Work, Life, and Healthcare Organizations

healthcare's top talent challenge

The following post comes from guest contributor Ingrid Shelton, an HR Consultant with Horizons Workforce Consulting.

As an industry, healthcare depends on its people in a way few others do. The life or death aspect is only one major difference. How many other industries have customers who can negotiate how much to pay based on what people are saying about its employees?

Healthcare employers, then, need to discuss not just how to ensure their people are up to the job, but how to do so in a way that responds to the specific challenges of the healthcare industry.

Targeted Supports for Healthcare Employees

Consider some of the unique challenges that healthcare employees face:

  • Managing a shrinking pool of healthcare dollars
  • Dealing with increasing demands from patients and employers
  • Being responsible by virtue of performance for reimbursements dollars
  • Working unconventional schedules
  • Managing on compromised sleep
The above conditions don't exist in a vacuum. Like employees everywhere, healthcare employees are people with careers and families. They, too, have responsibilities that, when left to become distractions, can have dire consequences. This has led wise hospital administrators to look at re-engineering work/life platforms in very deliberate ways. As one told us, "We need people to be able to get to work and to focus once they get there."

Reading the Data about Healthcare

Data from our Lasting Impact of Employer-Sponsored Child Care in Healthcare Organizations, for example, illustrates the unequivocal impact of an employer-sponsored child care center on key areas including productivity, recruitment, and retention:

  • 96% of respondents reported that they are likely to recommend their employer to other working parents for job opportunities
  • 91% reported that the availability of employer-sponsored child care would be important in their decision to change employers
  • 94% of respondents reported that access to work-site child care positively impacts their ability to work scheduled shifts
  • 15% of respondents had turned down a job because of the lack of work-site child care; of those, 56% turned down a job that offered higher pay than their current job

How to Customize Work/Life Supports for Healthcare Workers

Another clear element of this equation, however, is the fact that one-size-fits-all approaches won't work. To be effective, supports have to be tailored not just to the industry, but to the individual organization. In our work with hospitals, we look at the workforce holistically; at what the employees need to perform their current jobs, and what the workforce needs to grow. Here are a few things a solid healthcare-specific approach must focus on:

  • Higher utilization of dependent-care supports for a higher-proportion female workforce
  • Extended length-of-day support required by 12-hour-shift caregivers
  • Flexibility of center opening hours to accommodate unpredictable patient care
  • Child and elder care support for a multi-generational workforce
  • A range of care locations to support a multi-focal healthcare workforce
  • Ongoing training and educational assistance to reach hospital certification goals (RN to BSN initiatives, e.g.) and to promote top-tier patient safety

The Distinct Benefits for Employers

In our experience with hospitals and healthcare organizations, we've seen distinct benefits from providing these customized supports. Case studies show a chain reaction of results; satisfied healthcare employees go on to provide excellent patient care. And the importance of these approaches is only going to grow. Consider that healthcare is about to experience a mass exodus of Boomers retiring from the field. The young people who will replace them will have both the family responsibilities of their predecessors, plus the added expectations of today's reimbursement structure. That fact makes customized work/life supports something everybody in healthcare should be talking about.

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