It’s something every doctor or office manager hates to hear—a valued staff member has submitted their notice. This was especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic. Employee turnover is far more costly to healthcare organizations than most office managers realize. Studies show that the loss of a single employee can cost around 150% of the employee’s annual salary. Multiply that by the number of employees you lose each year and the number can quickly become astronomical.

Beyond the financial impact, general productivity takes a big hit as other employees are required to take over extra duties during the process of hiring and training a replacement. But perhaps the most detrimental aspect of employee turnover is the impact it has on your patients. In this era of increasing consumer demands and expectations, patients want a practice where they know their healthcare professionals. So much of modern patient care is about the relationships that have been built between patients and their providers. When employees leave, these relationships are damaged.

Unfortunately, employee turnover is a fact of life for all practices. People move, switch careers, or go back to school. Things happen. Regardless, it is still hard to lose people you’ve come to rely on for the day-to-day running of your practice. Here are a few things you can do to ease the pain of an employee’s loss just a bit.

1. Understand your practice turnover rate

In order to know if you might have a problem with high turnover rates, it’s important that you know where you stand. Typically, in the healthcare industry, around 15% of staff turnover each year is considered acceptable. Sit down and take note of how many employees have left over the past 2-3 years. If you’re stretching up towards 20%, there is a problem. Also, keep an eye on losses in different areas. If you only have a 10% turnover rate, but everyone who left came from the same department, there may be something going on. By keeping a close eye on turnover, you can make sure your environment is one where employees want to stay.

2. Always conduct an exit interview

An exit interview is a great opportunity to get some real, honest feedback about your practice work environment. Ask specific questions to find out more about what work is like for that employee. Emphasize confidentiality and ask for honesty. Take their feedback to heart. It can be hard to hear negative things about your practice, but it is important to be open to changes that need to take place. This can help increase employee retention in the future.

3. Keep team spirits up

It can be really hard on other employees when someone leaves. Not only are extra duties often placed on their shoulders, but they can feel the emotional loss of a friend and coworker. It is a good idea to send out periodic employee surveys to keep your finger on the pulse of how employees are feeling about their mental health and job satisfaction. Work to foster a team mentality during these times. Set goals as a team, reach out to all employees individually and make sure everyone knows that they are important to the practice.

4. Cross-train employees

One of the worst things about when a team member leaves is losing their knowledge. This is especially true if that person was the only one who had that knowledge. For example, if only that one person really knew how to use your patient communications solution, there would be a lot of pain during training. Cross-training employees may mean that every few weeks, you have people rotate duties. At least two people need to know the ins and outs of every office system. In addition, you should keep an up-to-date list of all passwords.

5. Learn how to hire the right employees to start

Of course, the best way to avoid potential problems when employees leave is to do a better job keeping them around! That is easiest if you’ve done your due diligence during hiring.

For more tips on keeping your practice running smoothly, read our article “How to Improve Your Medical Office Efficiency.”