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Recruit with Physician Retention in Mind: Why Cultural Fit Matters

Jackson Physician Search
November 3, 2020

MGMA’s Medical Practice Excellence Conference (MPEC20), held October 19-21, 2020, provided a top-notch line-up of speakers who are well-versed in identifying and implementing solutions to the challenges healthcare executives face each day in their medical groups. Contributing to the impressive educational tracks, Jackson Physician Search President Tony Stajduhar discussed the current state of physician staffing and what healthcare organizations can do to succeed in the competitive physician hiring marketplace. In his presentation, Tony broke it down into three distinct categories: Recruitment, Retention, and Retirement. Last week, we took a deep dive into retention, while this article focuses on the very important – albeit often elusive – topic of physician retention.

Make sure to tune in next week for installment three, where we’ll talk about the massive impact upcoming physician retirements will have on staffing plans in 2021 and beyond.

What is Organizational Culture?

Put simply, organizational culture is the development and proliferation of a shared mission and vision that helps drive success. A healthy organization cultivates and rewards behaviors that are aligned with those values and strengthen the workplace culture. Those who think culture is “just a buzz phrase” or that it does not make a difference in physician recruitment and retention are mistaken. Research from Gallup clearly shows that organizations who foster a healthy workplace culture perform better and have fewer retention issues. Considering how competitive today’s physician staffing market is, promoting a healthy workplace culture is an advantage that can’t be discounted.

Consider this, how many healthcare organizations endorse the idea that they are “mission-driven?” That same Gallup survey reported that only 40% of employees feel that “their job is important to the organization’s mission.” Yet, when employees feel they contribute to the mission and ultimately to the organization’s success, performance metrics are dramatically improved. Clearly, claiming to be mission-driven is not a panacea without the underlying work that goes into cultivating a healthy workplace culture.

Building Culture

A healthy culture isn’t created overnight, so it is imperative to get the ball rolling if course-correction is desired. The first order of business is to find out what type of culture exists in your organization. The best and easiest way is to ask.

Building a Strong Culture 101:

  • Assess your current environment through surveys
  • Identify the gaps and develop a plan for improvement
  • Implement ongoing measures for continuous improvement
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate

Start by deploying surveys and other feedback mechanisms to identify how your employees feel about the workplace environment. Your physician staff plays a crucial role in contributing to the workplace environment, so it is vital to understand their feelings about the culture. Use the survey results to discover where the gaps are and implement strategies to address the shortcomings. As you learn and execute these corrective actions, it is important to measure their effectiveness. Continuous improvement is achieved through the diligence of monitoring and measuring performance. Lastly, none of this is possible without a firm commitment from leadership and constant communication.  A healthy environment is one where systems allow for open dialog at all levels of the organization.

Why Culture Matters to Physicians

A survey sponsored by Jackson Healthcare illustrated significant gaps between physician perceptions of culture and work environment compared to those of administrators. For example, 68% of administrators responded that physicians are always treated fairly, and 78% stated that physicians are always treated with respect. Responses by physicians to those same two questions were vastly different. Only 46% of physicians felt they were always treated fairly, while 49% felt they were always treated with respect. To illustrate why that disparity exists, in that same survey, only 34% of the physicians felt that communication in the organization was good, while 42% of administrators felt the same. Open, honest communication is critical to the development of a workplace where employees feel valued and committed to organizational success.

In Medscape’s annual survey dealing with physician burnout and suicide, 42% of respondents reported having feelings of burnout. While this is down from prior years, it illustrates a continuing problem in the healthcare industry. Considering that 48% of those reporting burnout are at an age that can be considered mid-career, it is not unreasonable to see them as being motivated to seek out new opportunities. Shortages and increased competition for their services mean that physicians who are not satisfied will have other options available.  When asked, physicians point to having trust in the healthcare organization’s leadership team and the quality of communication as the two most important job satisfaction elements, both of which rank higher than money when it comes to long-term retention.

Hiring for Culture and Fit

We have established that physicians, or any employees for that matter, who feel a connection to the organization’s mission and values are more engaged. Essentially, they feel a greater sense of satisfaction and are less likely to seek other opportunities. In our recruitment article, we touched upon recruiting physicians that are a strong cultural fit with your organization.

Using your organizational culture as a centerpiece to your hiring practice is really the first step to achieving strong physician retention rates. When you have a strong culture, you already have a blueprint of what types of employees embody that culture. Those employees are your “brand ambassadors” and should be involved in the process. Here are ways you can highlight culture when you are hiring physicians who fit, succeed, and stay:

  • Everyone involved in the interview process should embody your culture
  • Create an on-site interview experience that is tailored to the candidate specifically
  • Find ways to make the candidate feel welcome/special
  • Sell the community as well as the opportunity
  • Engender a sense of excitement throughout the site visit
  • Always answer every question before the physician candidate leaves

A recent Jackson Physician Search white paper summarized physician responses to a survey about their interview experiences. Physicians who accepted job offers cited feeling a genuine sense of excitement from the interview team and also feeling welcomed throughout the visit. Both of those elements are entirely within your control. The key take away from that survey is the important role an on-site interview plays in hiring for cultural fit.

Staying Ahead of Retirements

Our final installment in our “Three Rs of Successful Physician Staffing” will address the realities of working through and planning for physician retirements. Data shows that more than 25% of physicians are at or near retirement age, making this a key element in every healthcare organization’s physician staffing plan. The good news is that physician retirements shouldn’t catch anyone off guard.  Plus, we will cover several strategies to help you develop transition plans that work for you and your doctors.

If you need a strategic recruitment partner to help you navigate physician recruiting and retention, Jackson Physician Search is ready to help every step of the way.  Contact our experienced recruitment professionals today to learn more.

Missed the MGMA MPEC20 Conference?

Watch Mastering the Three R’s of Physician Staffing


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