An investment in your employees today will keep your practice healthy for years to come

More than half of healthcare workers don’t feel optimistic about the future

According to a recent Vivian Health study, 53% of healthcare workers surveyed don’t feel optimistic about the future of healthcare in the U.S. and 27% say they are unsure whether the future holds any promise for their careers. In the same survey, 43% of respondents said they are considering leaving the healthcare profession in 2021, compared to 80% who just one year before said they’d likely continue working in the healthcare field post-COVID-19.

Numbers like these are popping up on surveys across the country and the world as healthcare professionals begin to leave their posts and start their careers over from scratch in different industries. What that means for healthcare employers is that finding licensed professionals to fill vacant roles is about to get even more competitive than it already was.

Employers should start planning their recruitment strategy without further delay and make it a priority to incentivize their existing employees so that they are more inclined to stay, forgoing any plans to change careers or move to competing employers.

Job hunters are setting the rules

Despite government loan and grant programs that encouraged employers to rehire the employees they’d been forced to lay off or furlough at the start of the global pandemic, and despite the expiration of unemployment bonus stipends, the employment market hasn’t evolved as expected.

Many employers believed their HR teams would be inundated with over-qualified candidates so eager for work that they would be willing to settle for more modest salaries than they’d received pre-pandemic. But what has happened instead is that people have learned how to survive on less. They’ve become savvy at outsourcing their services as contractors for hire. Some have re-evaluated their career ambitions and decided to change course.

For an already beleaguered healthcare industry suffering from staffing shortages, layoffs, and high turnover rates, the pandemic exacerbated recruiting issues, making it much more difficult to find and hire qualified healthcare workers. These days, qualified candidates can name their price and probably get what they ask for, too.

Finding the right fit

Finding sufficient numbers of qualified, licensed healthcare employees in the reams of resumes these days can feel a little bit like hunting for needles in a haystack. But there are recruiting strategies employers can use to narrow their search and quickly win the right talent for their open positions, such as:

  • Hire a qualified Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) partner. An RPO service can save busy healthcare providers invaluable amounts of time and energy, reaching markets they might not otherwise know about or consider. A good RPO will partner with its clients to understand their pain points and challenges and will help narrow the search, so all an employer must do is interview the top candidates and make a final hiring decision.
  • Entice qualified candidates with a higher salary and other monetary incentives. Employers should consider sweetening the pot with a sign-on bonus and relocation package to entice new recruits through the door, and then take a hard look at the salaries they are paying their current employees. The Vivian study found that 66% of the nurses surveyed ranked pay as the most important attribute they are seeking in a job. Nearly a third of the respondents (32%) said they are being compensated less this year than they were last year while 48% claim their hours have increased in 2021. More than a third of those surveyed (36%) said they were “extremely dissatisfied” with their compensation during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Streamline the interview process to make it as swift as possible. Once top job candidates are identified and an initial phone conversation proves they are happy with the compensation being offered, it’s time to bring them in for interviews. There is no reason they should interview four or more times. If a decision has not been made by the end of the third interview, then they are probably not the right fit. The immediate supervisor needs to meet with them, and possibly the supervisor’s boss and a team member or two along with corporate HR. Only the immediate supervisor should require an hour of the candidate’s time. Everyone else planning to interview the candidate should take less than half an hour. It’s also important to have a structured interview ready to go and ensure the same questions aren’t being asked by different people.
  • Vet candidates thoroughly before extending an offer. In the healthcare industry in particular, employers must be careful to choose employees who will extend empathy and care to their patients and who will abide by the regulations and rules governing the profession. While there are no guarantees, this could be accomplished by:
    • Asking behavioral style questions in the interview process i.e., "Tell me about the time you had a difficult patient; What made them difficult and how did you respond?”
    • Requiring that candidates submit a combination of personal and professional references, and asking questions such as, “What do you consider to be their strengths? What skill are they best at? What area do you think they can improve?”
    • Checking candidates’ LinkedIn accounts to see what professional associations they might be involved in and reviewing their online references if they have any
    • Reviewing state board and licensing records on the candidates
  • Once a decision has been made, communicate quickly. Hiring managers or recruiters should follow up right away with candidates as soon as a decision has been made to offer another interview, extend a job offer, or to cut them loose if they aren’t the right fit. Today’s job market moves fast, and talent is likely to be snatched up quickly, so taking too long to make a decision could cost a company the preferred candidate. Communicate openly and encourage the candidate to be frank about what they want from the job so both parties can make the best decision for the future.

Keep employees happy so they will stay

It’s important to understand that in today’s market, employers must be flexible and accommodating to win talent and retain existing employees. The healthcare business can take a heavy toll on its workers, and the pandemic has made it even more challenging.

Employees are stretched thin and feel overworked, under paid, and under-appreciated according to the polls cited here. The Vivian report showed that 83% of respondents felt their mental health was impacted after working in the healthcare field during COVID-19 over the past year, with 36% feeling “significantly impacted.” An April 2021 Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that roughly three in 10 healthcare workers have weighed leaving their profession. About six in 10 claimed that stress from the pandemic has harmed their mental health.

In this industry in particular, benefits that focus on mental health and wellness should be standard. Providing schedule flexibility and offering ancillary mental-health benefits such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) with counseling services can make all the difference to employees without costing a fortune. Consider an investment in your employees and their health an investment in the future health of your organization.

Eleesha Martin is the Manager of Recruitment Process Outsourcing for G&A Partners, a leading professional employer organization (PEO) that has been helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses for more than 25 years.