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How our hospital is recruiting and retaining top talent

October 31st, 2012

by David Musyj

Since a majority of a hospital's expense goes to labor it is generally the first focus when trying to restrain or reduce costs. The pressure to control expenses while at the same time recruit and retain the best talent is getting more and more difficult.

One novel concept we introduced at Windsor Regional Hospital in Ontario, Canada, is unlimited vacation entitlement.

Typically, an employee's vacation entitlement is directly tied to years of service. As years of service increase so does vacation.

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We were faced with two large issues. First, employees with a lot of vacation did not take all their entitlement. This was sometimes due to the fact that they did not want to take their full entitlement but mostly because they kept a week or so in reserve in case of an emergency. They did not want to get into a position that a family issue arose or a special vacation opportunity became a reality and they had no flexibility to take the vacation.

Second, and just as troubling, was when we tried to recruit new talent to the team. We were stuck with having to offer them a bare minimum vacation entitlement. This generally was far less than they were receiving from their current employer. We could not offer them more because individuals who worked with us for years would not be pleased if a new member received more vacation then they got when they were hired.

Faced with these two issues we introduced the novel concept of unlimited vacation. Yes. Unlimited vacation. No maximum limit. All you need to do is to receive prior approval, as always, from your direct supervisor.

Initially those employees that like structure and rules had trouble grasping the concept. They thought it was either going to be abused or they were actually losing their vacation.

However, the majority embraced it. Abuse has not been an issue. If an employee takes or asks for more vacation than typical, it is probably the least of your issues with that employee.

Recruitment has been amazing. We lost a lot of strong talent in the past due to vacation entitlement. Those days are over.

The best part of the concept was a letter I received from an employee in the first month of implementation. She told me her son had a track meet one afternoon. In the past she would not attend her son's track meets because she did not want to use a vacation day or even half a day.

This time she asked for the day off and went to the track meet. At the meet her son ran and won his race. At the end of the race she embraced her son. Her son told her the best part of the day was the fact she was there to witness the race. That is priceless.

David Musyj is the President and CEO of Windsor Regional Hospital in Ontario, Canada. Under his leadership, Windsor Regional Hospital has won numerous local, provincial, national and international awards, including more 36 Leading Practices and 10 Innovation Awards at Ontario Hospital Association International conferences.

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