Turnover is a critical challenge that healthcare organizations and their recruiters are facing today, especially when there’s high demand for quality nurses and a shortage of candidates. In response, the SkillSurvey Analytics team conducts studies to determine if and how reference feedback might help organizations make better recruitment decisions and hire the nursing candidates who are sure to stick.

This year, the SkillSurvey Analytics team presented their research which used text analytics to explore how feedback and verbatim comments from references predicts nurse turnover within the first year of hire at the 33rd Annual Conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP). Their research focused on the specific reference comments provided for RN nursing candidates’ strengths as well as their areas for improvement.

The Methodology

The team has analyzed data from more than 10,000 registered nurses from 13 healthcare organizations who were reference checked with SkillSurvey ReferenceTM Pre-Hire 360®. This specific study evaluated comments for a total of 825 RN job candidates of the over 10,000 studied who were subsequently hired. At the one-year post-hire mark, 254 were fired, 284 voluntarily termed, 287 were still on the job.

Comments from three references were evaluated for each candidate, totaling 2,475 reference comments reviewed. The team coded 11,571 words and short phrases to identify themes within the verbatim comments.

The Findings

RN Candidate’s Top Strengths According to References

Entry-level nurses (new graduates):

  • Compassionate/caring
  • Dependable/reliable/meets deadlines
  • Attitude/energy

Experienced nurses:

  • Patient care
  • Team orientation
  • Dependable/reliable/meets deadlines

RN Candidate’s Top Areas of Improvement According to References

Entry-level nurses (new graduates):

  • Confidence/assertiveness
  • Experience
  • Time management/prioritizing

Experienced nurses:

  • Further education
  • Confidence/assertiveness
  • Knowledge

Noted author and I/O psychologist Adam Grant answers the question in his June 2018 online “Wondering” feature, “When calling references about a job candidate, what questions would you ask and why?” He responds that “there are two types of weaknesses: areas where we lack strengths and areas where we overuse strengths.”

This response parallels comments that are provided by references; for example, when we look solely at comments for “areas for improvement” that were more prevalent for candidates who turned over for cause, themes included: Works Too Much, Too Passionate, Take More Responsibility, Work-Life Balance, Attention to Detail/Accuracy, and Punctual. Two of these themes “works too much” and “too passionate” can be strengths, but if overused, these traits could lead to nurse burnout and potential turnover. Comments such as these may be areas to explore with the candidate further in interviews or to address through preventative management or training measures.

When you consider that verbatim comments are open-ended (references can literally input anything that may be on their minds about a candidate), you realize how difficult it is to isolate what comments may be predictive. Thanks to the power of new text analytics software, our team was able to identify some themes that in addition to the overall average behavioral ratings and reference compliance with the reference request, (reference response rate) were predictive of turnover.

For example, there was a decreased likelihood of voluntary turnover within the first year of hire when references mentioned comments regarding a candidate’s “team orientation” as a strength.

When it comes to turnover for cause within the first year of hire, the likelihood decreased when references mentioned among strengths that a candidate was “Great or Excellent” or if any specific skills or tasks were called out. The likelihood also decreased if “confidence or assertiveness” was mentioned as an area of improvement.

Using SkillSurvey for Hiring RN Roles

One of the best ways to ensure that you’re hiring a top nursing candidate is to thoroughly check their references. With SkillSurvey ReferenceTM, more than 1,100 healthcare organizations are getting insightful feedback from references on their nursing candidates including HCAHPS-related behaviors and verbatim comments on a candidate’s specific areas of improvement and strengths.

SkillSurvey’s survey library has more than 180 job-specific surveys that map to over 3,500 job titles in healthcare, including sixteen surveys that are specific to nursing positions:

  1. Advanced Practice RNs
  2. Advanced Practice RNs (New Grads)
  3. Clinical Educator
  4. Clinical Nurse Specialist
  5. CRNA (Nurse Anesthetist)
  6. Entry-Level RNs (New Grads)
  7. Occupational Health Nurse
  8. Patient Care Specialist
  9. RN Case Manager
  10. RN
  11. RN-NICU
  12. RN Per Diem
  13. RN-PICU
  14. Transplant Coordinator
  15. Travel Nurse
  16. Visiting Nurse

By leveraging SkillSurvey, you will glean even more insights like those provided in this blog regarding predictors of RN turnover. Take a look at our hiring manager tools to learn more.

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