Keeping good employees is harder than ever before. If you hire and fire for your business, you’re well aware of this—the workforce is much more fluid than it was in the past.
In few industries are these changes more evident than with EMTs and paramedics. The work these professionals do is hard, unglamorous and liable to be at odd hours. It’s a profession that boasts somewhere between a 20% and 30% turnover rate. But there are ways to combat that.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Steve Grau, founder of Royal Ambulance and Glassdoor’s #25 SMB CEO of 2019, about what his company is doing to reduce turnover and improve retention in their industry.
The strategies Grau shared for increasing employee engagement aren’t just applicable to his field, either. They’ll work for companies in any competitive industry. If you’re dealing with turnover problems—or want to avoid them before they start—try applying these five principles to keep your employees happy in the workplace.
1. Encourage Career Growth
One of the biggest things that sets Grau’s Royal Ambulance apart in its industry, is their focus on career growth. Whether employees stay with the company or move on to other opportunities, Royal’s invested in their success.
“We’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what our team members are looking for, and a lot of it comes down to just listening to their career aspirations,” explains Grau. “We find out what inspires them and why, then use the resources at our disposal to help. Frequently, people don’t come to Royal with a very large network, and we work to leverage our alumni network to change that. When challenges come up in discussions, we’ll try to tap into people that can help—both in person and through technology.”
There are a myriad of ways to encourage career growth, but one of the best is helping people build out their personal network. Put people in contact with others who can help their careers. Don’t be afraid to tap your personal connections, too. LinkedIn is great for this, as the professional’s social network of choice.
2. Look Outside Your Field For Inspiration
Are you bound by the constraints your industry places on you?
One of the biggest things that can attract and retain employees is an innovative, forward-thinking organization. To be constantly pushing forward, you can’t just rely on gathering ideas from within your field—you have to think outside of the box.
One seminal Harvard Business Review article noted that people in distant but analogous fields were likely to come up with better solutions for industry problems than people who actually worked in the industry. “These are people who, although they know little about your field, may be more likely to come up with breakthrough thinking,” says the co-authors of the piece. “Indeed, they may be carrying around, in their heads, the gem of the solution you’ve been searching for all along.”
That’s one of the things that sets Royal Ambulance apart from its competitors. They’re constantly searching for opportunities to pull ideas from elsewhere and apply locally in new ways.
“If you’re looking to build innovative processes that improve recruitment, retention or general business practices, you can’t be myopic and limit your research to your own bubble,” shares co-founder Eve Grau in a recent EMS1 interview. “If you want to build new products or services that differentiate you from your competition, see what Silicon Valley’s most innovative tech companies are doing and figure out how you can apply that to your own business.”
3. Give Public Praise
One of the things that Royal Ambulance has concentrated on, is using technology to help build up the human side of their business. “Facebook Workplace has been huge for us,” notes Grau.
He continues, “We rely on it to keep people in touch with each other—but it’s also one of our biggest outlets for public praise of our employees. EMTs give their workmates shoutouts on our Facebook Workplace all the time, which fosters relationships within the team and helps everyone feel more connected.”
Facebook Workplace also allows Grau and the rest of the team to communicate praise in other ways. Exit interviews always have a question along the lines of, “Who would you like to give props to?” The answer is always documented and made public. Scholarships and awards ceremonies also go out over the platform and are recognized publicly by the company.
It may sound small, but these things make a meaningful difference.
4. Build Alumni Groups
“I can’t imagine getting to where I am today without the help of a lot of other people,” shares Grau. “Building a network of people I could call on and that I could help too, has been a huge part of my success. At Royal, we’re trying to do that for everyone on our staff. LinkedIn has helped a ton.”
Royal Ambulance maintains a robust alumni group on LinkedIn. One of the unique benefits of working for the company is how connected everyone stays even after they’ve left, which gives a leg up to current employees who want shadowing opportunities or career advice. It even allows them to make connections with alumni who’ve moved to other industries.
It’s a quid pro quo relationship, too—former Royal employees reach out all the time for help or introductions via the company as well. This strong, technology-supported alumni network is a huge help for retention.
5. Stay On Top Of Technology Trends
The EMT and paramedic field may seem like a static one, but staying ahead of technology trends has been a big area Royal attributes its success to.
“We’re constantly trying to find new ways to improve our business, and technology is one of the biggest—especially with social media platforms. They allow us to build relationships, show accomplishments and create a community. At the end of the day, we’re not just an ambulance company. We want to help our employees succeed wherever they go. If they stay here, so much the better.”
That mindset makes the difference, and it’s been recognized. In 2018, Royal was ranked #38 as one of the Best Places to Work in the nation by Modern Healthcare.
These strategies that Grau and his team have used to shape their company culture, become a higher-performing organization and improve employee engagement can help you too—regardless of the industry you’re operating in.
Approach your team members with an open mind, the willingness to experiment and you’ll be well on your way to creating a better future for your company.