How HR Teams Can Be Proactive About Solving the Potential Talent Gap in Healthcare


Posted by Maren Fox - 06 February, 2018

The Association of American Medical College anticipates the nation’s shortage in physicians could reach more than 100,000 by 2030. Many HR professionals are already facing a talent gap in healthcare that results in limited applicant pools, higher recruitment costs, and prolonged job vacancies.

The solution includes revamped hiring practices—but it must go deeper, too. HR teams have to rethink workforce development, benefits programs, and retention strategies. After all, the next leader of your healthcare organization could be perusing job boards over their lunch break.

Put your hiring and recruitment strategy on the offensive.

PEW Charitable Trusts reports that on average, it takes healthcare organizations across the country nearly two months to fill open positions. Prolonged vacancies add stress across the workforce, create massive HR headaches, and negatively impact patient satisfaction ratings. Technology must be part of the solution to hiring woes.

Geofencing, for example, offers a more proactive approach to recruiting. It starts with an organization purchasing a list of individuals who are likely qualified for a position based on things like their education, professional group associations, and online activity. Then, GPS and radio frequency identification (RFID) are used to establish virtual perimeters (fences) around geographical areas those candidates are known to frequent. When they cross the virtual barrier, job posting ads can be sent to their phones. Then, after the initial capture, ads can be served to their phones via social media and the web no matter where they are.

Carol McDaniel, a recruiter at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in Florida, told NPR that she used geofencing to target highly coveted specialized neonatal nurse practitioner candidates. Soon, the hospital went from getting zero applications to three or four per week. This is an example of how technology can speed up the hiring process.

Using talent profiles to sell your business.

Every time a healthcare organization posts a job, it makes a statement about its culture. When a message isn’t inspiring, it attracts less-than-inspired candidates. The solution is to combine HR and corporate communications using “talent profiles.”

Talent profiles use an organization’s strategic goals to identify skills and traits needed by candidates to help achieve those goals. The key piece, however, is achieving consensus from corporate communications and HR teams. Anthony Petrucci, a senior director of corporate communications and public affairs at HID Global, writes in Forbes that the approach combines the storytelling, creativity, messaging, and targeting of corporate communications with the recruitment, talent management, engagement, and training aspects of HR. Ultimately, it “helps attract, engage, and retain talented individuals” while establishing a reputation as a great employer, Petrucci concludes.

Hire for fit, train for skills.

Remember the PEW study that found it takes almost two months to fill healthcare job openings? Well, one of the main reasons for that was more stringent qualifications for potential candidates. Organizations are looking for candidates with higher degrees and more certifications—and that could be a mistake.

The best option for healthcare providers might be to “embrace” the talent gap in healthcare  by hiring for fit and training for skills. The key is to eliminate needless credentials or certifications from job posts. “It is eliminating a lot of excellent candidates in favor of needlessly overqualified and overeducated mediocrity,” Phil La Duke writes in Entrepreneur. Additionally, just because a candidate doesn’t have a particular certification, that doesn’t mean he or she can’t earn it. Putting together a plan for new hires to earn needed accreditations will help attract motivated “go-getters” and will help you retain them, too (more on that later).

The answer to the talent gap might say “good morning” to you each day.

The healthcare talent gap means that hiring managers have to do more to attract and retain good employees. Transitioning from a traditional hierarchical structure to a team-based environment has been found to make employees more engaged and healthcare organizations more able to react to new challenges.

The 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey reveals that organizations are turning to new organizational models that reflect the teambuilding and networking aspects of today’s culture. Only 14 percent of executives said that the traditional hierarchical structure remains highly effective. Why? Organizations designed for “speed, agility and adaptability” were found to be better able “to compete and win in today’s global business environment.”

Also, researchers have found that smaller teams are “a natural way for humans to work.” Small, networked teams allow individuals to interact, share information, and pull resources and expertise from different teams to tackle big challenges. In other words, teams make individuals more engaged. “The authors conclude that “Different networks can have different specialties, such as innovation or getting to market quickly, but the principle is the same. For a company to stay agile, teams must be formed and disbanded quickly.”

Use benefits programs employees love.

Millennials yearn for continuing education and professional advancement—and they’re increasingly struggling under the weight of student loan debt. In fact, collective student loan debt now tops $1.3 trillion. It’s no surprise that employer-sponsored student loan debt repayment programs have been found to dramatically increase retention rates, as reported by  Society for Human Resource Managers (SHRM)

Additionally,a Gallup poll identifies learning and professional growth as top priorities of millennials in the workplace. That means offering a continuing education benefits program will help healthcare organizations attract, develop, and retain top talent despite the healthcare talent gap.

Speak to your employees with retention strategies that matter.

Dr. Beverley Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans, bestselling authors and thought leaders on retention in the modern workplace, describe retention and engagement strategy in their books Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em and Hello Stay Interviews, Goodbye Talent Loss.

Conducting regular stay interviews with employees is among the most effective and low cost retention strategies they champion. A “stay interview” is an opportunity to let your employee know they’re valued—and to learn what they value (and loathe) about their current position—in a one-on-one conversation. By connecting with employees on a personal level, stay interviews help keep employees engaged, long-term members of your team. That requires not simply learning about an employees’ aspirations, but drafting a roadmap to realize them. Kaye and Jordan-Evans offer these helpful tips for the stay interview:

  • Blinking words. Certain keywords, which they call “blinking words,” stand out when employees talk about their current roles. Ask follow-up questions about ambiguous words or phrases to probe deeper. Expressions like “complex challenges” and “working collaboratively” could be examples.
  • Don’t say “no.” Instead of explaining why an employee’s dreams are unrealistic or too difficult, managers should explain the realities of saying “yes.” Additional responsibilities that would come with a pay raise, or required training and certification to earn a promotion, could be examples.

Another important concept that Kaye and Jordan-Evans explore in a third book Up is Not the Only Way: Rethinking Career Mobility is that employees don’t necessarily need to be given promotions or new job titles to advance professionally. It is possible to change the bounds of current positions to better reflect their skills and aspirations—and the strategic goals of the organization. “It’s about creating ongoing, two-way, formal and informal communication between individuals and their managers, coaches, mentors, and others to ensure that career experiences reach maximum potential and possibilities,” Kaye and Jordan-Evans write.

Everyone wants to feel like their skills are being fully realized—and appreciated. When that stops happening, employees might start shopping the job boards over lunch break. Engaging in heartfelt dialogue is the first step in letting employees know they’re valued; using that dialogue to maximize their skills and potential is the second step.

Ninety percent of healthcare executives report that the looming talent gap is already among the sector’s most pressing challenges. And more baby boomers age into retirement and will require more care  each day. For HR professionals, addressing the talent gap isn’t about increasing profits—it’s about ensuring that society’s most vulnerable can get the care they need. A multi-pronged strategy is required. Deploying technology to target qualified recruits, using team-based organizational structures to boost agility, implementing evidence-based training and development programs, and offering attractive employee benefits and retention programs are all key components of overcoming the healthcare talent gap.

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Topics: Your Organization, Talent Development, Talent Management

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