Q&A: Peter Makowski: “Money isn’t the only way to retain staff”

Author: Criselda Diala-McBride | Date: 11 Nov 2015

American Hospital Dubai’s CEO says promoting camaraderie in the workplace can be a strong motivator

Peter Makowski - profileCompetition for top talent is fierce in a whole range of sectors in the UAE. But while recruitment issues in oil and gas or technology are well documented, healthcare may be one of the most competitive of all. With a growing population, robust healthcare spending and increasing prevalence of lifestyle diseases, the UAE is one of the most attractive destinations for healthcare professionals. But the sector is suffering from a severe shortage of talent as well as high turnover and poor retention rates, according to a report by Informa Life Sciences Exhibitions, creating a tumultuous job market for employers.
 
It’s a problem that Peter Makowski, chief executive officer of American Hospital Dubai, is hoping to tackle with a scheme that aims to stop the organisation’s highly qualified and well-trained employees being tempted away by the competition.

 
How much does staff turnover cost American Hospital Dubai?
There’s often a considerable cost associated with replacing an employee, but it varies. For example, if a position is filled by someone who is local, recruitment costs are minimal. However, if talent has to be sourced elsewhere, a professional recruiting firm has to be commissioned. Time and money is also spent on getting the employee through all of the Dubai Health Authority’s licensing requirements, as well as the orientation and training provided by our company.
 
How would your proposed staff retention scheme work?
We haven’t yet solidified the scheme, but the idea is to help our staff get promoted within the organisation. We have just hired a chief human resources officer, who will be working closely with our new chief nursing officer on the scheme. One element of the programme is the clinical ladder, which will recognise and reward employees who have gained additional professional certificates. We hope this will not only retain our staff, but also motivate them to continue obtaining skills.
 
While money can be a motivator, it provides short-lived gratification. It is more important to have a support system at work, where staff are recognised for their skills, they have colleagues who respect them and managers who welcome their ideas, and they generally feel valued for their contributions. This is particularly crucial in a place like Dubai, which has a huge expatriate workforce living away from their families.
 
Why does retaining staff matter?
Continuity is a large part of it. The healthcare profession calls for a great deal of care and compassion, which are as important as the quality of clinical care that a hospital provides. In order to achieve this, you need to promote a positive patient experience by building a lasting relationship – a bond – with your patients through your staff. Patients often feel anxious when going to the doctor’s office, but if they are greeted by familiar faces – such as receptionists and nurses who know them and their cases – they immediately feel at ease. The same is true for physicians – patients are not keen on having to repeat their history to different doctors each time they come in.