How to Retain Employees During the Great Resignation? One Industry Has the Answer

Two healthcare HR leaders discussing recruitment and retention strategies

Every company has those stubborn key roles that seem impossible to fill, especially now. 

Jobs like these are often needed in large numbers, they require specific skills, and they’re so similar from company to company, valuable employees can take their skills from place to place without missing a beat.

Yet for employers, the vacancies are costly and persistent. Sound familiar? 

This is where one client of ours found themselves not long ago. In a really tight industry where everyone’s competing for the same people, the company had a nagging problem with a vacant role. Brainstorming for answers led to a seemingly minor change: moving education under talent acquisition. 

On paper, it might not seem like a big deal, but it signaled a larger shift in how they thought about education — as a central tool in the hands of people focused on filling jobs. 

“To me, it makes perfect sense,” said the company’s head of talent acquisition at the time. “My role is to ensure our organization has the talent it needs today and for the future. One of the best ways to do this is to focus on our internal talent and their growth.”

The repurposing opened the door to other shifts — to think the way recruiters think. That led to a re-recruitment program to tap ambitious employees and advance them into these much-needed roles; reimbursement schedules created to pay more for the degrees the company needed most. More than merely prescriptively filling jobs, the advancement opportunities elevated the company culture — a known boon for retention. Ultimately, the employer was able to drop vacancies for one of its most stubbornly vacant positions to the lowest levels seen in nearly a decade. “Many other high-demand degrees have now seen an uptick in employees pursuing them,” said the head of talent acquisition, “ensuring our talent will be there as we need it going forward.”

The subtext of this story is where it took place: in the healthcare industry. The employer was a medical provider with a desperate need to fill a key nursing role. But their experiences — and successes — should be studied by anyone frustrated by the Great Resignation. 

Because right now, everyone’s feeling the sting of turnover and gaps. And while most employers are newly grappling with the pandemic-inspired game of extreme musical chairs, healthcare has been fighting this battle for years. Just look at the way the industry is set up. Medical providers have historically been grouped in clusters, with similar organizations located close enough to communicate by tin cans on a string. Employees unhappy at one employer can get a new job in the time it takes to cross the street. And they do. It’s not so far from the challenge retailers face right now, with employees decamping because they can find more upwardly mobile opportunities at a different store across the street. And our client’s story is just one. Another group of healthcare providers aggressively targeted a whole disrupted industry, offering valuable training opportunities to eager prospects, a strategy that netted hundreds of qualified applicants right out of the gate. 

That these case studies already had success before the pandemic — when healthcare was already grappling with the kind of massive shortages non-medical providers are just managing right now — makes them more than success stories, but instruction manuals. Their development strategies are arguably even more valuable today, when employees reeling from nearly two years of financial uncertainty are looking for companies that will not only give them a job — but help them find growth-potential careers that lead to solid financial ground.

Together, it makes healthcare an industry with much to teach about creative recruitment and retention they’ve learned from experience; and a roadmap for other industries who have a lot to learn for the talent wars they’re newly waging today.

[Webinar] New Tools for the New Talent Wars: Lessons from the Experts

10/14 webinar graphic

Looking for new tools to fight the talent war across your industry? Take a page from the healthcare playbook.

Join this upcoming webinar to learn how to:

  • Reduce vacancies for some of your hardest-to-fill positions.
  • Incentivize up-and-coming entry-level employees for frontline roles.
  • Combine degrees and non-degree into education programs that speak to employees across your workforce.

Register Now!

Written by: Lisa Oppenheimer

September 26, 2021

About the Author

Lisa Oppenheimer at Bright Horizons

As Director, Brand Storytelling at Bright Horizons, Lisa writes “from the trenches” about the real life challenges of people in today’s workplaces: from the tensions of being a working mother, to working with millennials in the digital age, and everything in between. With a career ranging from freelance to full-time, Lisa brings a diverse employment background to her perspective.