Those Were the Days

December 23, 2021

Those Were the Days

Thought Leadership: From the CEO’s Desk

Richard Leaver, Alliance PTP CEO – One of my first jobs after graduating as a physiotherapist was working in an occupational health clinic at a large car assembly plant in the United Kingdom. There were over 10,000 employees working at the assembly plant when I arrived, many having spent their entire working life employed by the company and at the same location.    

When I met the employees, I asked how long they’ve worked at the assembly plant. I was constantly amazed at the longevity of employment by so many of the employees. There were a significant number of workers who had worked in excess of 25 years, still engaged in jobs that had changed little over time. I even came across a couple of employees who had worked 50 years plus. Truly remarkable.

In stark contrast, I recently had the privilege to sit in a room full of executives who were responsible for leading many of the largest and most respected outpatient physical therapy companies in the United States. The conversation turned to clinician turnover rates and how successful, or rather unsuccessful, they were at being able to retain talent. It was not uncommon to have clinicians change employer after only a couple of years.

What has changed?

Why has the labor force become disconnected from their employers? As a society, I argue we no longer tend to admire or respect employees who have considerable longevity with a company. In fact, for career development, there seems a positive perception toward applicants who have experienced a number of employers. 

I understand there are various reasons for the uncoupling of the worker and their company, attributable to many external and internal forces and a general shift in societal expectations and norms. I propose the sense of obligation toward employees from companies has been eroded to a point where human labor is identified by an employee number rather than by their personal attributes and loyalty.

However, to focus primarily on the employer as being primarily responsible for the higher rates of employee turnover is simplistic and probably inaccurate. 

I believe this increasing disconnect between employee and employer is having an adverse effect to operational effectiveness, company culture and financial security. Undoubtedly, with the increase in employee turnover comes a very real personal, administrative and financial cost to businesses.

Along with the obvious direct costs associated with replacing and training employees, the loss and disruption of relationships; culture; continuity and historical perspective can profoundly impact businesses ability continue to function at their current performance level. To attempt to grow an existing business with high staff turnover is almost impossible. 

A major differentiator in outpatient physical therapy companies, and healthcare providers generally, is their ability to not only attract but retain clinicians. Without employee longevity we will struggle to develop strong and meaningful relationships with colleagues, referral sources, patients and the wider community.   

Regardless of the causes of increasing employee turnover the challenge is identifying strategies and tactics that employers can adopt to truly engage clinicians in a meaningful way, so they choose to stay with a specific organization for an extended period. My final piece of advice: We better do this quickly, as the demand for skilled clinicians is only going to increase while supply remains limited.