“If you want to keep your eagles, make sure they’re well supplied with wings.”
A couple of years ago my wife, CJ, was seriously injured in a biking accident and was confined to a nursing home. Consequently, I’ve spent a lot of time there with her and have had the opportunity to observe her care by the CNA’s (Certified Nursing Assistants). They’re the people in those places who give the real, day-to-day care.
It didn’t take long to figure out who were the lousy caregivers, who were the good ones and who were superb.
Alecia was one of the best. She had worked there ten years (rare in an industry where the turn-over rate for non-professional employees averages 100% per year.) She never called in sick and, according to her boss, she was a hard worker (not so rare in the nursing home industry).
During her shifts, Alicia checked on CJ often to make sure she was ok. She was always observant of any physical needs CJ might have and she was quick to attend to those needs or bring them to the nurse’s attention. More than that, Alecia seemed to truly care about CJ. She would always have a positive word to say to her, or make a good-natured joke that would lift CJ’s spirits and make her smile. Most of all, I felt supremely confident that CJ was getting the best care possible when Alecia was on duty.
So you can imagine my dismay when I learned that Alecia was quitting. When I asked her why, she said that she was tired of trying to do a good job when there were so few staff on duty to help her. And she was right. The unit where my wife was assigned had 32 patients that required fairly intensive care. Minimum staffing for a unit like that is one nurse and three CNA’s.
Because of staff calling in sick or getting pulled to other units, there were usually only two CNA’s on duty at any one time.
In their landmark book, “First Break All The Rules,” Markus Buckingham and Curt Coffman (1) cite the research they conducted at the Gallop Organization where they were able to tie the responses of more than one million employees on various attitude surveys to actual changes in workplace performance. They discovered that when employees answered “strongly agree” to certain statements, productivity, profitability, and customer satisfaction ratings went up, and employee turn-over went down They rank ordered these statements and the top three were:
- I know what is expected of me at work.
- I have the materials, equipment and resources I need to do my job right.
- At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
Alecia’s situation certainly reflects numbers 2 & 3.
She knew what was expected of her, which was to do the impossible with little or no help. But, at least to her way of thinking, she didn’t have the resources she needed so she could have the opportunity to do what she did best, and do it well. So after ten years, she got tired of it and left.
Good news for me because I now have CJ at home and have hired Alecia to help me take care of her.
Bad news for them because most researchers in the field of labor costs subscribe to the 25% rule, which says that generally speaking, the cost of replacing a front-line, lower-wage employee is approximately 25% of that employee’s salary.(2) Given that the average Certified Nursing Assistant makes between $16,000 and $20,000 per year, It will cost this nursing home $4,000 to $5,000 to replace Alecia. And what are the chances they’ll find another that’s as good as her?
What do you suppose the cost of replacing an employee in your business is?
Moral of the story: If you want to hold on to your best employees, make sure they have the resources they need to do their jobs well. What you save in lowered labor costs and reduced capital expenditures can be lost quickly in lowered employee moral, declining customer service and paying to replace exiting staff.
(1) Buckingham, Marcus and Curt Coffman, “First Break All The Rules,” Simon & Schuster, New York, New York, 1999.
(2) Seavey, Dory, “The Cost Of Turnover In Front Line Care,”
© 2005 Larry Johnson – 480-948-5596