Replay: The Great Balancing Act - Employee vs. Client Engagement


This presentation, sponsored by ContinuumCloud, took place at The 2023 OPEN MINDS Performance Management Institute. Sharon Hicks, Senior Associate at OPEN MINDS, moderated this panel session, featuring:

  • Mellisa Talley, Executive Director, Texas Panhandle Centers
  • Kellee Webb, SPHR, Chief Human Resources Officer, Cenikor Foundation
  • Maggie Labarta, Ph.D., Founder, Impact Non-profit Consulting

These industry experts discussed where organizations stand with improving employee engagement, recruiting, patient outcomes, and operational efficiency – as well as innovative strategies you can use to find common ground and effectively prioritize initiatives to make 2023 the best year yet for your organization. Play the recording above, or scroll down for some highlights from the session.


Sound Bites from the Panel Session

Our panelists shared some great insights into strategies that have worked at their organization for attracting, engaging, and retaining top talent at their organization. Recruiting and retention are top priorities for behavioral health leaders this year, according to the 2023 Behavioral Health Industry Trends Report.


Maggie Labarta: When the report first came out, a couple of things jumped off the page to me. One was that recruiting is still number one. The majority of people that said, ‘I need staff,’ it was 72% last year and this year it dropped to 45.5%. Last year, revenue cycle and budgeting was number two and this year it dropped to four, which is where I think companies say, "We've all got money, now who do we fill those slots with?" But talent development jumped from 7 to 3, which I thought was really important, because what it says is, "We're focusing now, not just on getting people, but hanging on to them."


Check out more of Maggie Labarta's in-depth analysis in her recent blog: What's New? Or the World of Behavioral Health.


Kellee Webb: We already had a positive culture that we were driving towards, but we read this book ("The Energy Bus") at one of our manager training conferences that we built our whole culture around and implemented throughout an internal communication campaign. It's about leading with being positive, leading with wanting to be here. We want employees to serve our clients, but I believe it's the little things that help our employees in their mental health and help them stay engaged every day.

Kellee Webb: When you talk about retention and recruitment, what we're finding is a huge piece of what people are asking for is connection to the mission. There's tons of human resources research that demonstrates that money is not a satisfier in employment. In fact, it's a dis-satisfier. Money will attract people to a position, but it will not keep people in a position. What keeps people in the position is feeling connected to the whole, feeling connected to their team, and being appreciated - not just being told they're appreciated and given a t-shirt once a year at the staff party, but actually being appreciated!

Sharon Hicks: I do feel that connection to people is an incredibly predictive piece around retention because we are social creatures at heart. We live in groups, that is the way human beings have evolved. So having people who look like you, have your shared experience, who value you, who you value and trust, that you can vent to even when it might be inappropriate, that is such an important part of feeling like a connected human and there's so much that we can do at work just using some of the newer technology tools.


Once employees have the support they need, organizations are better able to serve their clients as well - reaching more people to achieve better outcomes.


Mellisa Talley: Thanks to a grant from SAMHSA, we're able to bring services to rural areas. We go out and take a prescriber, a nurse, a peer, into people's homes and we are reaching people that we would have never reached before. The staff that apply for these positions - one vacates and we have another person right there ready to fill it. People want to feel like they're making a difference.

Kellee Webb: We got funding for Recovery Support Specialist (RSS) positions and that position allowed us to build lifelong relationships with our clients. The RSS gets to walk with the patients after they leave treatment, where clinicians or other team members have to have those boundaries. This person can be there for them, advocate for them, meet them for a cup of coffee. If they feel like they're on the verge of relapse they can bring them back to treatment without judgment, without feeling like they're a failure. For us that RSS position enabled us to serve even more in those communities.

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