HR Priorities for Healthcare Organizations in 2019

Senior Director of Marketing

Healthcare organizations have long been under distinct industry-specific pressures, and human resources professionals in healthcare need innovative approaches to manage those challenges effectively. As healthcare companies cope with an aging customer base, expanding coverage and an avalanche of new technology opportunities and concerns, HR departments will be forced to play an even larger role helping companies and workers adapt to these evolving conditions.

We asked a number of healthcare leaders about what they see as major priorities for HR professionals in the industry in the coming year. These are some of most important factors they identified.

Recruiting and Diversity

Healthcare jobs will rank among the fastest-growing sectors in the United States through 2026, with about 2.3 million new jobs, according to projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Still, job growth is not expected to keep up with demand driven by an aging population that requires more care.

“We’re still facing a worker shortage at virtually all skill levels, so recruiting and retention are going to remain top priorities in the coming year,” says Aaron Price, owner of Interim Healthcare of Louisville, a home health provider.

Price, a business and employment lawyer who also owns a medical staffing franchise, says the worker shortage has led to an increase in employees working for multiple employers, and he expects to see increased deployment of tools that let employees control their schedule and communications on a common platform.

Healthcare companies will also continue to put more emphasis on recruiting more diverse talent, says Jessie Wusthoff, Diversity & Inclusion Manager at San Francisco-area healthcare technology company Clover Health. Wusthoff says diversity and inclusion (D&I) is increasingly valuable when it comes to company processes, particularly when developing a workforce.

“A diverse and inclusive workplace not only benefits shareholders, employees, clients and communities, but is essential for recruiting and retaining the best talent,” she says. “This effort is especially important in the healthcare industry, where companies provide care for diverse populations. We need to ensure we are reaching those diverse populations effectively and providing equitable care.”

Wusthoff says D&I efforts in the healthcare industry are taking a step in the right direction through continuous efforts to be not only more data-driven, but to use that data in a more meaningful way.

“More companies are moving away from high-level snapshots, which is rarely, if ever, evenly distributed across all teams and levels, particularly leadership roles,” she says. “Therefore, it can be a misleading signal on the company’s diversity state. We need to look at breakdowns across all levels and teams to take the most impactful steps forward when working toward diversity.”

Employee Training and Engagement

Rod Brace, Managing Partner at Texas-based Relia Healthcare Advisors, says that as pressure to address costs in the healthcare system grows, HR professionals will increasingly turn to employee engagement as a potential solution.

“As the single most expensive cost center in the organization, employees must be highly engaged to avoid lost productivity, threats to patient safety and diminished patient satisfaction,” he says. “This challenge will require HR professionals to become more integral to decisions related to process improvement, high reliability and strategic planning."

Price says he sees potential from software providers aiming to solve problems specific to healthcare HR. “There are more options and providers for employee self-scheduling and self-onboarding as well as new training portals and upgraded background check portals,” he says. “We expect to see further developments in this area, particularly when it comes to streamlining back-office processes to get people working faster and to monitor employee satisfaction.”

Sexual Harassment Training

The #MeToo movement has brought sexual harassment in the workplace to the forefront, including in the healthcare industry. Nikki Larchar, a Colorado-based HR expert with simplyHR, says one of the biggest trends her company has observed with healthcare clients is the need for comprehensive sexual harassment training to navigate complexities specific to the healthcare field.

“Ensuring that all employees understand what harassment is, how to report it and, most importantly, how they can respond to it can be impactful for the overall culture of an organization,” she says. “Empowering employees with the words and actions they can take for themselves and for others is just one way to educate employees on sexual harassment.”

But even more complex issues surrounding harassment could be on the horizon for healthcare organizations. Marcus Fettinger with law firm Gray Reed & McGraw says healthcare HR professionals should be aware of a ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that found that a patient can sexually harass a healthcare provider’s employees and create a hostile work environment.

“Healthcare providers cannot turn a blind eye to the actions of their patients,” Fettinger wrote about the issue. “If an organization becomes aware of sexually suggestive comments, inappropriate touching, or other troubling conduct, leadership must take reasonable steps to intervene and end the offensive conduct. While the appropriate remedial action depends on the nature and severity of the conduct, employers must be willing to take reasonable steps to ensure that an employee is not subjected to a hostile work environment.”

Human resources professionals in healthcare certainly have plenty of challenges to juggle. Prioritizing a few key initiatives will help healthcare HR teams make an impact on the organization.

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