Want to retain staff? Play the generation game

Learning what different generations of staff want from their job will keep them engaged

Picture: Barney Newman

Who’s this nurse: ambitious with high career expectations, wants to work with you not for you, requires job flexibility and reassurance… and will leave if their needs aren’t met?

According to Health Education England, these traits apply to 35% of the NHS workforce, who are collectively known as Generation Y or millennials, meaning those born between 1980 and 1994.

Okay, these characteristics may be a bit of generation generalisation, but nonetheless it’s helped to inspire a truly fantastic project.

Finding a way to retain newly qualified nurses

The senior intern programme at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust is using these stereotypes, which it says often ring true, to retain its newly qualified nurses (NQNs).

The trust discovered that a quarter of its Band 5 staff were leaving within a year of being recruited.

Cross-generational solution

The organisation responded by developing a programme to do what nurses do often – find a feasible, often innovative, solution to a problem.

At its heart is the idea that different generations want and need different things. The solution? Enlist experienced, older nurses to support NQNs.

The Barking programme – a former RCNi Nurse Awards finalist – supports NQNs’ work and lifestyle needs, and helps to bring different generations closer together.

Nursing is a dynamic and diverse profession, and employers need to be flexible enough to cater for the different needs of their workforce – and this means all generations of staff. Otherwise, they risk losing them, not just from the organisation but possibly from nursing altogether.

Tackling the reasons why people leave nursing

Just under a third (30%) of people who left the Nursing and Midwifery Council register from May to October 2018 said they did so because of too much pressure and stress. Personal circumstances was also a heavily-cited reason (26%), according to the annual registration report published at the end of March 2019. 

As we await the final NHS People Plan, which has myriad staffing issues to resolve, including retention, there are lessons to be learned from Barking’s efforts to keep new generations of nurses supported and engaged.