It’s no secret that the healthcare industry faces some unique challenges when it comes to workforce management. The mere nature of the job creates high-stress positions that can lead to early burnout. Now, combine that fact with the continuous drive in the industry to improve the quality of patient care, while simultaneously focusing on cutting costs, and you can get a quick glance at just some of the workforce challenges facing HR professionals in the healthcare industry.
Before the healthcare industry can even attempt to overcome some of these challenges, they must first fully understand the unique obstacles facing this industry.
Let's take a closer look at workforce challenges in the healthcare industry
In order to maintain the high level of patient care that many healthcare organizations aspire to, both employee recruitment and retention must become a priority. Unfortunately, the healthcare industry is faced with numerous unique challenges that are hindering their ability to both attract and retain top talent. Here’s a look at the top five workforce challenges in the healthcare industry.
1. Nature of job leads to frequent burnout
According to a recent study, more than half of all doctors and over 33 percent of all nurses are facing symptoms of burnout. The reality is that burnout doesn’t only affect those displaying signs. It also affects other workers and overall patient care. From an HR standpoint, increased employee burnout also leads to a spike in turnover rates. In fact, a recent study showed that the average turnover rate in hospitals across the country was 18.2 percent.
2. Increased demand for healthcare workers
The Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Occupational Outlook Handbook reveals that the healthcare industry is expected to add more jobs, nearly two million, than any other industry in the upcoming decade. This represents a 14 percent increase in the job demand over the next 10 years. In an industry that is already struggling to find and retain workers, this increase is likely to seem unmanageable and highlights the need for HR professionals in the healthcare industry to take action now.
3. The growing skills gap
The skills gap is affecting organizations in nearly every industry, but in an industry where having the right staff in place can mean the difference between life and death, this issue is a daunting obstacle. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 50 percent of RNs will reach retirement age by the year 2020. If this statistic was not alarming enough, other reports show that the United States may have a doctor shortage of more than 100,000 by the year 2030.
This is not the only skills gap challenge facing the industry. The emergence of IT technology means that healthcare organizations must also look for workers with technology skills, or at least the aptitude to learn these skills. In addition, healthcare organizations must make continuous learning, of not only healthcare skills, but technological skills as well, a priority.
4. Today’s candidate-driven job market
Thanks to the combination of low unemployment rates and retiring baby boomers, the job market has transitioned into a candidate-driven market. What this means for HR professionals is higher competition to identify, attract, and onboard top talent. Add to this, the fact that candidates now have access to more resources to research companies than ever before. Not only do HR departments have to focus on finding talent, but they must maintain a solid reputation as strong employer if they hope to attract and retain the high-quality, skilled workers they need.
5. Rise of workforce mobility
In the not too distant past, it was standard for workers to remain with the same employer for 10, 20, or 30 years. This is no longer the norm. Today’s workers have no problems changing jobs if a better opportunity comes along. There are many causes behind the increase in workforce mobility, but one leading cause is today’s workers desire to build a career, not just a job. Employees are looking for ways to build skills and move up the career ladder, and they’re willing to switch employers if necessary.
How to overcome these obstacles
Understanding the top workforce challenges facing the healthcare industry is just the first step. HR professionals in the industry must also look for effective ways to overcome these obstacles. One approach to overcome these obstacles that is getting a lot of traction, and for good reason, is employee engagement. In fact, improved employee engagement can increase job satisfaction, boost productivity, and increase retention.
Unfortunately, studies show that employee engagement rates have lingered around 34 percent for the last several years. However, there are several things that employers can do to improve the employee experience and enhance engagement across the board.
1. Create a strong EVP
If you don’t know why healthcare professionals should come work for your company, it will be incredibly difficult to convince them to do so. You can avoid this pitfall by creating a strong Employer Value Proposition (EVP) that aligns with your company goals and workplace culture. An EVP highlights what makes your organization unique and why should a healthcare employee work for your company. Once established, it’s important to make sure the EVP is consistent with everything from your online presence to your job postings to your recruitment process.
2. Prioritize employee recognition
Research shows that recognition is the leading driver of employee engagement; employees want to feel appreciated for a job well done. Despite this knowledge, a recent study reveals that 45 percent of employees say that they haven’t been recognized at work in more than six months. If you want your employees to be happy and improve retention rates, you must make employee recognition a priority. Employees want frequent and meaningful recognition from both leaders and peers.
3. Develop a mentorship program
A leading challenge facing the healthcare industry is retiring baby boomers. These workers have been in the industry for years and have skills and knowledge that just can’t be taught overnight. However, you don’t have to let these employees go without allowing them to pass down some of their expertise. Creating a mentorship program is extremely valuable. This type of program will allow your top employees to share their invaluable knowledge to younger workers.
4. Actively listen to your workforce
Unlike some other industries, the healthcare industry requires an extremely diverse set of workers. The industry not only includes healthcare professionals, such as doctors and nurses, but also administrative staff, maintenance workers, case managers, and cafeteria staff. It will be nearly impossible to try to understand the unique challenges and stressors of your workforce, if you don’t take the time to actively listen to them.
Using pulse surveys and employee feedback tools can help you better understand your team. Equally important to gathering feedback, is to let your employees know that you hear them. Offer real-time feedback and regular status updates, so your workers know that you are actively listening to them.
5. Invest in training and development
Continuous learning is a requirement in the healthcare industry, but keep in mind that your employees require more than healthcare skills. With new technology, including ML (Machine Learning) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) emerging at rapid rates, it will become an increasing challenge to keep your workforce properly trained. It’s vital to have an employee training and development program in place that tackles this issue head-on. This additional training can help to close the skills gap for your company and improve retention rates.
6. Integrate technology
The good news is that technology can help improve the way you manage your workforce. For example, employee recognition software can give your workers the power to send personalized recognitions on the go. This allows your employees to provide real-time and meaningful recognition. Other technology like employee feedback software and recruitment technology can take some of the stress off your HR team, so they can focus on improving the employee experience.
There is no doubt that the healthcare industry is facing some serious workforce challenges. Since studies show that many of these obstacles are only going to heighten in the years to come, now is the time for HR professionals in the healthcare industry to take action and start executing on best practices. The goal should be to focus on improving employee engagement throughout the organization, by focusing on strategies like improved employee recognition, active listening, and enhanced training and development. Taking steps now can lighten the burden later.
Learn more about overcoming these top workforce challenges by downloading our white paper, "Top Workforce Trends Impacting the Healthcare Industry in 2020."
Are you ready to kick off a new employee recognition program at your healthcare organization? If so, get started by checking out our e-book, "The Buyer's Guide to Recognition Software: Healthcare Industry Spotlight."
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