By Brian Radin, president, Comdata Prepaid.
Employment in healthcare occupations is projected to grow 15% over the next few years, adding nearly 2.4 million jobs. Yet, there is no end in sight to the nation-wide healthcare hiring crisis, especially among the majority of workers that are underpaid and undervalued. While understaffing can be a nuisance and result in lost earnings for those in sectors such as hospitality, it’s consequences can have catastrophic effects in healthcare.
What do you do when you can’t provide critical care in a timely manner? Many healthcare providers are facing this issue as the industry needs thousands of additional professionals to keep up with current and future demand.
What’s driving the crisis
To understand why the shortage is occurring, we need to understand the challenges many healthcare professionals face. Burnout is real – a recent poll by the Washington Post indicates nearly 30% of workers are considering leaving the profession as they seek a better work/life balance. Personal protective equipment (PPE) crucial for the safety and wellbeing of our healthcare workers is still widely unavailable for many small and mid-sized clinics. And they’re underpaid, too – Last year, nursing assistants made a median salary of $30,000, and medical assistants, home health aides and others averaged only $13.48 per hour (less than $30,000 per year). Finally, there’s a limited supply of medica professionals in general. As of now, the United States has a greater number of citizens over the age of 65 than ever before. Additionally, over the next ten years, 20% of the United States will become senior citizens. Add to that the training time needed to work in healthcare and you see a mismatch between the jobs that need to be filled and the skills available workers possess.
Healthcare leaders need to think outside the box to stem the tide of those workplace attrition. To get the top healthcare talent (and keep them), you need to answer two questions: how am I treating my employees and how am I treating my patients? Everyone wants to make good money, and while that’s an important factor, it’s not only about compensation.
There’s no time like the present – get the help you need, now
Here are some ideas healthcare administrators can implement to attract and retain workers and distinguish themselves from the competition:
- Show them the money: Right now it’s a worker’s market. As an example, there are currently 43 home health and personal care aid openings for every one applicant. With so many jobs and so few qualified workers, you need to ensure your compensation is highly competitive. Think beyond an annual salary – consider signing and staying bonuses, too. For example, after six months of employment, workers receive a bonus; after 12 months another bonus (potentially a bit higher) and so on. Here’s another idea: consider repayment program to help your employees pay off any training debts. Base it off months or years of service – the longer they stay with your organization, the greater the amount of repayment.
- Give them immediate access to their money: Many employees live paycheck to paycheck and resort to expensive solutions to financially bridge their needs between pay periods. On top of that, many lack access to traditional banking services. Address this by giving employees immediate access to their earnings using paycards and on-demand EWA solutions. These tools offer employees an easy and secure way to manage their wages, even if they don’t have bank accounts.
- Hire proactively, not reactively: Don’t wait until you have a staffing crisis to start the hiring process. Instead, project your staffing needs months out and start the hiring process sooner rather than later. This will help your new team members have sufficient time to get the training they need rushing them through the orientation process. Don’t forget that undertrained employees don’t perform as well at their jobs, and your customers will take notice. It will also help your bottom line by reducing the need for expensive travel nurses.
- Consider your sourcing: Don’t just recruit from one or two channels – be proactive in networking with high schools, colleges, technical schools and job boards to engage with potential workers early. Consider offering internship programs that have a clear path to full-time work. If you can offer a guaranteed employment program, you’re more likely to curry favor with your potential workers. Here’s a pro tip: try using platforms such as Nursing Job Café to help shorten the average hiring time.
- Now that you’ve got them, keep them: Filling your employee roster isn’t enough. Go outside the mold when it comes to running your operation. Make work fun for your employees, assign mentors and install continuous training programs. Many medical professionals are required to work long back-to-back shifts. Think outside the box on how to improve your staffing schedule. This will keep your workers engaged, make them feel valued and strengthen their skillsets, which will ultimately strengthen your organization.
- Up the perks: Consider offering what the competition doesn’t. Adding a 401(k) plan, paid time-off, sick days and health and mental care will help you stand out to potential employees. If you don’t already have one, why not implement a career path program? This could encourage your team to stay and grow with the company. Put yourself in your employees’ shoes – what would you want if you were them?
Stand out from the pack
The hiring crisis is real – and it’s affecting industries across the board. In some cases, there are many more jobs than there are qualified candidates. In today’s age, workers, and potential workers have the power. Therefore, employers must be willing to reinvent the way that they approach attracting and retaining talent.
Offering additional compensation and ways to immediately access pay, practicing proactive hiring, diversifying your hiring sources and improving the daily life of your workers can help bring potential employees to your door and keep the ones you already have.
Still struggling? Take a step back and think about what you would want if you were on the front lines. Consider asking your workers about what’s working and what isn’t – you’ll gain valuable insights that will help you fill and keep your roster full.
This is a complex problem with no one-size-fits-all solution, and it’s not going away anytime soon. Traditional hiring and retention practices just don’t cut it anymore. If you’re the employer that employees desire, you’ll have an easier time attracting and retaining the best talent. Remember: happy, engaged workers do the best work, and that ultimately reflects on your organization’s reputation and profitability. So, if you’re struggling to fill open spots with qualified healthcare professionals, try going outside the box by examining your benefits offerings, giving your employees immediate access to their earnings, and go the extra mile with the perks and workplace engagement to keep the good workers you already have.