Case Study

Increasing recruitment and retention through reward

A comprehensive reward package played a vital role in improving recruitment and retention at Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

18 October 2021

After being rated inadequate by the CQC in October 2015 and November 2016, Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust began looking into its NHS Staff Survey results to focus on the areas that needed the most improvement and identified the need for an improved recruitment and retention campaign.

Key benefits and outcomes

  1. Registered nurse vacancies reduced by a third.
  2. Increased retention rates and reduced turnover rates.
  3. Reduction in agency fee spend.

What the organisation faced

The trust was rated inadequate by the CQC and was also facing a retention problem. Something needed to be done quickly to turn this rating around and put the trust on the map as a good place to work, to increase retention and fill vacancies that had previously been difficult to fill.

What the organisation did

The people directorate reviewed the trust's benefits package and decided to include this as part of the recruitment and retention campaign. Working with numerous departments across the trust, the benefits booklet was revamped to include new and relevant benefits such as:

  • the annual leave scheme
  • the NHS Pension Scheme
  • retire and return options.

The trust realised these should be promoted as a benefit of working for the trust, as compared to other sectors these schemes are extremely generous.

The newly published benefits booklet was distributed to existing staff and a communications campaign was launched to advertise the benefits package. Through a recruitment drive including promotion of the reward benefits, the trust attracted people from other industries, including and airline workers to support the vaccination programme, as well as healthcare support workers roles, due to those industries being forced to close because of the pandemic.

The next step was to look at retention and understand why staff are leaving to see what steps could be taken to prevent this from happening. The biggest reason for staff leaving was retirement, so the trust did a lot of work to communicate the retire and return option to those groups of staff. 

Results and benefits

In April 2016 turnover was 1.56 per cent and is now at 0.57 per cent (October 2021).

In April 2016 vacancy rates were 13.26 per cent (563.23wte) and they are now 5.44 per cent (265.54fte).

The trust was also successful in filling difficult posts, one of those being a cardiologist. This role had been vacant for five years, but due to a revamped recruitment process including the benefits booklet, the post was quickly filled. The trust was previously spending £30 million a year on agency fees and that is now down to £16 million a year, which again is due to the successful recruitment drive.

Promoting the retire and return option has been a success and reduced rates of staff retiring and not returning.

The focus on retention has also seen the introduction of long-service awards. The trust holds afternoon tea sessions where staff receive a signed letter from the chief executive. Up to 250 staff would attend each session and the event received great feedback, with staff saying it improved morale and made them feel valued. There is also an annual recognition week held once a year where staff are thanked for their service and receive a badge. The trust also has thank-you cards for staff to complete for one another, which are sent throughout the year. These recognition methods are included in the benefits booklet which shows staff they are supported and valued by the organisation.

After updating the benefits booklet and introducing these new retention initiatives, the organisation was named trust of the year by the HSJ. The trust also took action to promote the benefits of working for the trust on a much wider scale and this has further improved the retention rate and turnover and vacancy rates have declined.

Overcoming obstacles

  • Ensure you have the correct departments involved from the start.  For example, having the communications team involved from the start meant the trust had advice every step of the way and could make quick changes instead of reviewing the whole benefits package at the end, which saves time and resource.
  • Getting opinions from as many teams as possible will open up your project with knowledge and information across the board. This will then attract more attention.
  • Ensure you evaluate your resources to learn what went well and what could be improved next time. This will save time, as you can go into a project knowing the best way to target staff.

Takeaway tips

  1. Don’t get bogged down in the detail, remember what your goal is.
  2. Any changes to your benefits package should be updated as soon as possible and cascaded to staff.
  3. Total Reward Statements (TRS) are a great resource and staff should be encouraged to access their statement when updated.
  4. NHS terms and conditions (TCS) are far better than in other sectors so this should be reiterated to staff. All aspects of NHS TCS should be promoted in your benefits package including annual leave allowance and the NHS Pension Scheme.
  5. Your reward package should be used as part of your recruitment process.

Contact details

For more information about the work in this case study, contact Robert Simcox, Deputy Director of People, Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, , 01623 622515 Ext 4169