July 17th, 2023 | Sterling

Effective Strategies to Attract, Develop, and Retain Healthcare Talent

As the demand for healthcare services continues to rise, the need for qualified healthcare workers has only intensified. The reasons for staffing shortages are varied, including burnout, changing demographics, industry competition, and the rigors of the medical profession. In a survey conducted by Sterling’s Healthcare and Life Sciences, the top three priorities for HR leaders included increasing employee retention (68%), improving talent acquisition strategies (55%), and improving employee engagement (55%).

Our team attended LEAP HR Healthcare where we had the opportunity to hear from some of the largest health systems in the US, and their strategies and success stories with attracting, developing, and retaining their workforce. We asked our team to share their top takeaways from each of these areas.

Attracting Top Talent

Labor shortages in the healthcare industry continued to be an important topic, and we don’t expect to see this trend improve anytime soon. The American Hospital Association estimates that the industry will face a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians by 2033, and the industry will need to hire at least 200,000 nurses a year to meet rising demands.

Here are some effective strategies that have proven successful for health systems:

  1. Tap into previously-applied candidates: Re-engaging with past candidates can be a big advantage for hiring managers. If a candidate was rejected from a role they’ve originally applied to, or if they decided to move on to something else, they could be a better fit for a future opportunity. Keep them in mind for other opportunities and continue to nurture them with company news and updates to keep your organization top-of-mind.
  2. Go where your candidates are: Narrowing your recruitment to one or two channels can limit some of your ideal applicants. More healthcare organizations are starting to incorporate social media into their recruitment strategies. Using a variety of techniques to source candidates (including social media, events, and partnering with local colleges and universities offering the programs needed to credential your roles) can widen your pool of candidates.
  3. Simplify the hiring process: A clunky and long hiring process can increase the risk of your candidates moving on to another opportunity. Investing in a technology-based screening service can streamline the hiring process and reduce candidate drop-off.

Developing Employees

Recruiting solutions alone aren’t enough to combat staffing shortages. Although recruiting will always be necessary, strategies like talent development and supporting the growth of new skills have been a priority for health systems. However, professional development can be difficult to implement largely due to the nature of shift work and the diversity of positions, skills, and needs. According to the Association for Talent Development, healthcare workers spend 34% less time on training a year than other industries.

Below are a few strategies that other healthcare organizations found essential in establishing a successful professional development program for their employees:

  1. Leveraging technology for talent development: Technology has been evolving at a rapid pace, and HR teams in healthcare are beginning to embrace its benefits when it comes to making the most of their workforce’s potential. Examples include incorporating intuitive assessment tools to uncover employees’ skill gaps and strengths, using video platforms for online training and career development, and even harnessing data in AI-driven platforms to guide a career growth strategy. All these technological capabilities are enabling organizations to build a growth-oriented culture.
  2. Expanding career pathways: Many careers follow a vertical career path, which can help in moving up the corporate ladder, but not solving the skills gap in healthcare. Healthcare organizations are establishing career pathways to support the development of new skills and help employees transition into credentialed new roles, such as moving from a janitor to a nursing aid, or a receptionist to a licensed nurse practitioner.
  3. Approaching leadership development as an ongoing journey: Instead of focusing on the short-to-medium term goals of leadership development, organizations are challenging the status quo by focusing on long-term goals and how it can apply to their employees, such as pursuing a specialization or even working abroad. Provide ongoing learning opportunities through projects and assignments (e.g., leading a special event, collaborating on a presentation to executive management), rather than rely on unengaging online training and modules.

Retaining Your Workforce

Employee retention has been a hot topic for HR professionals as healthcare organizations continue to grapple with keeping their top talent. In the same Sterling Healthcare and Life Sciences 2023 report, 32% of HR leaders indicated having a 30% average turnover rate.

Here are some tactics that have helped healthcare organizations keep their most valuable employees:

  1. Explore workplace flexibility: Healthcare organizations are seeing that providing flexibility in their workplace can help improve employee engagement, productivity, and the quality of patient care. Offering flexible scheduling with different shift lengths, developing a local travel nurse program, and allowing gig/diem and part-time options can provide more staffing flexibility with healthcare workers and improve employee retention.
  2. Create an efficient onboarding program: While onboarding and retention are commonly seen as two separate strategies, there is considerable overlap between the two. 50% of companies implementing a formal onboarding strategy could see greater employee retention. Developing a 30/60/90 day onboarding plan can help communicate training, culture, and expectations to new employees.

    Our team also had the opportunity to share how HR teams can leverage information from background checks to help automate parts of the onboarding process and reduce time-to-hire. You can view the full webinar recording of our session Rethinking the Onboarding Experience with Automation.

  3. Stay proactive with mergers and acquisitions: Health system merger and acquisition activity continues to stay active, prompting HR teams to be proactive on retaining their new employees. Giving employees a voice through surveys, team meetings, and focus groups, investing in training or development for new employees, and providing sufficient and clear communication about the reasonings for the merger can help build trust with employees and boost retention rates.

Sterling provides background screening and identity services to help health systems attract, screen, onboard, and retain their employees. Learn more about our solutions, including our criminal background checksverifications, and drug testing for employment.

Sterling is not a law firm. This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.