The State of Healthcare HR in the New Decade

Marketing Manager

Many states are anticipating severe nursing shortages in the next few years, with some states projected to have nurse employee deficits of more than 10,000. As the patient population ages and increases, appropriate staffing poses a problem for healthcare HR teams.

Generational changes, the talent crisis and general employee turnover are expected to challenge HR teams in healthcare over the next five to 10 years. Luckily, there are steps you can take now to ensure that your healthcare organization is prepared to meet those challenges. 

Here are three ways you can begin preparing your organization for workforce changes in the new decade.

Take a Proactive Approach to Employee Shortages

As the population ages, patient numbers will increase while employee numbers will decrease. A study from Mercer found that the U.S. will require 2.3 million new health workers to handle aging populations. But with many healthcare employees in or reaching their 60s, many organizations will face heavy losses from retiring workers over the next few years. To counter this, healthcare HR teams should begin workforce planning, says Cathy Henesey, Executive Director of Talent Acquisition at Advent Health

“By department, how many nurses do you have over the age of 60?” she asks. “Now is the time for leaders in those departments to have proactive conversations with those employees regarding their long-term plans.” Some retiring employees may be willing to reduce their hours or work part-time to make the generational transition easier. Additionally, with a mentoring system, older employees can transfer the institutional knowledge they’ve gained over the years to new graduates before exiting the organization. But these safeguards can only be put into place if HR takes a proactive approach.

Monitor HR and People Management Needs

Moving willing retirement-age employees to part-time work is a viable option for easing their exit, but it does put an added strain on HR. “If you have 100 full-time employees drop down to part-time hours, you have to hire even more employees to make up the difference,” Henesey says. “From an HR standpoint, you’re now managing up to 50 to 100 more people than before.”

Being proactive in planning hours worked can help when measuring HR needs. Growth from aging patient populations will require more employees and may saturate HR’s bandwidth as the decade progresses. “It’s hard to justify an increased HR headcount right now,” Henesey says. “But with increasing staff year after year, it’s something HR teams in healthcare should be monitoring.”

Provide Support to Areas with High Turnover

In the face of employee shortages and a tight labor market, healthcare workers have more options for employment than ever before, and healthcare HR teams are likely seeing high turnover rates. Even retail giants like Amazon that have committed to higher wages can pose big competition, Henesey notes. It’s essential for HR teams to be proactive in understanding and minimizing the causes of turnover.

“HR has a heightened responsibility to work with engagement surveys to determine areas with high turnover,” Henesey says. “It’s critical to know when managers are struggling with their team so that HR can provide them with training, reinforcement and coaching.” Reducing turnover makes workforce planning and management easier to achieve.

Aging patients and employees complicate an already severe talent drought, but planning and proactive measures can help HR teams navigate their healthcare organizations toward success. Conversations with employees and managers are key to understanding where your organization needs to go and how you can support getting there.