It’s not uncommon for other home health care leaders to ask Summer Napier what her secret sauce is to retain caregivers. The answer she gives them is to the point: “There isn’t any.”
Napier, CEO of Healing Hands Healthcare, and her partner, Sara Pringle, founded the North Texas home health, hospice, and palliative care company in 2016. At no time in the company’s run has its turnover rate been more than 9 percent annually. Compare that to the average national rate of 30 percent, and it’s no surprise that other leaders want to pick her mind.
At the Home Care Innovation Forum in San Diego, Napier told other home health leaders that if they build a solid work reputation, caregivers will come. If you sustain that culture, they will stay.
In a day and age of funding cuts and having to do more with less, “I have to be super innovative in the ways I make them (her caregivers) choose me,” she added.
When it comes to retention, Napier advised home health leaders to embrace three distinct areas of leadership:
Personal: It can be hard to know every single employee in your company, especially in an operation that spans a large geographic area. But companies must create a culture where employees feel their leader will make time just for them.
“When was the last time you had a caregiver in your office and made it only about them?” she asked.
Practical: Either through social media channels or other networks, keep your workers informed. Regularly gather employees from different departments for meals or other activities to bolster understanding and trust. Develop talent from within and promote them to fill more senior roles.
Invest in your workers’ professional development. Seek their input on company-wide issues – you may be surprised at the quality of ideas that come in. Support your workers’ spiritual and emotional well-being by offering counseling services or spaces to engage with other members of similar faith.
“I want my employees to bring their whole selves to work,” she said.
Powerful: Heading a home health care company is no simple task. However, recognizing the profound influence they have – in addition to the devotion of their employees – on the lives of those they serve, it’s important for leaders to view their roles as more of a vocation than just a profession, Napier said.
“People talk about leadership all the time, but they don’t live it. We don’t do the things we did in the beginning of our operations that made us successful and then we wonder why people don’t want to stick around. That’s on you,” she said. “After all, this is a calling.”
A self-described “spitfire from Texas,” Napier pulled no punches as she challenged leaders to look at themselves in the mirror and reimagine how they approach their workforces.
“The reason you’re having a hiring and retention problem? It’s your fault,” she said. “All your employees want is what you want – work-life balance, to work with people they trust, and a leadership team that values them. This is all stuff that doesn’t cost money.”
If there is a playbook at Healing Hands, the rules are simple: Make good hires so you don’t need to micromanage, invest in your employees’ personal and professional growth, and remember details about them (birthdays, work anniversaries) to make them feel appreciated. When an inevitable mistake occurs, make sure that you communicate how things need to change, but wrap your words in love and appreciation.
Although her message was direct, before leaving the stage, Napier reminded leaders of the incredible people they are, capable of solving whatever challenge comes their way, staffing or otherwise.
“You asked CMS to bring health care home. You asked God to bring you more patients. It’s here. So show up. You were born for such a time as this. You were built for this. Don’t forget it.”
Chris Killian is a Detroit-based content producer and veteran journalist focused on innovations and tech trends in industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, education, and more. In his spare time, he likes to cook, play guitar, and work on his ’84 VW Westphalia, Harry, trying to coax him into another open-road adventure.
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