensation for a reason for leaving dropped 16.2% in two years.

Lastly, the new hire surveys to learn about Associates’ assimilation into the company. A number of newly hired Associates told Work Institute that their orientation process was not sufficient; some departments had effective orientation, while others’ were non-existent. A Departmental Orientation process was rolled out to provide consistency with Associates’ introduction to the health system. Ensuing surveys indicated remarkable improvements in orientation satisfaction. One Associate noted, “Within 2 weeks, I knew where everything was and had all my questions answered.”

Ephraim McDowell Health Today

EMH continues to use Work Institute for their ongoing commitment to evidence-based decision making. Even though certain areas have seen significant improvement, EMH understands there will always be new issues, and Work Institute’s research allows them to keep a finger on the pulse of changing Associate preferences.