By 2030, the health-care industry will be short 42,600 to 121,300 physicians at a cost of $4.6 billion a year, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. The effects of the projected shortage are already being felt: In 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a 60% gap between open positions and hiring in the health-care space. This, paired with the fact that 703 million people are 65 and older worldwide as of 2019, puts pressure on the health-care industry to find additional workers to support public health needs. With a current hospital turnover rate of 19.1%, the industry is in dire need of a change.
For health-care professionals, long hours, tight budgets and limited resources make work challenging in an already stressful work environment. This kind of pressure can negatively impact the mental and physical health of workers and can contribute to feelings of burnout. When employees feel burnt out, they are more likely to seek other professional opportunities, making an already dire health-care workforce even more limited.
Luckily, there are a number of ways to engage and retain health-care workers that will strengthen the workforce, reduce turnover and improve patient care.
Prioritize Employee Recognition
In health-care organizations, positive feedback and recognition should come from both patients and employers, especially during the early months in a new position. Positive reinforcement can motivate employees and ultimately result in repeated positive behavior — in this case, great patient care. Inspired staff are more likely to feel loyal to their organizations. When done publicly, employee recognition is also contagious, empowering those who hear it to be enticed to behave in a similar way to earn recognition. Employee recognition platforms where employees can send eCards and publicly recognize their colleagues on social media-style newsfeeds can be a simple way to praise employees. The possibilities are endless!
Investing in communication is important for any organization but is particularly integral in high-pressure fields such as health care. Communication technologies, particularly mobile engagement apps, not only facilitate knowledge sharing and collaboration, but also improve employee engagement by fostering a sense of community and camaraderie. Centralizing communications for business leaders and their employees can break down barriers to open communication and empower workers to express their needs and opinions in the workplace. Ultimately, workers that feel interconnected, supported and empowered are those that will work hard to improve patient experiences and outcomes.
“Investing in communication is important for any organization but is particularly integral in high-pressure fields such as health care.”
A centralized communication platform can be used to share company messages, reinforce values and disseminate ideas across an organization, providing strategic updates to all workers, even across geographies. Through articles, videos, podcasts and more, this mode of communication — when hosted on a centralized, easily accessible employee platform — allows employees to receive messages from leadership in real time and can access these materials no matter where they are. With real-time communication and recognition feeds to deliver information to employees and alerts to notify them of important news, employees will never miss a thing.
Invest in Employees
By offering competitive pay and professional development opportunities, employers can invest in the financial well-being of employees while promoting their personal growth and skill development. Though these tactics may require up-front financial investments, they ultimately prove advantageous for employers too, reducing turnover — and associated costs — and increasing the knowledge base of employees, resulting in a higher level of patient care. In an economy where new hires are hard to find, employers need to invest in the retention and growth of the workers they already have.
While compensation plays a role in employee engagement and well-being, research has shown that money isn’t the only factor. When paired with regular, strategic recognition, many workers will actually choose to stay in a lower-paying position in which they receive regular appreciation for their work than leave for a higher-paying position with less recognition. While employers should always aim to offer fair pay for hard work, providing employees with recognition is also shown to improve engagement and reduce turnover.
Offering learning and development opportunities for employees not only makes it clear that employers care about their workers, it also strengthens the skillsets of their organization to improve business outcomes and patient care. This two-pronged approach makes it possible not only to bolster employee commitment to the organization, but to improve their quality of work.
The health-care industry is at a turning point, with countries around the world in need of additional doctors, nurses and workers to fill positions and take care of patients in need of medical attention. While widespread and of great magnitude, the problems we are facing can begin to be resolved with the implementation of employee engagement practices, one organization at a time. To strengthen your business or organization and improve the industry outlook, take the first step today.
Alexandra Powell is the U.S. director of client culture and engagement at Reward Gateway.