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Human capital management within the healthcare sector is an important factor in helping attract, engage, and retain a highly skilled workforce. Considering the challenges facing healthcare—nurse shortages, changing regulations, and the introduction of new technology—hospitals and health systems can support organizational success through the development and execution of a robust human capital strategy. Doing so doesn’t just support a high-performance workforce; it also leads to an improved patient experience. Research has found that healthcare organizations with exemplary talent management practices achieve 13 percent higher patient satisfaction scores than those without. When employees are engaged and supported on a path that helps them become more effective and skilled in their roles, everyone benefits. Here are seven ways to improve healthcare human capital management.
Leverage Company Culture in Recruiting
Company culture is an important factor in attracting talent because a company’s culture influences candidate interest. In fact, a Glassdoor survey revealed that when searching for a new job, 77 percent of respondents said they would consider a company’s culture before even applying. In healthcare, the importance of culture in attracting talent is critically important because the demand for talent outstrips supply. According to Mercer, by 2025, there will be a further shortage of nurses, home health aides, and technicians. Therefore, companies need to demonstrate to prospective hires what makes their culture unique among the competing employment options that candidates have available to them.
A company’s culture gives prospective employees a sense of whether they will fit in and thrive within the company, and healthcare organizations can infuse recruiting activities with activities that showcase the positive aspects of their culture. Some of the ways organizations can use their company culture to stand out among other employers include:
- Building an employer brand story that highlights aspects of the company culture that are attractive to today’s healthcare talent
- Featuring employee stories on social media and career sites that highlight career paths and different ways in which employees support and contribute to company culture
- Incorporating culture fit questions into the candidate interview process
According to one estimate, the national hospital turnover rate is at 19 percent, and even higher for certain roles such as Certified Nursing Assistant (31.9 percent turnover). Healthcare organizations can reverse the trend of increasing turnover by implementing talent management strategies that improve morale and encourage employees to stay. Improving retention not only ensures the continuity of high-quality care for patients, but it also helps curb the cost and time it takes to replace employees who leave. Healthcare employers can take the following actions to improve retention and keep good employees:
- Effectively manage overtime and reduce other potential causes of burnout such as lack of training or inefficient processes
- Ensure a thorough background screening process for new hires, reducing the risk of having to terminate for cause or misconduct later
- Demonstrate a commitment to patient and employee safety
- Highlight opportunities for learning and career advancement
- Implement mentorship programs that encourage strong manager/employee relationships
Ensure Competitive Compensation
According to a Health eCareers survey, a higher salary was the No. 1 reason surveyed healthcare employees gave for wanting to change employers. Offering competitive compensation ensures that healthcare professionals are properly motivated to perform and meet performance goals, and it also helps to reduce both turnover and disengagement. After all, if employees aren’t paid competitively, they can lose both motivation and trust in their employer to reward them fairly for a job well done. In addition to conducting research and participating in industry salary surveys, healthcare companies can consider periodic salary adjustments, performance-based bonuses, shift-based rewards, and other perks to ensure compensation is a proper motivator for employees.
Cultivate Trust Through Transparency
In healthcare organizations, physicians, nurses, and other caregivers must work together to meet patient needs and achieve positive healthcare outcomes. A healthy human capital management strategy will, therefore, include the mechanisms that encourage teamwork, transparency, and trust. As one health system CEO wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “When team members are open and honest with each other, without fear, it leads to mutual trust, collaboration, and sharing of best practices across disciplines. Patients are the ultimate beneficiaries.”
Healthy communication yields transparency and facilitates stronger teamwork among all team members. Key ways healthcare organizations can encourage trust through transparency include:
- Ensuring prospective and existing hires are well-informed about the background screening and compliance requirements they need to meet as part of their ongoing employment
- Implementing a performance management program that ensures honest, balanced performance feedback for all employees as well as opportunities for bottom-up, peer, and 360 reviews
- Providing opportunities for employees to provide feedback and suggestions on aspects of the workplace they would like to improve
- Using town hall meetings, company intranet, and virtual feedback sessions to allow employees to communicate and share information with company leaders
Implement an Employee Growth Plan
Because their field undergoes frequent changes in regulations, licensing, and credential requirements, it’s critically important for employees in healthcare to keep their skills fresh with continuing education. Ongoing skill development is also important for helping employees reach their career goals and is supported with regular and varied opportunities for on-the-job and classroom training. Hospitals and health systems can ensure an appropriate focus on employee growth by:
- Partnering with healthcare training organizations and schools to provide employees with a curriculum and study options
- Creating in-house training opportunities for employees to teach and learn from each other
- Providing leadership development that will equip nurse managers and shift supervisors with the knowledge and skills they need to lead and mentor the people on their teams
Implement Employee Recognition Programs
Research reveals the positive benefits of making recognition an important part of the human capital management strategy. In a survey of HR leaders, 80 percent said their organization had an employee engagement program, with the vast majority of respondents saying the program helped to improve employee relationships, engagement, and the overall employee experience. In other research by Gallup, employees who did not feel adequately recognized were twice as likely to say they would quit their job in the next year.
To retain healthcare employees, it’s necessary to put recognition mechanisms in place that help them feel valued and appreciated. Recognition can come in many forms, from a small gesture of thanks to a formal reward program. Some examples of recognition activities healthcare organization can consider include:
- Presenting employees with handwritten notes, email thanks, or small gifts
- Holding an awards banquet or recognition dinner during National Hospital Week (one healthcare recognition expert says nearly 80 percent of hospitals do this every year)
- Offering preferred shift options or time off in support of employee work-life balance
Invest in the Right Technology
Advances in technology have helped to improve the patient experience and put more information in patients’ and caregivers’ hands. But it has also increased the need for healthcare employers to ensure that technology is also helping to improve productivity and efficiency in the workplace. Just as the patient chart has evolved into the digital employee health record (EHR), so also has there been a need to upgrade other forms of technology when it comes to healthcare talent management. Some examples of technology that can help to improve healthcare human capital management include:
- Virtual onboarding that helps new healthcare employees get on board and ramp up more quickly
- Thorough background check solutions that integrate with existing HR systems and allow healthcare companies to more seamlessly complete pre-hire and post-hire background screenings
- E-learning programs that allow employees to pursue personalized learning plans
Human Capital Management a Winning Strategy for Healthcare
Having a solid human capital management strategy can help healthcare organizations attract, retain, and engage the workforce and ensure employees have the knowledge and skills that will allow them to contribute at optimal levels. Healthcare organizations that maintain a healthy focus on company culture, opportunities for learning, and the right technology to help hire and retain employees can win the war for talent and ensure that talent is mobilized and ready to support ongoing company growth.