Internal communications: The forgotten staff retention strategy?

Carter Schwartz managing director, Adam Carter, features in the latest issue of Care Talk magazine (Page 31). Adam shares his insights into how having an effective internal communication strategy can create a workforce that feels more engaged, motivated and more productive which when combined, leads to higher levels of staff retention with the care sector. Here is what he had to say.


It has been well documented that the care sector faces a shortage of suitably skilled workers across all levels. Yet while much of the talk has been about how to attract people to join the sector, little is said of what can be done to stem the flow of the talent that is leaving the sector.

Staff turnover rates within the care sector have consistently remained at higher levels that those in other sectors. But whilst the shortage of skilled workers coming into the profession is one that is not unique to the care sector, other sectors do seem to be better at retaining the staff they already have.

Much of this is down to the way in which they actively engage with their workforce.

Care providers have been shown to drastically improve their staff retention levels by addressing one of the major reasons for people leaving the profession in the first place – communication. Rather, the lack of.

Of course not even the most optimistic of industry observers would ever go so far as to suggest that staff attrition rates will be eradicated altogether simply by improving existing lines of communication.

However, irrespective of whether your organisation employs 14 or 1.4 million people, as is the case with the NHS, on-going internal communication from the top-down and bottom-up is essential to ensuring that those employees remain actively engaged with the business and for the organisation itself to remain competitive.

It’s about being human. Take Siemens as an example.

The goal of their internal communications strategy is to “foster engagement while helping employees understand the company’s business objectives and how they fit into them.” The outcome of such an approach has been shown to positively impact the organisation in a number of ways.

Indeed, research from Towers Watson has found that where there was an internal communications strategy in place, care providers report having a more engaged workforce that result in greater patient outcomes and higher levels of recorded patient satisfaction. This in turn leads to improved organisational and financial performance.

These reflect the findings of the MacLeod Review (2009), who went a step further in their analysis to suggest that engaged employees are also more loyal to their employer and demonstrate greater degrees of innovation.

So having an internal communications strategy isn’t simply a nice-to-have, it just makes good business sense. With this understanding in mind, the question then becomes one of How can care employers implement an internal communications strategy?

It’s simply about creating a two-way channel of communication and here are a few ways in which this can be achieved:-

  • Gain employee buy-in: Share your goals and objectives for the year ahead so that your employees understand where the business is heading and the contribution they will make to achieve these plans.
  • Collaborate: Create collaboration tools, such as focus groups, town hall meetings or in-house forums that encourage employees to openly share ideas and best practice.
  • Give employees a ‘voice’: Giving employees an opportunity to contribute and have their voices heard on the future direction of the organisation is a strong driver of engagement.
  • Internal communication: Keep staff updated with the latest news and developments not just within the organisation itself, but also across the sector. Newsletters, regular all-staff emails, intranet sites and monthly meetings can all prove an invaluable tool in maintaining staff engagement.
  • Continuous professional development: Evaluation of staff development on a regular basis, with a focus on supporting staff training needs whilst keeping an eye on the long term development of managers and potential new managers as part of your overall succession planning strategy.

With the pressures facing the care sector today, senior management can no longer shy away from sharing unpalatable truths through internal memos or the occasional town hall meeting. They have to get ‘out there’, speak to people, encourage two-way communication at all levels of the organisation and lead by example.

There is pressure from the top for care employers to deliver internally on what has been promised externally to investors and other shareholders. That means learning to be cleverer at what you do and no longer affording the luxury of leaving things to chance.

The reality is, however, that effective internal communication needs genuine commitment – you can’t deliver on your organisational goals unless your people feel committed, listened to and valued. Internal communication and worker engagement is not about finding gimmicky ways to motivate your staff in the short term; it’s about getting their full ‘buy in’ and having them on board for the journey.