Blog | HR |
10 Min Read
June 9, 2023

Can More Purposeful DEI Efforts Improve Healthcare Workforce Retention?

by Garth Estadt

Imagine the scene: Your healthcare business is struggling with retaining staff. Despite your best efforts, turnover rates continue to soar, productivity is declining and you can’t pinpoint exactly why.


What if the missing puzzle piece is a more purposeful focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)? 


According to findings by SurveyMonkey, only 48% of C-level healthcare executives consider DEI to be an important factor that drives company success. Almost 50% even consider it a distraction from their work. These numbers are a stark contrast to employees, who are prioritizing alignment with company values now more than ever. 


In 2021, SurveyMonkey found that 78% of employees stated working at a company that prioritizes DEI is important to them, and 53% even claimed that it’s very important. Furthermore, a 2022 survey by Goodhire shows that 81% of U.S. workers would consider quitting their jobs because of their employer’s lack of DEI commitment. 


It is reasonable to consider, then, whether a more thoughtful approach to DEI could significantly impact employee retention for your healthcare business. Could it, in fact, turn the staffing tide in your favor?


Is DEI Really That Important?


DEI refers to the representation and involvement of diverse groups of people in the workplace. This includes people with different backgrounds in the following areas:


  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Religious beliefs
  • Disability
  • Socioeconomic status


DEI isn’t just a trendy buzzword. It’s an integral part of a company’s culture that shapes interactions, decision-making, overall job satisfaction — and most crucially, employee retention.


Company culture means more than just mission statements or a set of core values on a wall (though that is a good place to start). It’s the living, breathing personality of an organization, reflecting how people feel, behave, and interact at work.


DEI is a cornerstone of this culture, emphasizing respect for all and leveraging differences to create a stronger, more innovative team.


So why does it matter in healthcare? 


  • Employee retention: A diverse and inclusive work environment fosters a sense of belonging, reducing turnover rates and improving your return on investment (ROI).
  • Innovation: Diversity leads to a range of perspectives, driving innovation within your organization.
  • Patient Care: A diverse staff can better understand and cater to the unique needs of patients.
  • Reputation: DEI enhances your organization’s reputation, attracting top talent.


And lets consider the flip side?


A lack of DEI can lead to high attrition (turnover), lower job satisfaction, fewer innovative solutions, and a potential decline in the quality of patient care. It’s clear that a purposeful focus on DEI is crucial to the overall success of your organization.


So, what can you do to implement better DEI protocols and increase your employee retention rates?


8 Ways to Increase Employee Retention Through DEI


Making DEI part of the fabric of your organization and retaining your valuable employees can seem daunting. Thankfully, below are eight concrete, actionable steps you can take to improve DEI within your company culture.


1. Implement Inclusive Recruiting Practices


Inclusive recruiting practices help create a diverse workforce, which is a critical first step toward improving DEI.


You can attract a diverse talent pool through partnerships with different professional organizations, job postings in various forums, using AI in the recruitment process, and blind recruitment methods.


2. Build a DEI-Focused Culture


Creating a DEI-focused culture is a game-changer. A culture that values differences and ensures fairness can foster a sense of belonging and respect —  key drivers of job satisfaction and, consequently, retention. 


To cultivate this culture, you can:


  • Provide DEI training
  • Encourage open discussions about DEI issues
  • Promote DEI at every organizational level


3. Create a DEI Task Force


Assemble a create a DEI task force — a group of staff members dedicated to DEI — who meet regularly to discuss new strategies, challenges, and success stories. The task force should be as diverse as your organization, representing various roles, departments, backgrounds, and experiences.


When you include various voices, you create a collaborative culture, ensuring a broader perspective and better understanding of the DEI issues at hand.


4. Create Mentorship and Sponsorship Programs


Mentorship and sponsorship programs can significantly impact DEI. 


A mentorship program pairs less experienced employees with seasoned ones for guidance and career development. Sponsorship programs involve senior employees advocating for their proteges, helping them get promotions or high-visibility assignments.


Both programs can especially benefit underrepresented employees by promoting their professional growth. To establish these programs, identify potential mentors and sponsors, create clear program guidelines, and provide necessary training.


5. Conduct Transparent Performance Evaluations


Transparent performance evaluations help ensure fairness, which is another crucial aspect of DEI. It reassures employees that you’re evaluating their performance objectively instead of being influenced by their background or personal characteristics.


To establish transparent evaluations, you should:


  • Set clear, company-wide evaluation criteria
  • Train evaluators to minimize unconscious biases
  • Provide constructive feedback


6. Implement Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)


Employee resource groups (ERGs) are employee-led groups based on shared characteristics or experiences, such as gender or ethnicity. They provide support, promote professional development, and enhance cultural competence.


Make sure you provide resources for the formation of these groups, actively encourage employee participation, take their feedback seriously, and make adjustments when reasonable and necessary.


7. Provide Safe Reporting Mechanisms


Safe reporting mechanisms allow employees to confidentially report discrimination or harassment. This fosters trust and safety in the workplace.


To provide these mechanisms, create confidential reporting channels, ensure follow-up actions, and put policies in place to protect whistleblowers from retaliation.


8. Take a Business-Like Approach to DEI


Making DEI part of your business strategy will drive meaningful change and ensure the sustainability of your initiatives. With this approach, DEI becomes a business necessity rather than an optional add-on.


First, set clear goals and metrics. Clearly articulate what DEI success looks like in your organization with specific goals, such as:


  • Increasing diverse employee representation at various organizational levels
  • Reducing turnover among specific groups
  • Improving scores on employee engagement surveys


Then, establish metrics to measure your progress. Make sure you include these goals in performance assessments of managers and leaders, and provide incentives for achieving these targets.


Next, assign a dedicated budget for DEI initiatives that covers training programs, recruitment initiatives, or ERGs. 


DEI shouldn’t be a standalone effort, but rather an aspect included in all facets of your business. This means considering DEI in hiring practices, promotions, employee benefits, and customer service strategies.


Finally, your DEI approach should include regular reviews and adjustments based on data-driven insights and changing organizational needs. 


How To Measure the Success of Your DEI Efforts


If you’re ready to implement a better DEI plan for your organization, what can you do to track your progress? There are several metrics and data-driven methods you can lean on to measure the success of your DEI efforts, including:


  • Employee surveys: Regularly conduct anonymous surveys to gather employee perspectives on DEI in the workplace.
  • Representation metrics: Monitor the demographic composition of your staff at all levels. You can take it a step further by using intersectionality metrics to examine multiple facets of diversity, such as race, gender, and disability.
  • Retention and promotion rates: Analyze retention and promotion rates for different demographic groups. If some groups have significantly lower rates, you’ll know where you need to address inequities.
  • Exit interviews: Conduct confidential exit interviews to understand why employees leave. This could provide valuable insights into possible DEI issues within the organization.
  • Inclusion index: Create an inclusion index — a composite score of several metrics, which could include employees’ sense of belonging, perceived fairness of opportunities, and comfort level when voicing concerns.


Ensure Long-Term Success Through DEI Initiatives


A purposeful focus on DEI can significantly impact your staff retention for the better. By creating an inclusive culture, implementing DEI-focused initiatives, and continuously measuring and improving your efforts, you do more than just enhance your workplace environment. You also keep up with the times and contribute to your organization’s long-term success.


The benefits don’t stop at your organization’s boundaries. They ripple outward, positively impacting the healthcare industry and the general population. With diverse and satisfied employees, you can deliver innovative and personalized care, leading to healthier and happier communities.

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