CHW retention strategies

Boosting CHW Retention with Professional Development

If you’re involved in a program for community health workers, you’ve probably had to deal with employee turnover. Most agencies that hire CHWs, community health representatives, promotores, or similar staffers, deal with the same issue. In the case of CHWs, retention becomes an issue because career advancement as a CHW is a barrier, according to a recent study on CHW career paths. More specifically:

  1. CHWs want to be CHWs and not social workers or nurses. This means encouraging them to advance to a different career won’t be a motivator.
  2. They like career development programs that emphasize unity rather than one-upmanship and competition among coworkers.
  3. Job skills are just as important as formal schooling. Requirements such as bachelor’s degrees might be a turnoff.
  4. CHWs look for more leadership roles, especially in areas where they’re in a position to excel, such as COVID-19 response and racial justice initiatives.

Offering Training Increases Retention for CHWs

If you have a CHW program, you’re likely to have more success keeping CHWs on board if you create career development programs that meet what CHWs need and want.

One powerful solution to a revolving door is training. This means offering training as a benefit for new and existing hires, rather than a requirement for people you haven’t hired yet. 

A recent report showed that 94 percent of employees would stay with a company longer if there was an investment in learning.

Life happens, and sometimes people just quit. There’s nothing you can do about that. But you can certainly reduce some employee turnover.

Some agencies turn to perks and higher pay as a way to encourage hires to stay. That can help. Especially when positions like CHWs have such high burnout rates. Being supportive of your employees can help keep them on board.

The Cost of Avoiding Professional Development for CHW Retention

Some CHWs who’ve been on the job for years might start to think they’ve learned everything there is to know. The consequence of this kind of thinking is they might get burned out and get sloppy when dealing with clients. Or they could start looking elsewhere for a challenge.

Unfortunately, professional development or training is one of the first things that agencies cut. But that can cost your agency more in the long run.

It costs much more to hire and onboard a new employee than to provide an existing CHW with new skills that makes them feel motivated and productive. Many studies show that the cost to replace an employee is six to nine months’ salary.

CHW Training Bundle

Kickstart your health program with these resources.

Why Professional Development Improves CHW retention

Building the professional skills of your CHWs is important because it makes them better CHWs. They can increase their knowledge base and build skills so they can do their job more effectively. 

Here are some compelling reasons why you should invest in a training program for your CHWs:

Training programs improve skills and knowledge.

Providing quality training can help CHWs keep up on their skills and also provide them with new knowledge that adds meaning to a job they might be tired of. CHWs with good training can build important core competencies that will let them coordinate care better and specialize in strategies like Motivational Interviewing.

Training meets CHW certification requirements.

Some states provide a compelling reason to provide training to CHWs because they require a certification. 

Thus, it’s important to be aware of your community’s unique needs and challenges to best help address them with a CHW initiative. Depending on where you are, your state may have legislation on your competencies and required experience as a CHW. 

The CHW Core Competencies Resource Guide helps you start your community health worker training program by knowing what the requirements are in every state.

You can boost employees who have poor performance.

Some health workers would work better if they had more support. If your CHW has had a poor performance review, you can zero in on skills they may be lacking. With the right training, they can do their job better.

CHWs can have more job responsibilities.

Many CHWs ask for more autonomy in their positions. They would like to have more leadership and respect at work. And by giving them additional training, you can put them in a position where they can learn skills for more responsibility. 

This might or might not be a career path to a new job. It might be building skills for a new health record system, or maybe specialized training in areas such as diabetes management.

Retention is easier when CHWs feel valued.

Workers who know they’re being invested in feel valued — because they are. As this PwC report highlights, professional development opportunities are one of the most compelling reasons to work at a company. Offering training is a way to show your staff that you recognize the work they do and your agency cares enough about it to make them better workers. This in turn increases productivity and boosts morale, improving satisfaction and retention for CHWs.

If you create a personal and high-quality training experience, your CHWs will respond to professional development opportunities. Make it a priority for your agency and use it as a way to energize your CHWs and improve the goals of your program overall.

CHW Training Bundle

Kickstart your health program with these resources.