By Gary Norris, Vice President, Client Services
Healthcare organizations have a unique relationship with talent. The industry requires specialized skills, but it must constantly find a supply of new workers. Cost control is extremely important, yet companies struggle to maintain pay rates that attract and retain talent. Innovation is a must-have in talent acquisition (TA), but change does not come easily.
For a workforce decision-maker in healthcare, it is always good to see how others are addressing similar concerns. So, I was more than happy for the opportunity to join talent leaders at the People in Healthcare Summit in September and moderate a panel with three tenured Chief Nursing Officers.
Sevenstep has been a primary RPO partner to major (Fortune 10) healthcare organizations for over a decade. We played a leading role in helping companies navigate the growing worker retirements and attrition of the 2010's, the mass hiring shifts of the pandemic, and today's continuing talent shortages. Our guidance and solutions have always focused on stronger TA practices, smarter data-driven decision-making and more flexible and resilient strategies.
HRO Today CEO Elliot Clark recently noted that the sector has challenges, but corporate HR "can gain a lot by studying Healthcare HR where CEOs have learned to do a lot with a little." With that in mind, the following takeaways from the event reflect the trends we have seen and underscore the value of the strategies we embrace in our work with clients today. Many of the realities of the market apply in healthcare and across all industries.
Markets: Talent Supply and Demand Shapes the Industry
Human capital and TA leaders continue to grapple with a misalignment between clinical talent supply and demand. With the nationwide nurse shortage expected to reach 10 million by 2030, leaders are investing in innovative ways to close the gap. These include but are not limited to earlier talent engagement in the local community, in-house flex talent pools, redesigning traditional job responsibilities, and upskilling talent internally.
We guide organizations toward becoming more proactive in engaging all sources of talent, both internal and external. At the same time, data and visibility into the market are also significant factors in tapping into the talent supply that is available right now. Visibility across permanent and contingent workers, detailed data on markets and a view of internal talent all make a difference, and the ability to achieve that view will remain a difference-maker for accessing workers in healthcare and nearly every industry.
Talent Attraction: Nice-to-Haves are Now Must-Haves for Securing Talent
Benefits once considered best-in-class are now "must haves" to compete for top talent. Unique offerings such as onsite childcare, upfront tuition payment (vs. reimbursement), flex shift scheduling, and employer-sponsored license attainment are becoming more common. Clinical job seekers are not only searching for competitive pay but also value-added benefits that promote career advancement and work-life convenience. This trend places even more strain on smaller companies that do not have the capital to compete with larger organizations.
Organizations would do well to review every role and offering on a regular basis. This review is more than a check-the-box look at benefits; it is an active, creative look at what competitors are doing and how the organization can improve. Flexible shifts and child care are good examples, but new approaches come to the forefront constantly as competitors and market conditions change.
AI: TA Leaders Seek Solid Strategies for Applying Innovation
AI was referenced in nearly every session, but it was clear the majority of companies have yet to evaluate and define their utilization strategy. Key considerations mentioned include but were not limited to furthering automation and strategic talent sourcing efforts; redesigning traditional job specifications; and replacing specific caregiver tasks, such as charting, with AI-enabled technology. One common refrain throughout all sessions was the desire to leverage AI to enhance and supplement employees in the spirit of improving the patient experience, not to replace workers.
AI is embedded across sourcing and recruiting, and it is a key part of our workforce intelligence platform, Sevayo® Insights. There is no hiding from AI or waiting to see what works and what does not. Embracing the technology requires an intelligent, case-by-case approach, and applying AI will remain essential for meeting hiring demands in a competitive market for talent.
Nurse Engagement and Staffing Requires New Thinking: Hospital systems continue to grapple with rising labor costs and low availability of nurse talent in the workforce. As a result, organizations are engaging in creative long- and near-term approaches for nursing hires. For example, companies are starting earlier to engage potential talent for open job opportunities down the road. One example shared was to start at the elementary school level to discuss nurse career paths and encourage future engagement.
Meanwhile, compensation remains a significant pain point for nurse leaders, both in the context of contingent versus permanent labor and new graduates versus experienced nurses. Companies will need to get smarter about knowing where the market rates are and being prepared to adjust as those rates change.
(From the Panel: "Nurse Engagement and Staffing in Post-Pandemic World.”)
The Worker Experience is Changing, and Organizations are Adapting: Every aspect of the recruiting and talent management lifecycle influences the worker experience in healthcare. One way to improve the employee experience, yet is often overlooked, is simply to reduce patient-caregiver ratios. Companies may save money in the long run by reducing the workload of clinical staff, thus decreasing the need to rely on other cost-based incentives such as expensive sign-on bonuses.
An outcomes-based approach to hiring can help companies achieve the balance of staff and workload they need. When it comes to workforce planning, start with what needs to get done and by when. Focus on strategic initiatives and projects, not just headcount. This approach will allow you to center your workforce strategy around skills, not only roles. After all, a specific employee in a particular role may be fit for purpose today but may not be the right fit six months from now.
Finally, the gig workforce is here to stay. Invest in thoughtful planning to understand how your organization can best tap into this evolving workforce trend and focus on initiatives and needed skills instead of a traditional headcount model.
(From the Session: "Navigating Innovation in the Perfect Storm of Healthcare HR.”)
Regulatory Demands Influence Healthcare Hiring: Organizations continue to simplify and shorten the application process. However, one downstream impact is that hired candidates must provide even more detail on employment applications, creating more inherent risk in your hiring process. The recommendation is a balanced approach between a quick application and gathering important details up front for the pre-employment check process.
Litigation is on the rise. Candidates are savvier than ever regarding their rights and the responsibility of employers during the background screening process. Notably, an increasing portion of employers are removing drug screening and employer verification as part of their background screening.
(From the Session: "How to Reduce Hiring Risk in Healthcare Due to the Everchanging Regulatory Environment")
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is Evolving and Maturing: Organizations are investing more in DEI today than ever before, but there is much work to be done, specifically in the realm of equity, which is the critical foundation of diversity and inclusion. Equity is not a program; it is a strategy. Equity programs are much less likely to succeed if business and finance leaders are not invested. There is a wealth of experience and information to help organizations keep moving forward on DEI. There is no need to create new ideas from scratch. Innovative organizations know they can leverage an expansive library of existing content related to DEI to bring their ideas forward.
(From the Session: "A Systems-Based DEI Strategy to Transform Culture and Deliver Equitable Experiences.”)
The Employer Brand is a Difference-Maker: Leaders shared priorities to sharpen their employer brand influence and attract candidates in a crowded space. To begin, remember your "why." Defining your organization's purpose and value proposition is critical to a strong external brand. Also, speed is king. Potential applicants are looking for a quick, efficient, streamlined hiring process.
Get creative in your TA and related brand and outreach strategy. One example shared was a boots-on-the-ground campaign to secure hard-to-find talent in Puerto Rico for a Florida-based health system. Finally, be flexible. Healthcare workers are increasingly seeking flexibility, which may look different for everyone. It is not only about shift scheduling or work-life balance anymore. It is about every aspect of work.
(From the Panel: Healthcare Employer Branding)
These are just a few of the learnings shared at People in Healthcare. Our experience has shown us that healthcare TA leaders are committed to embracing innovation and actively solving challenges — and they value a trusting partnership with their talent solutions providers. When we actively seek ways to learn from each other, the result is a partnership that overcomes the challenges of the market, no matter how steep those challenges may be.