By Denise Boudreau-Scott

“We have too many nurse whores. You know, the ones who would leave for 10 more cents an hour.”

My eyes opened wide. My mouth fell open. I sat up straight in my rolling office chair, frozen.

I hear a lot of shocking things in the work I do. But this one? This one had me, well, perturbed. Or, since I’m already using inappropriate language, let me just say how I felt. I was pissed off!

Nurse Whores?!

Perhaps more shocking than his choice of words was this leader’s blatant misunderstanding of his employees’ needs. Is that really what he thought his retention struggles boiled down to? Eighty more cents a day? Four more dollars a week?

Yeah, I don’t think so either.

When I hung up the phone, I had to wonder. If he was this willing to be so offensive with me, a total stranger, what is his style as a leader with his teams? Doubtful it’s the type of leadership that ignites engagement and inspires employee retention!

While this may be an extreme representation of an opinion, it is a commonly shared one: that retention is about money. Higher pay rates. Bigger referral bonuses. Increasing sign-on supplements. Maybe you are hung up on this concept too.

Unfortunately, this mentality keeps you from the real solution. You are not losing people to the organization down the road because of your wages. You are losing them because . . . hang on a sec . . . before I get to that, I need to get something off my chest . . . THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A NURSE WHORE!!! There, thanks, that felt good. I have been holding that in for months.

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

I wish I had a dollar for every time a leader has said to me, “I just don’t understand. We are competitive with our pay.” Or the they offer this bonus and that incentive. The truth is, people want so much more.

But is it really more they want? Or do they simply want what they deserve?

When an employee is wondering whether to leave your organization to pursue another opportunity, the motivation to leave comes more from how that employee feels versus how much they are paid.

What drives loyalty in your people is whether they get their bucket filled at your organization. What bucket, you may be wondering. You see, caring and compassionate people are drawn to this field so they can do what they are meant to do. But providing care and compassion alone does not leave an individual satisfied. There are layers to that onion. Job satisfaction has a lot to do with the return on their investment. How does the organization make a person feel when they do a good job? Does a job well done by an employee trigger recognition, appreciation, advancement, opportunity for growth, and all the other good feels at your organization? When that happens, a person feels truly fulfilled.

Filling up a person’s bucket inspires loyal retention naturally, while an empty bucket inspires a caring and compassionate person to try their hand at pumping gas or stocking shelves at Walmart. What a loss. Unfortunately, it’s a loss that‘s happening all too often and all around us.

And behind that loss is a leader who just doesn’t get it and makes up fictitious characters to try to justify it all.

Now, there is a lot to be said about pay. Many careers deserve higher wages, and at the top of that list are the people who care for others. I know we all agree on that. The typical employee in senior living is a single mom, working two full-time jobs. Imagine her day-to-day. Her work is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. Her time with her family is not nearly enough.

Her time at work should make her feel good.

If you are wondering how to retain your best team members, simply going above and beyond to make them feel really good is the best place to start. Overflow their buckets. All of them. Every chance you get. Doing so will fill your bucket up in the process.