In-home caregivers face physically and emotionally demanding working conditions in the best of times. Add to that a global pandemic with a novel virus whose most dangerous impact is on the very individuals they are tasked with caring for, and stress and anxiety only build.
From shortages in personal protective equipment to ever-changing guidelines for a morphing virus, home health workers have been juggling a great deal more than their average caseloads over the past several months. And because of the remote nature of their workdays, most caregivers simply don’t have an easy opportunity to stop and ask for advice, share frustrations, or offer constructive suggestions to their employers.
Where concerns go unheard, frustrations frequently fester. Employees lose trust in their employers when they feel in the dark, and ultimately, they leave.
Year after year, studies show that turnover in home health grows. Some stats cite turnover rates from the past several years that range from about 22% all the way up to 82%. No matter the source or study, the stats are always significant.
If turnover is a known issue, what is the industry doing to fix it? From my perspective, we need to get back to the basics of the human condition and give people a mechanism to be heard.
Feedback, according to Merriam-Webster, is “the transmission of evaluative or corrective information about an action, event or process to the original or controlling source.” In its most basic form, it probably seems pretty straightforward. But making feedback useful in a business context requires more than just implementing an open-door policy or performing annual evaluations.
To be effective, feedback needs to be collected in real-time—especially in the health care setting. If a caregiver is dealing with an issue that endangers his or her safety,or the safety of a patient, feedback can’t wait until an end-of-year evaluation. It needs to be shared right away. Which leads to the next point: Feedback requires action.
The worst thing a company can do is ask for feedback and then do nothing with it. But if you do take action, you have to communicate it. Implementing change without sharing an update about the new policy or procedure is nearly as bad.
This is what is known as the feedback loop. Essentially, a successful feedback program requires:
- a prompt for employees to share their feedback,
- collection of feedback, and
- action taken based on the information provided.
It’s a loop because it’s a continual process and not something that is ever “complete.” Effective feedback programs are continual and create organizational culture shifts. They also improve retention rates.
A mobile- or email-based application that allows companies to prompt their workers regularly for anonymous feedback can help create this loop. While there can be options for workers to share their identity along with their feedback, fewer than 1% of workers prefer to do so, according to the feedback platform WorkHound.
Common feedback topics involve pay, benefits, policies and procedures—things organizations should be able to answer with relative ease. By the same token, if questions about pay and benefits go unanswered, they can become serious pain points.
The platform you choose should also enable managers to request one-on-one conversations. If a manager receives a piece of feedback that they’d like to discuss with an individual, they can request that. But it’s still up to the employee to decide whether or not they are willing to identify themselves. Of those workers who are willing to reveal their identity to discuss their concerns with a manager, 90% stay at least 30 days
after their issue is resolved. People often simply need to know their concerns are being considered.
Communicate regularly with your staff and share updates about which policies have changed or are under review due to feedback. Chances are, if one person shares confusion or concern over a policy, others in your organization have the same question. Keeping team members up to speed brings greater transparency and builds trust throughout the entire organization.
Don’t Fear Negative Feedback
I know what that of you may be thinking. “I don’t know if I’m prepared to open the flood gates on negative feedback.”
In all actuality, employees who participate in feedback programs often have some truly great ideas. They’re the ones in the trenches, and they often present their challenges along with solutions they have already considered. Additionally, we have found that over time, feedback trends more toward the positive—once employers have a chance to address employees’ issues, they start receiving more positive feedback.
And remember that negative feedback is going to make it out into the world, whether you’re asking for it or not. The problem is that if you’re not providing an outlet for it, employees may go searching for one. Team members may spread negative experiences to coworkers, post details on social media, or even go so far as to leave negative reviews on platforms such as Indeed, Glassdoor and Google. It’s in an organization’s best interest to ask for feedback and manage it in a controlled environment.
What to Expect When Implementing a Feedback Program
The beauty of implementing a real-time feedback program is that you’ll start finding out what’s happening in the moment—but it may take a little time for employees to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts. Any new feedback program can be met with skepticism, whether because of previous negative experiences, natural tendencies to keep to oneself or a general fear of retaliation. That’s where quick action and regular communication can really make a difference.
When employees begin to see that your organization not only responds to their concerns through regular communications but also begins to implement changes to remedy any underlying issues, they’ll become more comfortable sharing feedback with you regularly.
If you commit to this plan of action, you will likely have increased participation in your feedback program and improvements to company culture at an organizational level. Like any foundational component of a thriving business or organization, a feedback program takes time, intention and effort.
But think of all the time you’ll save on exit interviews.