Recruitment Alone Can’t Solve Your Healthcare Talent Shortage. Here’s What Can

A male and female nurse walking together

Not long ago, a client of ours was discussing the challenge of managing today’s very complicated healthcare talent dynamics. 

On one hand are desperately needed young nurses who are constantly wooed with perks. On the other are long-employed (and equally important) older nurses who feel understandably skipped over. 

“You’re paying these huge sign-on bonuses to all of these nurses who are coming in,” goes the refrain from older nurses. “But what about us?”

It’s a good question. 

For all the talk about finding new RNs, healthcare has got bigger (or at least equally big) problems up and down the pipeline. A startling statistic from last fall’s 2018 ASHHRA conference showed that 81 percent – 81 percent! -- of RN’s will retire in the next 10 to 15 years. The partner statistic from the same conference: a quarter of new nurses flee the profession after just one year on the job. Dire gaps are also affecting techs and assistants where shortages are rising to triple digits. "Few other industries are racing the clock to find a future-ready workforce like today's health care administrators," one consultant told CNN. 

A fleet of incoming employees alone isn’t going to fill all of those gaps. You need to keep your current employees and attract new ones. It takes a multi-layered approach. And it’s driving the above client and other employers to adapt benefits into creative talent strategies that cross generational lines, all without breaking the budget. 

What might that look like?  

Financial wellness: Yesterday’s tuition may be busting new employees’ budgets. But that’s not employees’ only academically fueled problem. A surprising number of older employers are still carrying their own debt from college. And a quarter million dollars for a child’s future college education is keeping working parents up at night. The same financial wellness benefits you offer to help newly graduated Millennials get debt free could help Gen X moms and dads figure out how to save and pay   for their kids’ education, and give Boomers a better road toward retirement 

Dependent care: Caring for relatives can mean a child or a parent. So it’s no surprise that many of our clients with onsite child care centers on their main campuses are adding back-up care (networks that can cover child and elder) to ensure equity both for parents on satellite campuses and employees caring for adults. 

Education programs: Learning benefits do more than deliver skills and lower the cost of degrees or certifications.  Done well, they reaffirm your commitment to career growth – a top-of-mind concern for employees at every healthcare of level, from nursing to clinical frontlines.

Flexible schedules: In and out of healthcare, flexibility rules. One client wisely used the flex-time that appeals to young employees to create a reduced-schedule program (with full benefits) just for senior nurses with 15-plus years on the job. 

Why worry so much about benefits? Retention may actually depend on them.  “When you’re looking at the older workforce,” said our client, “benefits are very important to them. A lot of times they’re what keep people working.” 

Done right, you can effectively reach both your job seekers and employees you need to retain. Done wrong, you may leave important employees asking, “What about us?”

Nurse walking up the stairs in a hospital

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Written by: Doug Stefano

March 20, 2019

About the Author

Doug Stefano at Bright Horizons

Doug Stefano leads Bright Horizons’ healthcare practice. In this role, he’s charged with keeping Bright Horizons on the forefront of healthcare trends and ensuring that their solutions meet real needs and create maximum value for hospital clients. He and his team help CHROs, CNOs, and other health system leaders reframe their people strategies and win talent. He also specializes in empowering top Magnet hospitals to use their tuition assistance benefit as the foundation for workforce planning and for exceeding Institute of Medicine and Magnet recommendations.