New research shows five approaches that effectively attract and retain healthcare talent.
By Mike Supple
Health system boards and healthcare human resource professionals face tough challenges when it comes to leadership recruitment and retention. It is possible, however for an organization to overcome these challenges by analyzing and changing certain processes and practices, according to a recent report that identifies workforce trends of interest to executives.
Before exploring these solutions, here is a bit of background on the rapidly changing and complex healthcare landscape. The Healthcare Trends – 2016 report by B.E. Smith, which surveyed nearly 1,200 healthcare leaders, finds that job growth is up and hospitals are doing the most hiring. In fact, hospitals reported a gain of more than 180,000 jobs from February 2015 to February 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Value-based care also continues to generate an increasing focus on patient-centered care, which requires coordination between hospitals and a variety of outpatient and post-acute providers. Such partnerships require clinical leadership to guide them. On top of that, healthcare leaders must deal with new government regulations and growing competition, as well as the uncertainty that the 2016 president-elect may bring to the industry.
Often, the starting point for retention is employee engagement. The Healthcare Trends report has some good news: 70 percent of respondents believe their employees are “actively engaged.” It also finds the top three influencers of engagement are:
• Colleagues (31 percent);
• Management (23 percent); and
• Work-life balance (21 percent).
Still, the engagement of physicians remains challenging because of the growing frustrations these professionals face—working with electronic health records, a lack of time available for patient care, new administrative burdens such as ICD-10 coding, and overall changes in the direction of medicine to name a few. These challenges may require an experienced healthcare executive with strong leadership skills to navigate.
There are a few approaches organizations can take to successfully recruit and retain healthcare leaders:
Develop leaders with strong vision and strategy.
Healthcare leaders who took the Healthcare Trends survey indicated that the three most important executive attributes for 2016 are vision/strategy, integrity and communication, and collaboration and agility. Others findings identified strategic planning, creativity, and change management as critical requirements. HR departments should factor these qualities into company leadership development programs, rather than prioritizing skills training, which can result in ineffective leadership.
Look internally for candidates. Hospital CEO turnover continues to be a significant problem in today’s demanding environment. The American College of Healthcare Executives identified CEO turnover at 18 percent for 2014, which is the second highest rate since 2000. CEO departures can be costly and highly disruptive—often leading to attrition among other C-suite executives.
The loss of a CEO is disruptive in other ways as well. It can impact strategic planning, employee engagement, community relationships, and financial performance.
Healthcare’s transformation, especially as it becomes less hospital-centric and more consumer-focused, places a premium on skills that are useful across industries, such as finance, hospitality, and information technology. Still, one respondent to the Healthcare Trends report says, “It is really hard to take someone who is non-healthcare and put them in the healthcare CEO role.”
Perhaps this is why 53 percent of executives surveyed for the Healthcare Trends report plan to develop leaders internally, and another 44 percent plan to recruit experienced or emerging healthcare leaders from outside of their organizations.
Foster advancement potential. Career development and advancement are great antidotes to turnover. They are particularly important for healthcare executives who must leave their current organization in order to advance. Nearly all of those surveyed said they would leave their current place of employment if it meant job advancement. Even among those not currently seeking job advancement, 69 percent said they would consider an offer if it were made. Such “passive candidates” are a hidden source of potential talent for hiring organizations and should be considered in any strategic recruitment campaign.
To retain executives, HR staff should work to foster advancement potential by creating programs to identify and develop emerging leaders or effectively using interim executives who can maintain momentum and bring fresh perspective to not only their operational roles, but also to coaching and mentoring future leaders.
Another strategy to consider is a more comprehensive use of leadership assessments and talent reviews. Survey respondents noted that such tracking is heavily skewed in favor of senior leaders rather than managers or high-potential staff, who would greatly benefit from mentoring and leadership development.
Some food for thought regarding career development for key positions: if you’re not doing it, your competitors will. This is critical given that 90 percent of respondents in the survey have been approached with a new opportunity in the past year—and half are seriously considering taking it.
Use social media for recruiting. For the first time, the report inquired about social media, and 64 percent of healthcare leaders surveyed indicated that it plays a fair to significant role in their recruitment process. Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between the emphasis recruiters place on social media and many healthcare candidates’ lack of reliance on these tools.
It is best to weave social media into an integrated, proactive candidate outreach program. These programs incorporate many different communication channels to ensure that career opportunities reach a wide audience of potential candidates. The viral and social sharing function of many social media networks plays a critical role in achieving this goal. Remember, Millennials will comprise 75 percent of the labor force by 2030.
Leverage organization-wide brand and culture.
Healthcare leaders named brand/culture as the top factor in recruitment as opposed to more predictable factors such as compensation and benefits. Another 28 percent indicated that this facet was the most impactful for retention as well. A strong brand and company culture that instill pride in the workforce should also be incorporated into recruiting and internal communications materials.
There is another reason to leverage culture and brand: Going back to value-based care, a positive brand experience impacts potential customers (who like “bestin- field” recognition) and financial outcomes. This can significantly impact an organization’s financial outcomes as reimbursement becomes more closely tied to patient satisfaction.
At a Glance
B. E. Smith’s Healthcare Trends – 2016 report surveyed healthcare leaders to take a temperature on the industry.
Some of the top findings include:
• 70 percent of respondents believe their employees are “actively engaged”
• 53 percent plan to develop leaders internally
• 44 percent plan to recruit healthcare leaders from outside of their organizations
• 64 percent of respondents say social media plays a fair-to-significant role in their recruitment process
• Brand/culture is the top factor to healthcare leaders’ recruitment process