How Healthcare Employers Can Invest in Strategic Workforce Planning
Healthcare organizations are facing a workforce crunch. The combination of an aging population and the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of access to healthcare has increased the need for health services and resulted in employee shortages throughout the industry.
“What everybody focuses on is the shortage of nurses,” says Ron Washburn, Senior Vice President at Soliant Health. “And while there is a shortage of nurses, there is actually a shortage of physicians and allied health professionals as well. For the most part, healthcare employers are having trouble finding candidates.”
While increased demand contributes to these shortages, so do employee issues like burnout and turnover.
So what should healthcare organizations include in their strategic workforce planning initiatives? How can they overcome these workforce challenges?
Here’s how you can strategically build a healthcare workforce of the future.
Identify Leaky Pipelines in Your Workforce
Start by identifying what issues are affecting your workforce planning. Are your recruitment or retention strategies strong enough to attract and retain the talent you need?
Complete a diagnostic of your workforce challenges. “Hospitals or health systems need to perform a diagnostic to see what challenges they face. Is it turnover, is that they have difficulty hiring, or is it performance?” says Dr. Kate Tulenko, CEO of Corvus Health.
Effective exit interviews are essential to this process. “Exit interviews need to be a safe space where people can be honest about the reason that they're leaving,” Tulenko says. And when issues are cited in such interviews, you need to rapidly address them or risk more employee turnover.
Washburn says that identifying potential workforce issues by benchmarking pay and benefits by location can also help you create more effective recruitment strategies. What are competitors offering in terms of pay and benefits? What does their total hiring package look like? “Some hospitals don't adequately benchmark their competitors,” he says. “Whether they have the ability to increase pay or not, they should invest time in knowing who they're competing against. It's not uncommon for us to see hospitals that are in the same city that have fairly different pay rates.”
If benchmarking reveals that your organization’s pay and compensation are not at the top of the market, you need to focus your recruitment strategies on other factors that would encourage candidates to choose you as an employer, Washburn says.
Invest in a Better Candidate Experience
Improving the candidate experience can help you achieve your recruitment goals. Eliminating administrative barriers to employment is especially important in the healthcare industry given the competition for talent.
Large healthcare organizations often have overly complicated systems for applying for positions, Washburn says. “The interview process, the hiring process and the onboarding process can be very complicated. The process tends to get strung out over several days, and people get lost in the shuffle. Candidates just get frustrated with that.”
Creating a people-centered candidate experience that focuses on smooth, transparent hiring and onboarding processes can really help differentiate you from your competitors. Washburn also recommends recruiting strong HR professionals with expertise in designing a quality candidate experience to create a people-centered application and onboarding process.
Create an Attractive Employee Value Proposition
To build the healthcare workforce of the future, you need to create a holistic employee value proposition that goes beyond pay.
“Look at the entire package of benefits,” Tulenko says. Could you offer benefits or perks that help your employees have better work-life balance? “For example, could a day-care center be added to the facility in some unused space? Do you need better vacation time? Do you need to hire nocturnal nurses, so other nurses don't have to work as many night shifts or as many weekend shifts?” Think through what benefits would improve your overall employee value proposition by improving the work environment and quality of life.
Healthcare is not known for being a flexible industry for employees. But as more people seek flexibility in their work lives, you need to create workforce strategies that embrace flexibility to attract and retain key talent.
Flexible scheduling, shift variety and self-scheduling are important ways for you to signal that you value your employees’ autonomy and well-being. Tulenko says flexible and self-scheduling options allow workers the opportunity to find the shift that best fits their lifestyle, while still allowing the organization to have access to the workforce it needs.
Washburn says embracing contingent workers in the gig economy is another way to give employees more flexibility and control. “People like the flexibility of being able to work when and how they want to work,” he says. “So hospitals getting more comfortable with that idea and developing processes and systems that lend themselves to bringing those types of people onboard more easily would serve them well in the future.”
If you’re concerned about your long-term workforce planning, consider focusing your attention on one of these key areas. You’ll set yourself apart in a tight employment market and find long-lasting benefits for the organization.