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Fighting to keep our best and brightest

America’s great job exodus has affected Southern Oregon, too. Here’s what Asante is doing about it.

It’s no secret that Asante is on a hiring spree, hoping to fill more than 1,000 open positions. But with competition for skilled workers at an all-time high, the system is also working hard to keep the employees who are already here.

Nearly two dozen staff members from throughout the organization — from HR to clinical departments — serve on Asante’s new employee retention committee. Working hand in hand with recruiting teams, the group’s aim is to come up with new ways to ensure current and newly hired employees are inspired to stay with the organization.

Here are just a few of the projects the committee is working on.

Strengthening the onboarding process

Interviews with staff revealed a common thread: the two-day employee orientation was helpful in learning about Asante but did not tell them what they needed to know about their job in their department. And some employees said they didn’t see their manager for days after joining the team.

Now, leaders are required to complete an onboarding checklist, a tool that was unevenly applied when it was optional. The checklist covers everything from preparing for the employee’s arrival with tools and resources to giving a tour of the working space (with maps, if needed) and assigning a preceptor or buddy who will answer questions and help the new hire get acclimated.

A new “one-year success plan” provides ongoing dialogue and helps both manager and employee track their progress throughout the new hire’s first year.

“We want to start the relationship early, set clear expectations of what we’re looking for and what the employee can expect from us,” said Matt Southmayd, manager of medical oncology at ARRMC and co-leader of the retention committee.

Training leaders

Keeping good employees starts with a strong team led by a skilled leader. To help leaders learn and share best management practices, the retention committee has started holding lunch-and-learn sessions, where supervisors, managers and directors can talk about what has worked well in their departments and seek insights from others into how they can improve things.

Finding the right rewards

There are as many motivators to stay in a job as there are employees, so to gauge which kinds of rewards might work, the retention committee recently sent out a survey to over 450 employees.

Questions touched on the kinds of recognitions that matter most, whether employees feel they’re rewarded fairly and what kinds of achievements they feel deserve recognition. Organizers are reviewing the responses to identify some key themes and come up with recommendations.

Conducting “stay” interviews

Still in development, these informal conversations by volunteer peer facilitators are designed to take the pulse of staff members in a confidential setting.

The goal is to learn if employees are satisfied or dissatisfied with their jobs or if they’re at risk of leaving the organization. Stay interviews also give leaders insight into their teams’ morale and help spot areas for improvement.

Hiring for fit

A great job candidate may still be the wrong fit for an organization or even a department within Asante, and cultural mismatches can lead to dissatisfaction and higher turnover.

To make sure the candidate has the abilities, skills and temperament to succeed in the job, Asante’s Talent Acquisition team has added new tools to managers’ tool kits.

One is behavioral-based interviewing, a practice that has been applied inconsistently in the past if at all. Instead of solely evaluating a candidate based on their past roles and responsibilities, behavioral interviews rely on real-life examples of how the candidate handled conflict, demonstrated leadership skills or learned from past mistakes.

“Not only are we interviewing them for the right fit, but they’re doing the same for us,” said Alicia Lorenz, director of HR Administration and Employee and Labor Relations.

Asante is offering ALEC/HealthStream training on behavioral interviews for leaders, but employees who want to apply for a new position within Asante — or who are involved in panel interviews for their department — will want to be aware of this structured format.

Tags: employees, jobs, recruiting, retention, staffing
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If you have a question, please contact the author or relevant department directly.


  • I’ve worked for Asante since 2014, not once traveled or left. I nurse in critical care and cath lab. The biggest retention strategy that would keep me here is student loan help. Reward your longterm employees as well.

    • Agreed! Some of us have consolidated loans for significant reduced interest rates and weren’t able to benefit from the pandemic interest-free deferment. That, combined with higher cost of living and a mortgage worth of student loans makes it very difficult. Appreciate the discussion so much.

  • Melodye Huelsmeier
    May 17, 2022 7:58 am

    Is Asante looking at cost of living wage increase? Food and gas has increased significantly and it is getting harder to make a pay check stretch. Thank you for all you do for your employees!

  • Brianna Mcfarlin
    May 17, 2022 8:02 am

    How timely! It thrills me to see this discussion from a wider lens while also working to incorporate these practices at a department level! I love Asante!

  • Cynthia Perkins
    May 17, 2022 9:36 am

    I have had several employees ask me if we would be getting a raise soon. When I tell them I do not think so some look very sad. I think the rise in costs due to inflation is hitting many of our staff very hard. It would be nice to give a living wage increase to the current employees.

  • Jessica Thompson, RN BSN
    May 17, 2022 10:00 am

    When I came to work at Asante IMCU in 2015, I was blown away by the quality of nursing education and management. At the time, Jessie Hibner RN was an extremely proactive educator who would help sign us up for classes and encouraged constant learning, and Sharon and Jolene in management encouraged us to reference policies constantly to stay on top of changing practice. In staff meetings, frontline staff were asked about our difficulties, and updated on how previously identified barriers were being addressed. I was thrilled to be part of such a high-quality work environment.

    After traveling to 9 different hospitals, Stanford was the only place that matched Asante for quality of nursing practice. So when I was deciding where to return to a staff job, the choice to return here was clear. Since rejoining the team in 2020, I have not had the same experience. I’m disappointed we’ve dropped our drive for Magnet status. I hope as we emerge from crisis and face the ongoing challenge of caring for our growing community, Asante will return to those quality basics and focus on healthy work environment, frontline staff empowerment, and professional development.

    Right now, I could make three times my current hourly wage if I returned to traveling. Support for high quality practice and better opportunities for professional growth is what will keep me here.

  • I keep hearing a lot about retention and I know Asante is trying. That said, this is not the same Asante I joined in 2013. Then I was a new grad, and arguably more naïve. Even so, Asante felt like a small family and I was excited to be a part of it. When I moved to Rogue in 2014 I was impressed how leadership and staff seemed to be on the same page and I felt there was shared support and focus. As the years have rolled by, that sentiment changed. As benefits got costly, needs and priorities seemed to change. Increased by the pandemic, I feel there is a rift among leadership at the upper level and front line staff. The drive to expand and increase profits seems to be a priority of the organization at the expense of staff. The last few negotiations with nursing have been tense and left hard feelings and the distinct impression that we are not valued. The benefits we have now were hard won by dedicated and tenacious ONA representatives who would not back down and voiced the concerns of our nurses. I think it’s easy to say if Asante payed employees better they would stay. I disagree, that’s only a small part of it. I think people stay for the culture of a company and benefits as much as they stay for pay. I agree with previous statements that highlighted a drive for education and engagement from direct management. When Asante switched to a tiered insurance system that made going outside Asante more costly, that was a huge burden to many and in some cases delays or limits access to providers and care. Those things are felt at a very personal level. Every company needs to drive for profit to survive. I get that. I think successful companies also look to engage employees and create an environment that makes them feel valued, offers competitive and affordable benefits and upward career mobility. Doing that I think helps create a culture that retains employees. Kudos to Asante for a renewed focus on this. I think we have made some good progress. The addition of break nurses and staffing to acuity has been a huge perk to bedside staff and has not gone unnoticed by our travelers and staff from other systems. They also comment on how they appreciate the welcome culture of Asante employees. Those are the kinds of positive features I think Asante can build on moving forward.

  • The retention 6$ bonus pay that is given to RN’s who worked over 150hrs past year should be also paid to other staff, EVS, RT, Techs, Imaging. It makes other staff levels feel as though they aren’t important to keep or as valuable.

    • And the CCMA’s/PSR’s who help run the APP clinics

    • Windy Sigler
      May 17, 2022 5:18 pm

      Yes, all the staff should be rewarded. I don’t want to be a nurse without our amazing CNAs!

    • Jane Doe's Cousin
      May 17, 2022 5:34 pm

      I so agree. I was told it was hazard pay. I have been told by many staff how unfair this is.

    • Jenny Majano
      May 17, 2022 7:52 pm

      You are absolutely right. It hurts me to see that only the nurses are getting $6 bonus pay plus a 1.5% increase in their salary. I’m glad for the nurses to get recognized but, What is Asante doing to retained other staff members? Inflation and cost of living is hurting everyone. During the pandemic we did not get a Hazardous Pay like other companies did to their employees, example: Walmart, Rite Aid, Safeway, etc. I know this because I have friends working in those places.

  • One of the items I have found lacking with the onboarding/benefits process is helping employees set up their retirement accounts. It seems like there should be a dedicated person/team to help get employees set up instead of requiring each staff member to navigate the process independently. I have worked for other organizations that do a much better job making the experience user-friendly. I’m certain people are missing out due to the barriers of entry in making any contribution adjustments.

    • You can set up a one to one appointment with a representative from Fidelity. I HIGHLY recommend everybody does that. They are very friendly and will explain our retirement plan in language you can understand. My advisor said moving forward, we will meet once a year to make changes, based on my finances and the amount of time left until retirement. He also explained our insurance benefit package and more specifically, how each tier is set up. I actually understand which option is best for me and my family. Talk about confusing! You are right about employees missing out. I have worked here for over fifteen years and I wish I had done this years ago. I have been losing out on free money for a long time. I wish Asante had made this mandatory, or at least advertised it a little more. Contact Fidelity and sign up for a virtual meeting asap!

  • The focus is always on nursing however it takes more that that profession to run a hospital. Or hospital is a large percentage of travelers making double core staff wages. It’s sad to think we can afford that but nothing for those who stay.

  • I appreciate Asante trying to find ways to keep new employees enticed, but I’ve seen such a huge number of staff leave that have been here for many years!! Many of them left for higher paying jobs because the cost of living has gone up dramatically.

    Also, I know CNA’s is a big issue in the hospital. But seriously, the CNA 1’s that choose working for a nursing home starts out at a higher pay than CNA 2’s in the hospital.

  • This is great feedback. I was afraid that only the staff in my department was feeling devalued. As you can see but the comments the culture as Asante has shifted. This is not something that can be solved with supervisors and managers, executive management must take responsibility for the seismic shift that happened when we placed so many valued staff on indefinite leave. The trust was broken. That created a massive system wide staffing shortage which required traveling personnel to fill the gap. Resulting in the financial crisis we found ourselves in this year. Now some departments are getting incentive pay to stay others are not. This is very divisive and shows what professions are really valued here. Where is the Asante executive leadership? Oh yeah they are still working from the comfort of their homes. Perhaps if they were talking 1:1 with staff and really listening then they would understand how broken staff morale really is.

    On the topic of inflation I do not think it is Asante’s responsibility to “fix it” by paying us more through a cost of living raise. Inflation is the direct result of the people we have elected to run this state and country. Inflation is a result of printing more money to boost up an economy that was on life support due to the pandemic and shutting down industry for months on end. Our only option is to work more, cut costs at home and be very careful with who we vote for.

    The points made above about a shift starting with our benefits and tiers is spot on. What good is using Asante practitioners and specialists if it takes for ever to get and see them. Or if you have a child away at college and they need access. The insurance benefits and HSA takes up a HUGE portion of my paychecks. I don’t think these benefits are as “great” as we are told.

    Lastly, I have lost many team members to go work elsewhere in permanent positions for more money at competing hospitals and clinics in Southern Oregon. The wages here at Asante seem to have fallen off their competitiveness. This needs to be done immediately, because non-competitive wages in an environment of 40 year record inflation will cause employees to look elsewhere. When wages AND benefits are competitive then the culture and learning opportunities is what keeps employees here. From my perspective Asante is failing on all three. I stay because I believe the wages will improve this year, I remember the culture of Asante under Win Howard and hope we return to it and the education will return when the OHA stops being so overly cautious and allows businesses to get back to business as usual. Leadership working from home and online meetings killed our culture.

  • Floor Staff
    May 17, 2022 10:45 pm

    It honestly astounds me that any of this even has to be said. We are working with unsafe numbers all the time now and the fact that there are many other jobs out there that pay better for easier work is just a slap in the face to those who stayed through the whole pandemic and aftermath. There is such a disconnect between administration and floor staff, its quite shocking. At this point it feels like our want to care for people is being exploited by upper management. Give those who stayed raises. Its truly laughable.

  • I appreciate Asante trying to keep staff in their facilities by offering a temporary retention bonus, but when I found out it was only for RN’s I was extremely disappointed. I am an RN and feel that CNA’s, RT’s, EVS, and EVERYONE that works for Asante that is still here post-pandemic deserves this differential. All of the staff listed above have been in the trenches too, not just the nurses.

  • Joshua Butler
    May 18, 2022 5:56 am

    Student loan help or increased tuition assistance would attract and keep employees around for a long time in my opinion.

  • I do feel like I’m holding my breath for student loan assistance at Asante. I’m drowning in it like many others. I’m hoping this is on the table and we can come up with what it will take to create a program for qualified student loan repayment assistance in exchange for our work loyalty.

  • As an floor RN, I agree with all the comments made previously about CNAs. As an award winning hospital, our CNA’s should be paid the best and they are not. I know CNAs who left for Prov due to sign-on bonuses and better hourly wage, this in addition to competitive SNF wages. Give retention bonuses to CNAs & pay CNAs well. If we can develop a strong, broader base of CNA’s, every single RN would be grateful.

  • I have worked for Asante for almost 27 years. I give my all to this job and I enjoy working here. On the plus side, I have reached the top of my pay scale. On the negative, I have had no raise in 2 years. The cost of living has gone up enormously, and yet still no increase in pay. For all I give to my job, I feel really disappointed in management that a cost of living increase is apparently not important to them. Our department has lost numerous employees this year for various reasons (some to travel, some because of smoke, etc) and you would think they would do whatever it takes to retain core staff, rather than have travelers to fill these vacant positions. Please re-think the cost of living raise!

  • Robert Begg, VP HR
    May 19, 2022 4:06 pm

    Thank you all for providing your thoughts and suggestions. The retention committee has many of these ideas already on our list to review to determine which will provide the greatest benefit to the greatest number of employees. If you have additional concerns or would like to discuss your ideas with someone more fully, please reach out to re****************@as****.org.

  • Heriberto Rodriguez
    May 19, 2022 7:23 pm

    Retention pay increases. Gas and just about everything actually has gone significantly up in cost. Bring STEP pay back to everyone. The longer you work here and stay, the more you should be rewarded, this has always worked and motivated people to stay longer. Maybe give extra bonus pay for certain hours worked. so if you work 50-60hrs you get $100 extra, 70-80 hrs you get $300 extra. Or an idea like that, would encourage people to pick up more and be a bit more competitive in picking up.

  • There are so many great points raised by others already that I won’t reiterate, but would like to add the following. Our jobs in healthcare are Intense in so many ways and one of the things that would help us achieve better work/life balance is more vacation time for one, but also THE ABILITY TO TAKE VACATION.
    In places with more time off options, people are not forced to use their only vacation time for their/loved ones’ surgeries, family obligations, etc. but can do these things AND take much needed regeneration time for actual vacations. This shouldn’t be so out of reach, but a value upheld and supported from administration through more generous ETO, decent raises, not having to use ETO for sick days, coverage by staff from other hospitals/units so that your unit is still staffed as needed…
    Thank you for asking, I hope this committee is able to come up with some meaningful initiatives.

    • This is exactly what I was coming here to comment! It would be such a needed break for everyone to be able to accrue and use ETO more.

  • I have been an Asante Employee since 2011. I have always advocated that Asante is a great place to work, because I have always felt that Asante was a great place to work. Sadly this has changed recently. My sadness is not the result of being underpaid, the sadness is not even the result of being overworked. My sadness results from the feeling of being under appreciated.

    I am a CNA who has worked through Covid, picking up numerous amount of hours in order to help shortages. Even now my team and I continue to work countless extra hours in order to fill holes in schedules. I do not do these things to be patted on the back, although maybe it sounds that way, but a simple acknowledgment of thank you could go a long way. Where is our leadership? Why have you not come out to walk the floors just to shake hands and say thank you? Especially to those of us who have been struggling at night for over a year. We are not new to these shortages.

    We stay Asante employees because we hold onto the hope that our original vision statement still rings true. That statement used to read that Asante would be known as a great place to work. I never understood why we lost that vision and why we changed the statement, but I do know that I believed in those words, and did my best to live by the values Asante set forth. Values that really seem non existing in today’s Asante.

    I do understand that Covid has taken a financial toll on the organization, but we have taken losses before and our family has always held strong through it. But in those times Asante has always had transparency, which created a trust between leadership and our family. We do not want to be gaslighted , we prefer the transparency Asante once provided. We miss that trust and bond that was once shared.

    Lastly, I am not a nurse. Asante has always made all departments feel important. We all know that every department works together in order to make a solid team, without that teamwork we cannot function even in the most of staffed days. Lately Asante has forgotten that all team members are important always!

    I do not loose faith that Asante is on the mend but it will start with appreciation of those who have gone through hell these last few years and remained loyal. Do not force us out , remember we are here holding on the best we can. We are willing to grow with you in the future, but do not loose focus on those of us that have helped in Asantes growth and we are feeling unappreciated.

    I remember a time when Asante’s vision statement stated that Asant

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