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How Compass One hires, empowers, and retains nonclinical staff

Coauthored by Andy Maus, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, Compass Group.

No one working in any part of the healthcare industry is likely to deny the incredible importance of nonclinical employees in areas including food and nutrition, environmental services, patient transportation and observation, facilities management, and healthcare technology solutions/clinical engineering. Here at Press Ganey, we recognize both the crucial need for nonclinical employees and the importance of teamwork. Doctors, nurses, aides, nonclinical employees, and all other constituents of the healthcare team need to function as a single unit in order to provide the most outstanding care to patients.

Press Ganey and Compass One Healthcare partner on the journey to improve the patient experience relative to food and nutrition, environmental services, patient transportation, and observation. Compass One is a provider of support leadership and personnel to hospitals—and they’ve worked hard to make sure their employees are part of their clients’ teams. The process begins with recruiting and continues through onboarding; instituting policies and programs to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion; identifying a viable career progression; recognizing outstanding performance; and helping employees maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Technology helps healthcare organizations hire for fit

Turnover can be high for nonclinical staff roles, leading many senior leaders to renew their focus on recruiting and retention. At Compass One, a slight shift in focus—to prioritize technology—has been useful to find and hire employees.

Using technology to hire for fit is a relatively new concept in the nonclinical healthcare space, but it offers a crucial edge in recruiting with the idea of retaining employees. When the need for candidates is so large, hiring for fit isn’t always seen as the priority, but using technology can help organizations take a more strategic approach to hiring. This simple change can have a major impact on the patient experience.

Compass One has started using an assessment that helps them hire for fit. Applications are submitted by text, which makes it simple and quick for job-seekers. Part of the process is a 90-second fit assessment that consists of simple yes/no questions and is frictionless. The app provides a simple visual using color coding for the hiring manager to consider in making hiring decisions.

Healthcare workers who enter patients’ rooms to clean or deliver food are a critical part of the patients’ experience with—and impression of—the organization. To ensure a positive experience for patients across the board, we need to ensure those who fill these nonclinical, yet essential, roles are well-suited to perform them—that they feel fulfilled by their work, that they feel connected to their organization, and that, ultimately, they are engaged. Depending on the patient and the situation, nonclinical staff members may interact with the patient more than clinical staff. And, in some instances, they may have more in common with the patient in terms of their racial, ethnic, or socio-economic background. Patients may feel a deeper connection with the nonclinical staff than with their clinician.

6 strategies to retain top employees

Once the right people are in the right roles, how can an organization keep them there? Nonclinical positions don’t generally require advanced education or training, and people in these roles are often paid hourly—sometimes minimum wage. What keeps employees from leaving a healthcare organization for a position that pays a dollar an hour more, or because they need time off and think it would be easier to just get a different job later?

Compass One is deeply invested in employee retention and uses a multifaceted approach that begins during onboarding and continues throughout an employee’s career. One of the greatest challenges is making sure the employee experience is consistent across a large organization that works with a range of clients. Compass One’s culture is essential, but they must also consider the cultures of the client organizations where employees work each day.

1. Provide onboarding that goes beyond orientation

For nonclinical roles, turnover is especially high during the first 30 days of employment, so organizations must ensure an excellent onboarding experience for new hires. Compass One is working to establish “My Great Start,” an onboarding process used across the organization to train, engage, and ensure new employees have everything they need to succeed.

In a large, distributed company, a great deal of onboarding falls to local managers. Finding ways to support local managers is a major part of making the onboarding process consistent and free of friction. The first few weeks of employment are essential, which makes investing in a central onboarding process like My Great Start worth the expense and effort.

2. Prioritize 'stay conversations'

Interviews prior to hiring are expected, and exit interviews can be an important tool to learn why employees decide to leave your organization. But what happens while employees are currently working for your organization? To improve employee engagement, Compass One implemented “stay conversations” into their strategy. These conversations serve as a form of micro-level support and ensure that new employees get the training they need to perform their jobs, that they understand the company’s processes, and that they know what benefits and support are available—as well as how to access them.

Career progression is a common topic of stay conversations. In many sectors, hourly employees don’t have access to a clear career progression or counseling regarding their options in building a career. Compass One uses a tool called a "Career Wheel" to show new employees how they might expect to advance within the organization, as well as what kinds of training or experience they need to follow a defined career path.

3. Ensure appropriate compensation

One reason nonclinical positions are often viewed as transitory has to do with compensation. An hourly employee at the lower end of the pay scale has opportunities in many potential areas throughout the organization. Unfortunately, the expectation from both leaders and employees is that nonclinical employees often leave when they’re unsatisfied or when a better-paying position comes along.

Leaders should regularly review whether employees are receiving a competitive wage. In today’s volatile work world, what’s considered competitive can change from month to month. Once again, technology can help. Real-time analytics can help organizations ensure their wages are in the correct range.

Compass One also uses an app that lets employees access their wages early, budget based on their take-home pay, and transfer some of their earnings to a savings account automatically.

4. Recognize employees

Compass One operates an employee recognition program called “GEM: Great Employees Make Magic.” As of 2020, Compass One had awarded more than 38,000 GEM awards to outstanding employees who have made a lasting impact.

Compass One has found that employees who receive a GEM award during the first 12 months of employment are twice as likely to stay with the company, and the organization retains 28% more GEM winners on average than non-GEM winners. The fact that GEM recipients stay with the company longer speaks to the impact that recognition of a job well done has on employee retention.

5. Create a sense of belonging

Press Ganey’s research shows that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is important to employees regardless of classification, education level, or pay scale. In fact, an organization’s values, a demonstrated commitment to diversity, and employees of different backgrounds are top drivers of workforce loyalty across the board.

People want to feel that they belong. And Compass One has made strides in their commitment to—and investment in—DEI. One way the company has shown their commitment is by creating a team of nearly 200 inclusion ambassadors—i.e., employees who are passionate about DEI. This team is a core part of building awareness around inclusion in the organization and driving programs designed to promote DEI.

6. Emphasize mental health and overall wellness

The pandemic, and the stress it brought to every part of the healthcare sector, highlighted the need for a greater emphasis on wellness—and mental health in particular. Achieving a work-life balance in healthcare is often difficult, and Compass One is working to address this issue through unlimited PTO for nonclinical managers, as well as a program designed to help employees access mental health resources.

A 'one team' mindset for healthcare employees

Incorporating clinical and nonclinical support staff together during the onboarding process underscores the fact that working as a cohesive unit, with a shared goal, creates a better working atmosphere and sets patient care teams up for success. With careful attention to hiring for fit, consistent onboarding, and a culture dedicated to employee wellness and DEI, Compass One delivers a positive employee experience, saves costs when it comes to turnover, and plays a crucial role in their clients’ success stories.

To learn more about how Press Ganey can help you support, engage, and retain your staff, reach out to our employee experience strategic consultants

About the author

Marty oversees the Experience solutions team in Strategic Consulting, partnering with clients to improve culture, employee and physician engagement, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. He drives improvement by reducing turnover, sustaining change, and develop tools and techniques to create an inclusive and equitable environment. Prior to joining Press Ganey, Marty was Vice President of Engagement Services at Avatar Solutions.

Profile Photo of Martin Wright