Supervisors and managers are the keys to employee retention

Feeling valued more important than money for employee satisfaction

(Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series that addresses strategies of home health agencies, which can be used to successfully recruit and retain qualified employees. In October, we discussed how a home health agency can establish itself as the employer of choice within its community. This month, we provide tips for successful retention of employees by making sure you hire the right supervisor or manager.)

Every home health manager knows that it costs less to retain good employees than to constantly hire and train new employees, but what are the secrets to keeping good employees? One of the keys to success is hiring the right managers and supervisors, say experts interviewed by Hospital Home Health.

"Employees [are given] very specific questions [when] asked to evaluate their satisfaction with their jobs," says James D. Henry, MDiv, principal of Positive Strategies, a human resource consulting firm in Puyallup, WA. "They want to know if [the employees] know what is expected for the job, if they have resources to do their job, if they have the opportunity to do what they do best, if their opinions are respected, and most importantly, does their supervisor care about them," he adds.

While providing resources such as equipment and supplies is straightforward, addressing the other concerns requires a commitment to communicate from manager to supervisor to employee, Henry notes.

A good manager or supervisor will make sure the job is well-defined in both written job descriptions and discussion of the job responsibilities with the employee, says Linda S. Henry of Positive Strategies. Don’t wait to give the job description to the employee after you’ve hired him or her. "Have a prospective employee read the description and any expectations you’ve developed [about] the job during the interview," she suggests. That gives you and the employee a chance to make sure you both have the same understanding, she adds.

Once you’ve gone beyond the hiring and initial employment period, good managers and supervisors will evaluate employees for their strengths and weaknesses, L. Henry notes. "Not only will you be able to make sure the employee has every opportunity to succeed and grow professionally, but you’ll also know how to communicate with him or her," she explains. "For example, if they are big-picture people, they don’t want to sit and listen to a lot of details; so your message will be, Here’s our goal, and here’s what we will do to accomplish it.’"

Employees who like the details will find them reassuring and may not want a lengthy discussion of the global view of how this activity will fit into the big picture, L. Henry adds.

When you are hiring supervisors, make sure they are good communicators, J. Henry suggests. "They should be able to communicate one-on-one as well as in a group setting." That means supervisors need to understand how to plan a meeting with employees and know what messages need to be conveyed and in what manner will work best for the people in the audience," he adds.

"I have the best management team I’ve seen in all of my years in home health," says Jean R. DeLong, RN, MSN, director of clinical services for HomeReach in Worthington, OH. "I inherited some of them when I took this position, and I’ve hired others. We all work well together, and each member of the team has the respect of all of our employees," she explains. While some people are natural managers and know how to delegate, manage, and communicate with employees, you should be prepared to make management training an ongoing effort to ensure the best supervisors and managers, DeLong suggests. "At our management meetings, we also discuss performance issues and set clear goals for us as a group as well as for individuals. We also offer leadership training sessions that cover topics such as management styles, communication, problem solving, and utilization of resources," she adds.

Because hiring the right employee is a challenge for some supervisors or managers, DeLong’s agency offers support right from the start with a notebook that offers tips on how to select, hire, welcome, and train new employees. "Managers need to feel confident that they begin the relationship with the proper planning and communication, and this resource helps them," she explains.

When there is a management opening at HomeReach, administrators try to promote from within to fill the spot, but that is not always possible in all agencies.

"We have a leadership crisis in home health," says Greg Solecki, vice president of Henry Ford Health Care in Detroit. "If all things were equal, I would want to promote from within, but we can’t always do it."

While experience in home health often is a good trait for managers or supervisors, it isn’t the only one needed, he says. "In home health, we fall into traditional patterns of doing what we’ve always done before, and we focus on getting the right checkmarks and ensuring that we are in compliance. Sometimes, it is better to have a manager willing to look outside traditional approaches to develop programs and processes to improve the agency’s service. Unfortunately, this means hiring someone from a different agency with different experience to bring a fresh perspective."

Clinical managers or supervisors often are the hardest positions to fill, Solecki notes. "Some of our best candidates are nurses with many years of experience and exactly the right personalities to move into management, but they don’t want to give up seeing patients. They will tell me that they have a lot of control over their workday, and they get a lot of personal satisfaction from working with patients. They will lose both of those things if they move into management," he continues.

Finding the right personality is important, says Solecki. "It is easy to teach skills such as caring for a patient with an IV, but it is hard to teach someone to relate to their employees and develop a caring relationship," he adds.

All home health agencies want to provide the best care possible, but that goal only can be achieved if employees know that management cares about them, L. Henry says. "There are very few top executives who can express this caring attitude, so we need to make sure our managers and supervisors with whom employees deal with every day know how to express it."

For more information about developing managers who help retain employees, contact:

  • Linda S. Henry, Positive Strategies, 2407 36th Ave. S.E., Puyallup, WA 98374. Phone: (253) 864-7309. E-mail:
  • Greg Solecki, Vice President, Henry Ford Home Health Care, One Ford Place, 4C, Detroit, MI 48202. Phone: (313) 874-6500. E-mail:
  • Jean R. DeLong, RN, MSN, Director of Clinical Services, HomeReach HomeCare, 404 E. Wilson Bridge Road, Suite D, Worthington, OH 43085. Phone: (614) 566-0888. E-mail: