Strategies for Creating a Supportive Work Environment for Sexual and Reproductive Health Staff Toolkit
Welcome to the Toolkit1
Retaining qualified staff is a challenge for many sexual and reproductive health care agencies. One strategy to improve staff retention is to cultivate a connected and supportive work environment that centers staff engagement and development. This toolkit offers those in management roles—such as Title X/TPP program managers, administrators, clinic directors, and HR staff—actionable approaches to developing an open, responsive, and supportive work environment, with the broader aim of increasing retention of qualified staff.
As a place to start, we recommend downloading Work Plan for Retaining Qualified Staff Job Aid (see Section 1. Assess) to have a space for activity planning and tracking. As you move through each section of this toolkit, review the strategies in the job aid. Use the blank Work Plan to map out which strategies you will try with your team.
The action steps and resources in this toolkit are just some ways of ensuring staff feel supported and valued. Some staff may feel more comfortable than others participating in these activities. You and your colleagues may have reasons for not feeling open at work, including experiences of racism, sexism, and/or other types of discrimination or trauma. Fostering a trauma-informed environment can help establish a feeling of safety and security—the bedrock of a successful, supportive organizational climate.
The resources in this toolkit can be used in any order and can be modified to meet your agency’s needs. We recommend that you engage staff of diverse roles to set priorities and map out strategies together as a team. The Surgeon General's Framework for Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being offers additional information and resources, and a foundation upon which your agency can build.
The first step in any improvement initiative is to use available data to assess the baseline (or starting point) and to identify opportunities for improvement.
Assess your organization’s needs and priorities related to connecting, supporting, developing, and engaging staff. The sections of this Agency Self-Assessment align with the sections of this toolkit; as your team identifies areas for development, refer back to the toolkit for relevant resources to address those needs.
Consider these evidence-based approaches to building an organizational climate that supports staff retention.
Promoting a sense of connection and belonging among staff cultivates personal, professional, and agency growth, reduces staff turnover, and aids in increasing staff satisfaction. Staff with good connections to their work environment feel happier, more engaged at work, and loyal to their workplace. Prioritize strategies for connecting with staff over time by investing in their well-being, and recognizing and valuing their contributions.
Promote staff connections at the start and end of each work day. Create space for mental and emotional transitions from home to work, and then from work to home.
Work conditions in reproductive health agencies can be stressful. Fostering a supportive work environment includes recognizing an employee's desire for work/life balance. Caring for the overall employee, not just their performance at work, reinforces the relationship between an organization and its staff.
Identify strategies for building a trauma-informed, resilience-oriented, and equitable workforce.
Identify and implement task allocation and work strategies to decrease burnout and increase staff member agency.
Define and implement practices and habits that foster a strong, affirming, and adaptive organizational culture.
Prioritizing staff development signals that the organization values staff contributions and is invested in their learning, growth, and improvement. In addition to improving retention of qualified staff, investing in staff development leads to improved client outcomes and satisfaction. Provide opportunities for professional development and networking that center staff members’ interests in expanding their expertise and/or responsibilities.
Identify the essential knowledge, skills, and attitudes (KSAs) needed to be effective and successful in each role.
Provide staff with opportunities to learn how to perform one or more of the organizational roles not limited by licensure or credentialing requirements.
When staff are not actively involved in decision-making processes—especially with decisions that directly affect their day-to-day work—frustration builds, ultimately leading to increased turnover. Using the “engage” section of the Work Plan job aid as a guide, involve staff in job and care delivery design changes.
Provide staff with opportunities to offer feedback on workplace climate, culture, and engagement and use this data to inform future organizational improvements.
Would you be willing to share your feedback with us? We want to hear from you! Participate in a 30-minute conversation with an RHNTC staff person about your experience, and we’ll send you a $50 Visa eGift card as a token of our appreciation. Fill out a brief form to express your interest.