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By Eleesha Martin
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare workers were in high demand because of a growing patient population and a waning number of available licensed recruits. The pandemic did nothing to improve the situation. Instead, droves of people in critical roles are making the hard decision to leave the profession to which they’ve already dedicated so much of their education and time.
According to an April 2021 Vivian study, “more nurses than last year are considering leaving the healthcare industry, and from the survey findings, this is likely due to the reported decline in morale, increase in stress, and general dissatisfaction about pay.”
For employers, this means it’s time to strategize a new way to attract and retain these essential workers. It might cost a little extra to bring in fresh talent—this is an employees’ market—but there are ways to keep your employees happy and engaged once they are in the door, and those ways don’t have to break the bank (even if they might require a higher-than-planned investment at the outset).
Find out what’s important and make it happen
The talent pool is really short right now—even more so if you operate in a rural community. So, if you find qualified people you’ve got to do whatever it takes to recruit them and then keep them engaged. Find out what they want and figure out a way to get it for them. If you don’t, they’re going to go work somewhere else.
Some common incentives requested include:
- A salary that is above market value
- Relocation packages
- Sign-on bonuses
- Certification bonuses
- Onsite counseling and/or an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
- Flexible scheduling
Offer them more money
It may seem obvious, but if you are willing to provide them with the highest bid for their services, chances are you will be their top choice for an employer. Healthcare employees are in extremely high demand right now. They were desperately needed before anyone had even heard of COVID-19. So, when you find qualified candidates—especially those who are already locally available—you need to be willing to negotiate the salary and start the offer slightly above market value if possible.
If you operate out of a rural community, you are going to need to extend your search beyond your town borders. Hiring a qualified Recruitment Process Outsourcing partner can save you valuable time and help you reach markets you might not otherwise consider. Offering relocation assistance will also allow you to broaden your casting net to find qualified individuals. Relocation assistance often includes money for a professional packing and moving company, the first month’s rent on a new apartment, and sometimes funds for the first month’s utilities such as electricity and water, too.
In addition to the higher salary and relocation assistance, you might want to consider offering a sign-on bonus. You need people to fill your open roles, and you need them yesterday. In this industry, and especially during a pandemic, the work never slows down. So put forth your best offer when you find a candidate you like and sweeten the pot with a sign-on bonus of $3,000 to $5,000 dollars. Sometimes that’s all that’s needed to seal the deal and encourage them to choose your business over the competition’s.
If you need to hire up-and-comers to better suit your budget, that’s understandable. Training them on the job will be as important to you as it is to them. Offer them a bonus for getting certified if they aren’t already, and then offer them continued education opportunities and consider paying for their memberships and incidental fees in professional associations. Offering tuition assistance and contributing to their education and licensing could go a long way toward attracting and retaining loyal healthcare employees.
There should be some strings attached
Make sure that it’s clear to your potential new hires that the relocation expenses and sign-on bonuses are contingent on their meeting a predetermined timeframe. For example, most healthcare organizations will require new hires to agree to work for them for at least a year if they will be provided with relocation assistance or a sign-on bonus.
If the new recruit agrees to the conditions and it’s included in their job offer, then they are likely to remain for at least the duration of the agreed upon timeframe. If they choose to leave the job earlier, for any reason, then they will be responsible for the prorated difference.
Be clear about terms and conditions at the outset and get everything in writing to better protect your organization from any potential fallout down the road.
Provide them with the balance they desire
Beyond money, what employees and job hunters are seeking now are benefits that will offer them a better work/life balance. Many of these frontline workers, already stretched thin before the pandemic, have found themselves pushed right up to their breaking point. Many have struggled with a major change of heart about their chosen careers and are suffering under the stress and anxiety that accompanies such life-altering decisions.
According to an April 2021 Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll, roughly three in 10 healthcare workers have weighed leaving their profession. Aboutsix in 10 claim that stress from the pandemic has harmed their mental health. This statistic illustrates the need—now more than ever—for employers to provide ancillary mental-health benefits such as an EAP that provides counseling services or an employee advocate from the human resources team. Hospitals also have chaplains who may be able to set aside time and offer counseling to employees.
Most importantly, talk to your employees. Encourage them to participate in shaping the solutions that will benefit them and your business. You have nothing to lose and only highly engaged employees to gain.
Eleesha Martin is the Manager of Recruitment Process Outsourcing for G&A Partners, a leading professional employer organization (PEO) that has been helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses for more than 25 years.