Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Loyalty. How An Occupational Health Strategy Tamps Down Employee Turnover Risk

By: | April 4, 2022

Giovanni Gallara is the chief clinical services officer at Concentra. He can be reached at [email protected]

An unexpected consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the large number of employees leaving their jobs to explore new opportunities.

Coined “the Great Resignation,” this mass exodus from jobs began in July 2021, when an unprecedented four million Americans, or about 2.6% of the entire country’s workforce, left their jobs for presumably greener pastures.

The rush of employee job changes hasn’t slowed since — the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that a record 4.5 million American left their jobs in November of 2021. In January 2022, the “quits rate,” a metric that tracks the percentage of employees initiating the end of the employment, remained at 2.9%.

For nine consecutive months, at least four million Americans have left their jobs. 

Employees can leave in part because job openings remain high. The same BLS statistics show roughly two million more job openings than employee resignations. 

The High Costs of Turnover

The Great Resignation offers employees the opportunity to take jobs that make them happier or increase their pay and standard of living. But the cost of replacing lost employees can hurt the company.

The Society for Human Resource Management research shows that direct replacement costs hover around 50-60%, with overall costs to the business ranging anywhere from 90-200%.

New employees are also more likely to be injured on the job — in their first month of employment, they are three times more likely to be involved in a lost-time injury than tenured employees. 

Employers have long known the high cost and burden of losing experienced employees. But the Great Resignation has sharpened the focus — employers need to make improvements or their employees will look elsewhere.

Veteran employees also look for real change — they won’t be swayed by a ping pong table in the breakroom or a monthly pizza party. Instead, employers can reduce turnover and show their employees they invest in their health and safety by engaging with an experienced occupational health provider. 

Building Retention Through Safety

Occupational health programs go beyond treating injured employees.

When an employer partners with an experienced occupational health provider, they get the expertise and capabilities that come from preventing work injuries and promoting a safe work environment as well. A demonstrated commitment to safety has the potential to show employees that their employers are investing in them, among other benefits: 

Fewer safety incidents. An environment of safety can go a long way toward showing employees that their health and wellness is important.

Injuries and lost workdays affect not only the injured employee but also their coworkers as well.

Beyond picking up the slack when an employee is out, employees are unlikely to stay in an environment that feels unsafe. 

Improved morale. Employees who are worried for their safety operate in an environment of constant stress.

Even something as simple as a body mechanics or functional strengthening program can help alleviate some of this.

A safe environment also helps camaraderie and team building as employees trust their equipment, job responsibilities and each other.

Content and engaged employees are more likely to build tenure and extend their careers.  

Increased productivity. Safety and productivity are not mutually exclusive — both can be achieved at high levels concurrently.

An occupational health provider can partner with employers, educate safety managers and teach employees to perform their jobs with appropriate mechanics and ergonomics, early symptom management of soreness and musculoskeletal injuries before they develop into functional impairments.

When you prevent injuries and lost days at work, you increase productivity. Employees who are properly trained and have the appropriate resources are more likely to experience success on the job.

Communication and commitment. Employees at all levels appreciate clear and frequent communication with company leaders. When working with an occupational health provider, it’s important for employers to communicate to employees the intent of the occupational health provider engagement and articulate the goal of improving workplace safety.

An employer’s success in employee safety and engagement can generate positive interest and recruiting opportunities for individuals seeking employment in that respective industry. When employers are viewed as caring about their employees and their safety, it places the employer at a competitive advantage to recruit and retain workers.

By partnering with an occupational health provider, employers can define and build their own safety reputation.

This reputation can not only help retain current employees but also attract new talent. 

Investing in Occupational Health

Not every employer has the budget or need to invest in a full-scale occupational health program.

A strong occupational health partner will work with an employer to address the employer’s specific needs and pain points.

Utilizing resources such as telemedicine or athletic trainer/therapy program that are focused on injury prevention, return to work and regaining function are examples of ways an occupational health partner can help deliver an employee health and wellness with minimal investment and a strong return on capital. 

A recent survey of over 2,000 American adults found that more than two in five employees are considering quitting because their employer has not cared about their concerns during the pandemic.

Although all industries have been impacted by the Great Resignation, blue collar sectors such as transportation, manufacturing, distribution, utilities and construction have been hit the hardest.

Working with an occupational health partner can demonstrate to employees that you, the employer, are committed to your workforce and are investing in them. &

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