By Mike Monahan, RN, MEd
In our last article about occupational shortages, we discussed the impending shortage of qualified staff to meet the growth of the patient population in the next 10 years. The numbers are troubling, and the need for HR professionals to take a proactive stance in staffing their hospitals with completely different paradigms was discussed. The U.S. Bureau of Labor says that health care and social assistance is projected to gain 5.6 million jobs, and basically what that means is there will be 5.6 million opportunities to employ somebody in that field. Where are you going to get all the qualified people to do these jobs? That’s the question we will look at in this article.
To meet that challenge, what would be useful data for you going forward? What talent topics should you be discussing in planning meetings or when you have time to talk strategies?
Number one on your list of action plan items: develop situational awareness by occupation. You really need to be in touch with your turnover data, with time to hire data and number of applicants that are applying for various positions mapped out. Many hospitals are outsourcing recruiting, but it’s important that you have recruiters that share needed pieces of data with you. Some of their metrics can show you how hard it is to fill a position, which may be an indicator of troubles to come. Reaching out beyond spreadsheets and asking department heads about staff trends related to recruitment and retention is critical. For example, you may have a real good, proactive lab director that seems to just get things done, but isn’t sharing how difficult recruiting and retention are unless you are really developing that situational awareness.
Your organization really needs to become a preferred employer. 20 years ago, working in a hospital was as good as it got for most people. We have all kinds of data that shows that hospitals were just preferred places to work at that time. There was good job security, the jobs were clean, working conditions were good, and it met people’s needs to be doing something important. The literature says that has changed. Hospital jobs are now seen as low tech and not very family friendly with their evening, night and weekend attendance requirements.
Even physician specialty selection, resident commitment, and physician employment is becoming a challenge. Take general surgeons for example: physicians graduating from medical school are not going into surgical residencies because they don’t want to be working in the middle of the night. They don’t want to be working on weekends. Those kinds of, “Don’t want to be…” are really making it difficult to recruit in rural and inner city areas.
It’s important to have a best practice recruitment and on-boarding process. Many hospitals discourage people from applying or accepting positions by having application processes that are not applicant friendly. A recent study revealed time from application to decision was over 45 days in most hospitals, which led to many applicants looking and accepting elsewhere. The University of Michigan School of Nursing published research that indicated many RN applicants get no response to online applications, greatly delayed responses, or are “stood up” by hiring managers at hospital arranged interviews.
“Quick Quits” are expensive, disruptive, and have a lasting impact on your staff stability. Effective onboarding helps to reduce early turnover and shortens the time from hire to full productivity.
Stamping out unnecessary turnover is critical. Turnover has become a less popular statistic in the last three or four years, mainly because of the economy. Overall turnover numbers have declined, but our research indicates the turnover rates for your best employees has stayed pretty consistent. When we ask questions about whether or not coworkers are being held accountable for good work, we find that it is a low scored question among valued employees who are leaving. Reducing turnover may help you keep better employees and upgrade your staff.
It’s important to get executives focused on talent. Talent is not exclusively an HR issue. You’re certainly the expert on how to maximize talent, but executives have to be fully engaged. If your executives aren’t spending 10 to 20% of their time on talent, they aren’t doing enough. Drive the conversations at executive meetings.
You need to develop plans by occupation. What are you going to do when all those 55 to 62 year old medical imaging techs, or people that work in the lab, get to retirement age and decide to move on? It’s very important to make sure you have some plan in place for that eventuality.
Keep up on industry trends, not only with an HR focus, but also industry trends related to what’s happening clinically: What are the changes, what’s the Affordable Care Act going to do, etc. Practice changes, standards, regulatory requirements, and legislation drive needs for future staff with certain qualifications that may not be present in your current staff.
Proactive HR leaders that are in touch with market forces, their own occupational-specific directors, and future needs will be much better equipped to deal with the tsunami of staff changes certain to occur.