Retaining Healthcare Talent Amid Increased Employee Shortages
Many leaders in healthcare have experienced higher than normal shortages in their workforces for similar reasons. There is a way to reverse this trend, but you need to act now.
Let’s face it, it’s tough to be in healthcare management right now. There are shortages of almost every level and type of staff. It’s hard to manage in this environment and achieve the strategic goals laid out by leadership.
Historically, there have been intermittent shortages of nurses, physicians and other allied health professionals but a manageable rate of employee turnover. However, as a manager for almost 20 years in hospital administration, recent shortages and turnovers have felt different. While there’s a healthy amount of turnover in any organization, I’ve noticed a general feeling of fatigue after two years of staff dealing with the pandemic who are now dealing with burnout. Many of us are also experiencing the exodus of long-time, loyal employees who perhaps didn’t feel valued for all that they did during the pandemic. Most hospitals probably didn’t have a work-from-home policy prior to the pandemic, and now they’ve had to scramble to develop one. Hospitals don’t have a culture of hybrid work environments, and it is creating a sense of inequity among staff. There isn’t one single reason for this exodus. I’ve noticed that it’s multifactorial, with many root causes. But it can be corrected by acting now. So, what to do at this very moment if you are a healthcare leader?
What Healthcare Leaders Need to Do Right Now
What are three things healthcare leaders need to do right now to retain their employees? They are: engage talent, ask key questions and identify top talent.
As a result of the pandemic, employees are looking at new job opportunities, whether that’s a promotion, advancement, a hybrid work environment or a new opportunity to start afresh. As the manager, you have the greatest power in the organization to retain your staff. Use it! Conversations and powerful questions are proven to increase engagement and reduce turnover.
One of the greatest business challenges we face in a competitive environment is keeping good employees. Even more so, an engaged employee is the key to any organization’s success and in achieving its strategic goals.
Engage Talent Now, Not Later
Proactive Versus Reactive
It’s far wiser to ask the questions now that will successfully engage and develop our talent than it is to find out what’s missing after the person gives notice. This is often overlooked when you have well-meaning employees who are quiet and do not complain. Attention is instead focused on disruptive, bad-behaving employees. As a manager, it is hard to focus your attention on those that are just quietly chugging along and hitting all their goals year over year. But don’t overlook them; they are the reason behind your team’s success.
How to Have a Post-Pandemic Stay Conversation
- You are a valued member of our team; we’ve been through a lot together and we do not want to lose you.
- We are committed to you for the long term and want to help you build your career at this organization.
- We would like the opportunity to address your concerns.
- We want to do everything we can to help you be satisfied and productive.
- You can talk to me at any time about your experience here. My door is always open to you.
Goals of the Stay Discussion
- Communicate to the employee that the organization values them and wants to retain them.
- Confirm prior discussion, if applicable, of the employee’s career aspirations. Post-pandemic employees are reexamining their prior choices in their career, degree, work-life balance, jobs and goals.
- Gain an understanding of employee’s commitment to stay with the organization and collaborate with the team, their manager and HR to work out a hybrid work environment.
- Let the employee know you are willing to address concerns, but you need to know about them first.
Ask Key Questions
- What do you look forward to at work each day?
- What do you like most about working here?
- If you could change one thing about your job, what might that be?
- What will keep you here? What might entice you away?
- What talents do you have to contribute that have not been recognized or leveraged? As you think about your next step, what new skills do you want to develop?
- To what extent do you feel recognized for your accomplishments?
- What can I do better to support you?
- What additional feedback would you find helpful?
- What are your career goals, and how can I support them?
Asking for input and not doing anything is worse than not asking in the first place, so be sure to follow up.
- Employee and manager have an open and candid conversation about the employee’s feelings about staying with the organization or department.
- Employee and manager commit to discussing job satisfaction and future aspirations regularly; this may involve a hybrid work environment. Be ready to discuss your organization’s policy.
- Employee knows where they stand in their career and have realistic expectations about career opportunities.
- Employee and manager have established or enhanced their partnership in their development.
- You, the manager, are in charge, not HR. Remember your team’s success is your success and a demonstration of your ability to lead people, not just projects.
- Take responsibility for employee engagement and retention.
- Adopt an attitude that supports learning and growth and that inspires loyalty.
- Create an environment where people love working.
- Be honest about opportunities for advancement; work with HR to develop a career ladder if one does not exist in your department.
Identify Your Top Talent
How do you know who your top talent is? Would those individuals be a regrettable loss to your organization if they left? Here is what I have learned are the qualities of top talent:
- Motivated to achieve ever-improving results.
- Demonstrates enthusiasm and positivity.
- Constantly strives to raise the bar on their performance and do better.
- Always shows moral courage and are not afraid to make tough decisions.
- Shares and constantly demonstrates your organization’s vision and values.
- Represents the organization well both internally and externally and are spoken of highly by people who deal with them.
- Earns the respect of their colleagues and are known as people who demonstrate high integrity.
- Successfully manages situations in difficult times with challenging obstacles.
- Possesses open communication, transparency, decision-making ability, and consensus building.
- Are skilled at developing others.
- Creates a culture for team success.
- Raises their hands for assignments beyond their own scope of work.
About the Author
Ritu Gupta Jain, M.P.H. is the incoming AVP, Women’s Health & Physician Network Development at Maimonides Medical Center. Previously, she served as executive director, Medical Affairs Operations at Stamford Health. She holds a B.S. from Brandeis University, M.P.H. from University of Illinois at Chicago, and a health administration residency from Johns Hopkins Health System. She is a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of In the Lead magazine, from The Stillman School of Business and its Business Leadership Center. The bi-annual magazine focuses on leadership perspectives from the field of health care, with content that is curated from leaders across the industry who share lessons learned from real-world experiences.