HR in Health Care: The Engagement Challenge

HR in Health Care: The Engagement Challenge

This article was updated on July 21, 2018.

Health care hiring is booming, with over 10 percent of all new jobs created in the first part of 2017 being in the sector, according to Health Leaders Media. This surge has led organizations to rethink how they interact and engage their talent.

Because improved patient outcomes and cost control have become top priorities for HR in health care, incentives for health care workers have also followed suit. Modern Healthcare explains that, "with hospitals consolidating and under intense pressure to improve quality amid declining reimbursement, more systems are embracing performance-based pay."

Competition for skilled health care talent is intense, and salaries have gone up accordingly — but so have turnover rates. Despite an 8.2 percent jump in health care executive compensation in 2015 (most of it in the form of performance-based incentives), according to Modern Healthcare, the turnover rate was 19.2 percent across the health care industry in 2015, according to Compdata.

Simply increasing salaries may not be enough to retain top talent. "The workforce has increasing confidence in the job market," said Amy Kaminski, Vice President for Compdata. "Your key employees have options when it comes to where they want to work," and they are increasingly exploring those options.

What a Hot Health Care Market Means for HR: A Need to Engage

For HR in health care, the implications are clear: it's time to find new and better ways to attract and engage scarce health care talent. And if you lose talent, you'll need to focus on succession planning and enhanced training in order to maintain operational continuity. In today's talent-hungry health care climate, a competitive human capital management strategy has to satisfy employees' expectations regarding compensation, benefits and organizational culture while improving patient outcomes and keeping costs under control.

A 2015 white paper from health care staffing consultants B.E. Smith offers an eye-opening statistic: the majority (51 percent, to be precise) of all health care workers reported being disengaged. So what should health care HR leaders be doing to engage employees in a market where job opportunities abound?

Here are five methods to drive employee engagement.

1. Monitor and Incentivize Employee Engagement

Performance-based pay has been a major trend over the last few years throughout health care, and while metrics such as patient satisfaction and cost control should be incentivized, so should employee engagement. High turnover rates come with a high price, and a lack of employee engagement directly affects patient care and cost control.

2. Leverage HCM technology as an Engagement-Driving Tool

Having HCM systems in place to track your employee engagement will offer you actionable, data-driven insights upon which you can make changes to drive higher engagement. Being able to identify your consistently high performers will help you give them the recognition they deserve and actively engage them for the long term. A culture of recognition/appreciation drives engagement, and your HCM systems can support these crucial transformation efforts.

3. Build a Leadership Pipeline

As complexity grows in health care, preparing your organization for changes on the horizon should be a top HR priority. Succession planning should combine an understanding of talent and technology in order to support investments to prepare your top performers. Organizations that invest in talent and strategically plan for the future will show their potential and future leaders that the organization is built for the long haul.

4. Foster Training and Development Opportunities

Research suggests that organizations that offer employee development plans see far better results in terms of employee retention and productivity. They have turnover rates lower than organizations without development plans, and each "developed" is better equipped to generate more revenue. When you invest in skills development, people perform better and stay longer.

5. Emphasize Your Life-Saving Mission

An organization's vital mission to save and improve the lives of patients can be highly engaging. Patient stories can inspire, as can stories of how health care employees have gone above and beyond the call of duty for patients. Such mission-aligned stories should be shared and celebrated throughout the organization. Stories matter, so use them to inspire you employees and remind them why they became health care professionals in the first place.

The main challenge for HR in health care is to engage employees and thereby promote retention. With a strategic approach that aligns technology, recognition and mission, you should be able to rise above the competition and keep the employees who will drive your success for years to come.