Financial success, reaching financial freedom, money achievement or earning profit or savings or investment goal concept, success businessman holding winning flag on top of money coins stack.

A successful retention program, which has since ended, has had an enduring impact on recruitment, retention and employee satisfaction at hospice provider VITAS, executives said Monday during an investor conference.

“We got a lot of goodwill with the employees,” David Williams, chief financial officer of Chemed, VITAS’ parent company, said during the conference hosted by Bank of America. “It showed that we were responding to their needs. They were concerned they were overworked, that they were underappreciated. The program responded to those issues.” 

Lower turnover continues

Though it concluded in June, the retention bonus program has continued to have an impact on overall success at VITAS. While the company expected “goodwill” from employees to go away as soon as they cashed their checks, the retention program has continued to positively affect turnover rates and more. And to its credit, the company logged a profitable 2023 third quarter, achieving more than 30% growth in its net income year-over-year.

“The cultural wraparound with it really has continued to dissipate any burnout and create a communal, collaborative environment that our existing team members want to continue to be part of,” Nick Wesfall, chief executive officer at VITAS, said. “It begins to self-recruit for itself inside of the marketplace. We believe we’ve really accelerated a competitive advantage — we have in each of our local markets — for anybody that wants to get into the hospice industry, that we’re the best option for them inside of that space, and they’re joining a team that’s happy and will continue to be happy and it’ll be a number one priority.”

Attracting more staff allows the company to serve more patients, and from a personnel standpoint, the company believes it is “basically back to where it was” before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Williams. 

The Jimmy Carter effect

Westfall also noted that the American public has warmed up to the hospice benefit in recent years, in part because of a cultural shift shaped by prominent people.

“We’re seeing some really positive things in terms of overall awareness and acceptance of hospice and palliative care,” he said. “When you take the very public experience that President Carter is having coming out and talking about the hospice benefit … really helps, you know, derail misperceptions around hospice.”

In unrelated news, Williams noted during the investor conference that he plans to retire as CFO of Chemed on Dec. 31, and Chemed’s vice president will step into the role.

“We anticipate some time before the end of the year that Mike Witzeman will be appointed as CFO,” he said. “We expect a seamless transition.”