How Technology Can Aid in a Hospital’s Recruitment and Retention Strategy

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Doctor with stethoscope and tablet computer on black background, still life style, Technology digital to treat patients concept.

Employees across the country are leaving the workforce in droves in what is being called “The Great Resignation.” Stress and displeasure over work environments during the pandemic are just some of the reasons people are retiring early, changing jobs, and reevaluating their career choice.  

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 15 million people have quit their jobs since April. Recent research by Microsoft shows that 41 percent of workers across the world are thinking about quitting. 

Staffing issues are nothing new for the healthcare industry. Prior to the pandemic, 1.2 million registered nurse vacancies were predicted by 2021 as aging baby boomers retire and health care needs grow. This number is expected to increase significantly due to pandemic burnout and nurses either quitting,  leaving for another job outside of nurising, or being fired because of COVID-19 vaccination mandates.

With demand for nurses outpacing supply, many hospitals and health systems are offering incentives to entice prospects. Sign-on bonuses, competitive hourly rates, flexible scheduling options, complete tuition reimbursement, and licensed practical nurse (LPN) to registered nurse (RN) residency programs are some methods used to fill nursing vacancies. In a tight labor market where competition for nursing staff is fierce, and the need to fill roles is urgent, it’s essential that hospitals and health systems resist the urge to “hire a body.” Those who fail to look beyond the immediate need are likely to face a re-resignation in the not-too-distant future. 

The cost of turnover

Getting an employee in the door is only half the battle; the other challenge is keeping them. New-hire turnover is a long-standing problem in the healthcare industry. Nearly a quarter of all new employees leave before the end of their first year. 

Turnover can have a profound impact on a hospital’s bottom line. The 2021 NSI National Health Care Retention & RN Staffing Report, an annual survey of more than 3,000 hospitals across the country, found the average cost of turnover for a bedside RN is $40,038 resulting in the average hospital losing upwards of $6.5 million per year. Each percent of change in RN turnover costs saves the average hospital an additional $270,800 per year. 

Employee turnover impacts more than just costs, it affects quality of care and staff morale. Staff-to-patient ratio suffers. And each time a new hire is brought onboard, a learning curve places added strain on staff and patients. 

Hire, keep and grow

To break the cycle of new-hire turnover, start with a strategy that includes hiring the right people—those with a propensity to stay. Have a clear and thorough job description, then use digital tools to help match traits with job function and growth trajectory. Integrated talent management technology provides insight that a human alone can’t uncover. This insight is essential for a successful recruitment and retention strategy. Support new hires with training so they are confident in their skills and leverage insights gained during assessments to create a path for growth. 

To improve recruitment and retention, consider the following tips.

Focus on quality of hire. Don’t limit searches to clinical capabilities only, hire someone who is a good fit overall. Uncovering behavioral competencies are essential to identifying talent that will stay. Behavioral assessments can reduce first-year turnover by as much as 40 percent. Leverage scientifically validated clinical assessments which measure propensity for stress, caring, emotional fortitude, and whether candidates are caregivers based on certain traits at the time of application. Leadership assessments highlight training and development that may be needed to help a nurse get up to the desired level. This level of engagement at the beginning, especially for the inexperienced person, shows that a hospital or health system is invested in their employees, increasing the likelihood of them staying.

Elevate employees to their fullest potential. An organization’s investment in professional development is a top driver of candidate applications. Employees who have access to continual development are two times as likely to stay. Leverage insights gained during behavioral and leadership assessments as benchmark data to understand existing competency gaps and plot their succession paths.Using tools to identify development opportunities and provide prescriptive learning courses, readings, and mentoring opportunities accelerates internal employee mobility. The ability to train, grow, and promote talent from within is a competitive advantage that .

Create a plan. Development plans offer a detailed course of action to help employees improve specific skillsets and overall performance. Plans can be created by employees, managers and/or administrators or pulled from a recommended actionable development plan based on an employee’s assigned goals, performance appraisals, learning assignments, or assessment results. As employees evolve, so too should their development plans. Empower employees with the tools to grow their skills and be successful.  

Professional development must be a vital component of an organization’s hire, keep and grow strategy. Otherwise, a re-resignation is sure to follow. Education and building a growth plan supported by technology that evolves with employees as their skills and needs progress is essential to achieve long-term success.  

About the author

Maureen McGinness is a Senior Director at symplr, a leading provider of comprehensive healthcare operations solutions, anchored in governance, risk management and compliance.