Healthcare's Top 3 HR Challenges

Healthcare organizations face unique challenges and need to adapt to a rapidly changing industry landscape. Recently, WorkforceNEXT brought prominent healthcare leaders together for the Healthcare Summit, where attendees addressed issues in HR, talent acquisition, retention, workforce engagement, communication, and learning management.

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Attendees had the chance to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges their peers face through a Waggl pulse coordinated with WorkforceNEXT. Prior to the summit, participants were asked, "What is your biggest workforce challenge in 2018?" Participants' responses were captured through an anonymous, pairwise voting process. Some of the top-ranked answers to the survey, as voted on by survey participants, included:

"Attracting talent that fits the skills and culture at our organization for employment."

"Talent shortage and industry competition. We've made significant strides in our overall retention and employee engagement, and are focused on close alignment with our candidate outreach strategy."

"Increasing competition for a limited supply of qualified leaders and experienced clinicians."

Below, we explore the top three themes identified in the survey responses:

1. Culture

Shibu Varghese, senior vice president, people and business operations; chief human resources officer; and chief diversity officer at MD Anderson Cancer Center, started the day off with a keynote on the "Culture of Caring." Varghese discussed the metrics around disengagement in our workforce, pointing to the $605 billion lost each year in productivity due to disengaged employees, according to Gallup's ongoing research.

To address disengagement, Varghese outlined what leaders can do to bolster engagement and drive productivity. Among the suggestions were that leaders develop the following skills and traits in themselves and their organizations: trust and empower employees, transparency, and authenticity.

Varghese set the tone for the rest of the day, putting the power of creating caring healthcare systems into the hands of leaders who are focused on attracting, engaging, and retaining top-tier talent.

2. Talent

During the closing presentation, Memorial Hermann Health Systems Vice President of HR Kim Garcia offered advice on talent engagement and retention in a highly competitive landscape. One of the key suggestions was the importance of training. In healthcare, you cannot build a successful team of doctors, nurses, and staff without robust training. Garcia noted the importance of creating a process where leadership engages with employees throughout training and development.

Garcia suggested identifying "pit stops," or distinct timelines for checking in with employees as they are onboarded and further trained in their positions. The surveys or pulses provided to employees during these pit stops do not have to be – and probably should not be – lengthy. A simple four-question survey facilitates impactful conversations, ensuring employees feel heard and that their needs are met.

Establishing standards for regular discussion allows leaders to continually learn from their employees and adapt training to the needs of their populations. This level of attention on talent is not necessarily an industry standard yet, but those who participated in the summit are certainly working to make it a priority.

3. Competition

Healthcare leaders face stiff competition from other healthcare organizations in the talent market. As competitors vie for a small supply of top performers, healthcare leaders must focus more on how to retain the very same employees they work so hard to attract and develop in the first place.

To address retention, Garcia recommended a "refueling" process in line with the "pit stop" strategy for onboarding and training. The takeaway was to recognize employees and continually engage them. Ongoing engagement allows employers to work with their people to resolve struggles that would lead to turnover if left unaddressed.

A version of this article originally appeared on the Waggl blog.

Waggl is the most human way for organizations to crowdsource feedback.