The Great Resignation—the sustained increase in workers leaving their jobs, beginning in early 2021—is occurring across the labor force, and the healthcare industry is no exception. Estimates indicate that by 2026, there will be a shortage of 3.2 million healthcare workers, especially in the lower-wage segment of the industry. What can institutions do to cope with this coming crisis?
We believe solutions fall into three key areas: strengthening the workforce through real-time, continuous feedback; attracting and retaining talent by improving benefits; and exploring automation and collaborative arrangements to cope with labor shortages.
Employees leave managers, not companies. An excellent tool to build team satisfaction is a short quarterly, rather than annual, employee survey, designed to take a quick pulse and modify or reinforce a leader’s approach. Stay interviews with stellar employees that communicate their importance to the team can increase the employee’s loyalty and alert the manager to potential issues before they become problems.
Healthcare executives know that health insurance is the key benefit for most employees, and can be a significant factor in hiring, retention, and resignation. But in 2015, Quest employee surveys showed widespread frustration at both the cost and complexity of this benefit in our company. In response, Quest has lowered costs, increased education to reduce confusion, and reinvested savings to increase new clinical programs and resources to our employees. The company has saved over $80 million in the past seven years, and over the past two years, our employee out-of-pocket costs have gone down an average of 2%. Feedback from employees has been significantly improved as a result.
Employee retention may also improve when staff have more say in determining their schedule; flexible-shift arrangements are a consistently high priority especially for lower-wage employees. Flexible shifts can improve employee satisfaction and reduce turnover, more than paying for any slight increase in administrative burden to accommodate more complex scheduling. Growing talent through training and counseling can build employee loyalty at the same time that it fills the pipeline for mid- and upper-level staff.
Finally, institutions may want to explore automation or collaboration with an outside testing partner to ease staff shortages or reduce staff burnout. Multiple models exist, and the best partner will be one that can customize services to the specific needs of your institution.
Experts agree that labor shortages are not going to disappear. Long-range planning and proactive efforts to increase staff satisfaction and retention are likely to not only help mitigate future staffing problems, but can provide the healthcare institution significant savings and opportunities for improved patient care.