While organizations are working to address labor shortages, the demand for healthcare professionals continues to rise. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that employment in healthcare occupations is projected to grow by 16% from 2020 to 2030. The healthcare provider industry is caught in a labor crunch worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. An unstable labor market has led to increased expenses and the loss of crucial workers due to burnout and lack of work-life balance.
Competition for healthcare workers will continue to be fierce, and costs to employers (increased wages combined with the cost of vacancies) will remain high. Healthcare systems have raised starting salaries and introduced signing bonuses – many returning to the stay bonuses offered to essential healthcare workers during the pandemic.
While perks like flexible work options can be a challenge for clinical workers in an already understaffed system, data points to the necessity of meeting candidates and employees where it can make the most significant impact. A 2021 survey of 150 health systems conducted by professional services firm Aon shows that more healthcare employers are adopting a broader portfolio of benefits for their workforces, with 93% of respondents saying they are considering benefits strategies related to attracting and retaining workers. Flexibility, tuition reimbursement and career development programs appeal to entry-level workers, and internal mobility skills programs can lessen employee burnout.
The same survey reports that hospital and healthcare system employers largely said they are mindful of issues that could affect their workforce, chief among which were employee burnout (77%), work-life balance (76%), financial stressors (75%), and support for diversity, equity and inclusion benefits (73%). Many respondents said they consider strategies related to attracting and retaining high-quality talent (93%), developing existing talent (86%), and improving workforce well-being (77%) to be critical factors in successful long-term business performance.
How Employers Can Adapt to a Tight Talent Marketplace in Healthcare
1. Make flexible schedules a priority.
Many healthcare organizations have dedicated staff members that manage scheduling. Having these roles focus on scheduling with employee retention in mind and giving them the autonomy to swap shifts can go a long way toward overcoming the healthcare industry’s reputation for rigidity.
2. Training to close the skills gap.
Staff training is a powerful retention tool. Skills that can be difficult to find in the healthcare talent marketplace, particularly those that don’t require certification, could be taught through an in-house training program. Make your organization a place of learning as well as a place of work. This also allows you to cross-train current employees to fill gaps in care as they arise.
3. Expand the scope of recruitment.
Hire for skills that support longevity and retention by seeking candidates who have soft skills like communication, collaboration, and flexibility. These skills can translate from one industry to another, and expanding the scope of your search for candidates can create a new talent pool for healthcare candidates.
4. Employer-sponsored education credits.
Healthcare systems short on nurses and other positions requiring a degree or certification can build an internal pool of qualified candidates by offering educational and financial support for employees who wish to move into registered nursing, occupational therapy, pharmacist, and other roles that require educational credit. While tuition support is another expenditure for your company, the benefits in the long-term mean that you can create a pool of qualified candidates who are already familiar with your company and improve retention rates. Benefits and perks like tuition reimbursement create loyal employees.
5. Let your perks lead your recruitment marketing strategy.
When developing job postings and position descriptions, think about what makes your company attractive and then focus your messaging on those specific items. If you have introduced new internal training programs or education reimbursement since you last updated your recruiting materials, now is the time to make it the center of your strategy.
The Bottom Line
Finally, while industry benchmarks are vital, your current employees are the best source for learning how to retain them. Pulse surveys can be a quick way of gathering information on what matters most. While many are likely to mirror what the survey mentioned earlier, you might be surprised that your healthcare employees would choose flexible scheduling over a salary increase.