HR Leaders Talk: How to Take on Healthcare Employee Retention

ASHHRA Healthcare HR Week 2016

One of the takeaways from IPMI's recent Healthcare HR Management Institute was about health system revenue -- specifically how in the coming decade, revenue growth could be dwarfed by rising expenses.

Labor costs are at the center of the problem -- no surprise in an era with historically high skill gaps for nurses and other key roles.

These pressures have put healthcare employee retention in the spotlight. As Ginna Kelley, executive director of integrated benefits at Piedmont Healthcare, succinctly put it, "Retention is HR's currency, because turnover is money."

Such sentiments were the talk of the conference. And it was with retention and controlling labor costs in mind that Ginna and I facilitated a Think Tank on the timely topic of rewards optimization. Such programs need to be more than just benefits, but tangible extensions of an organization's culture. They need to change the equation so employees aren't just looking for that next pay increase -- at your organization or the next one.

An Eye on Healthcare Employee Retention -- and More

HR executives from approximately 20 large hospitals and health systems joined in.

Some of the leading ideas that emerged:

It's time to train for skills

In the current era, recruiting for skills will only get you so far. And there was wide agreement that employee development programs, such as tuition assistance, could more reliably produce the skills needed by the health system.

Investments in clinician health pay off for everyone

Healthcare is a stressful occupation. And establishing and continually refining wellness incentives that instill healthy behaviors will drive down health care cost.

The workforce is more than just employees

Actively involving spouses and domestic partners in benefit programs will both promote family health and increase employee participation.

Each of these ideas needs to be tailored to fit an organization's culture, competitive dynamics, and workforce needs. And everyone's formula is going to be different. For some in the room, for example, the largest area of concern was their BSN pipeline. Another cited substantial churn among CNAs, and another environmental services. Each demands its own approach. And these strategies are just a small part of the total rewards transformations HR leaders like Ginna Kelley are spearheading.

In the face of historic talent shortages, we are poised to see historic levels of benefits innovation. It'll be quite something to watch. One thing's for sure: the results could be enormously valuable all around -- for patients, for healthcare workers...and for the organizations that support them.

Written by: Jonathan Corke

About the Author

Jonathan Corke at Bright Horizons

As Senior Director, Product Marketing, Jonathan has spent the last decade working at the intersection of strategic HR and enterprise technology. He has learned a great deal about converting a talent management strategy into an operating plan through direct conversations with HR leaders and numerous industry surveys. These experiences have sparked a fascination with how leading employers create a better environment for their workforce, and how that environment drives consistent business performance. Jonathan holds an MBA from Clark University.