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It’s Coming: How to Plug the Gap in the Looming Healthcare Talent Shortage

managing healthcare talent

The graying of the Baby Boomer generation is draining resources from every industry, with an average of 3 million boomers reaching retirement each year over the next two decades. This exodus is expected to hit the healthcare industry particularly hard because the number of replacements is simply not keeping up with the expected demand.

A recent report by the American College of Healthcare Executives shows that CEO turnover at hospitals remains elevated, at its second highest rate in 15 years. Another industry report shows more than half of all nurses are now over 50 years old, and nearly two thirds of those over 54 are considering retirement.

The physician pool is aging as well with four out of ten doctors now over 55 years old. The increased demands of value-based care, meaningful use, ICD-10, and the forthcoming implementation of MACRA is leading nearly half of these physicians to ramp down their practices or retire altogether.

Not only is there a growing talent gap with traditional roles, but organizations must also recruit for new positions such as chief clinical integration officer, chief quality officer, and chief compliance officers, to meet the demands of the shifting healthcare landscape.

Be proactive. Implementing a three-pronged approach to talent management based on retention, development, and recruiting will help you have the right people in the right positions to combat the upcoming talent shortage.

1) Retention, retention, retention

Deal with personnel shortages by eliminating vacancies in the first place - focus on making your organization a place top talent wants to stay.

First, identify your best performers. This can be done with a regular, transparent review and evaluation process so staff knows what is expected, and whether they are meeting those expectations.   

Follow up with consistent coaching and mentoring to support individuals in their career progression. Helping employees as they seek to improve their skills is an effective way to build engagement and loyalty for the organization.

The working environment in healthcare is stressful and helping staff deal with the constant demands can keep your best talent on board. Offering classes in creative pursuits like painting and writing can help them unwind from the daily stress of their jobs. Elevating these creative activities into group efforts will promote teamwork that can also lead to better retention.

All-in-one performance systems simplify all of this – align, guide, evaluate, and motivate staff, and ensure relevant goals are set for individuals and teams. Leadership will know not only what they are accountable for in specific, measurable terms, but have complete visibility into their progress with the ability to course correct if needed - helping them manage workflow and expectations.

2) Development

As senior staff leaves, a strong pipeline of existing staff trained and ready to take-over should be in place.

Through your regular evaluation program, be on the lookout for individuals you feel can take on more responsibility and grow into leadership roles. Analyze talent gaps as well. Challenging talented staff members and providing clearly defined growth paths is one of the most effective ways to retain top performers. Make it known that the organization reinforces skills development, employee retention, and job satisfaction, and actively works to build “bench strength.”

Growing your best talent into senior roles can also have a trickle-down effect. Based on their experiences these new leaders are more likely to encourage development of the staff they will now lead.

3) Attract and Win the Best Talent

Despite best efforts at retention and development, there will inevitably be openings to fill. With so many healthcare organizations to choose from, it’s the candidates’ perceptions and impressions – their overall experience – that’s making a difference.

Be on your toes before a candidate even applies. Have a sound, visible brand, conveying the collective stories and attributes that contribute to your reputation as a healthcare employer of choice. For instance, go beyond a static website with innovative communication capabilities - such as video testimonials showcasing your employees’ experiences as a nurse or a healthcare administrator.  Humanize your workplace.

Deploy a responsively-designed and mobile optimized career site. More job searches are now happening on mobile devices than desktops, so get the tools to keep up with this trend.  Busy candidates will drop-off career sites that don’t support this convenience - and move on to competitors.

Make your application process user-friendly. Steer away from a cumbersome 40-minute application or outdated career site. Let your talent acquisition system take care of data analysis with a streamlined screening process and targeted searches for exactly the type of people you want. Easy automation helps HR screen, sort, and source candidates, as well as provide a human touch with quick responses to applications.

Meeting these new challenges will require innovative talent management programs supported by straightforward technology. Making the case to invest in talent management to your board can be daunting, but it’s an important step if you hope to avoid a talent shortage problem.  

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