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What keeps HR Healthcare Professionals Up at Night?

  • Article by:Health Career Center

The Health Career Center’s Advisory Council, a group of human resource leaders representing health systems around the country, gathered at the 51st Annual ASHHRA Conference in October to give their feedback on the top challenges they face at their organizations.

While the group is diverse, they share similar concerns, which can be categorized into 4 themes: recruitment, collaboration, training, and turnover.

Recruiting challenges varied amongst the organizations represented with some organizations struggling with nursing recruitment. In fact, experts project the need for more than one million new nurses by 2022.1 Beyond recruiting for nurses, human resource professionals are concerned about hiring great leadership as well. With record high CEO turnover (20%) in 2014, HR leaders are pressed to fill the CEO position, retain the executive team, and continue to strive for high organizational performance with the loss of the leader.2

But what about new positions and positions that will be created for the future? While hospitals are advancing toward a horizontal management structure, the need for roles such as performance improvement, innovation, and data scientists are emerging. Read more about this issue on our previous blog post featuring an interview with Amy Barry, SVP and CHRO of Lakeland Regional Health in Lakeland, Fla. Also, as organizations sharpen their focus on population health, care coordination, home care, care monitoring systems, and wellness/prevention services are more important than ever before. According to the Advisory Council, organizations will need to continue to redesign current roles and create new roles with new levels of flexibility to cater to marketplace shifts in health care.

Beyond recruiting for current and new roles, HR professionals in rural areas report being challenged with recruiting individuals to these areas. What can organizations do to make rural practice more attractive to candidates and what resources are available to these recruiters?

Collaboration is key when tackling workforce issues in healthcare, and leadership buy-in is essential in providing human resources professionals with the resources and strategies they will need to keep the organization thriving. Members of the Advisory Council said they were challenged with obtaining leadership buy-in and building strong relationships with hiring managers. With many initiatives and priorities on any health care leader’s plate, they need to be reminded of the important workforce initiatives occurring at the organization and why it is key to put effort into having an engaged workforce.

Not only is buy-in from leadership a challenging factor for HR leaders, but maintaining strong relationships with all managers was discussed as a concern as well. A strong relationship with managers allows for better efficiency and quality of recruitment, retention, and training, according to the Advisory Council.

Training for new and current employees is essential in the ever-changing healthcare environment, especially training of “softer” skills that may not directly apply to job-related tasks. According to an Advisory Board Company study, 88% of respondents know what is required to perform well in their job, yet only 54% feel they are kept informed on the organization future strategy and direction.3 Communicating organizational priorities, strategy, and accountability is essential for health care organizations to create tangible objectives and responsibilities for all staff members. If staff members understand how they are accountable for these “soft” skills such as customer service and crucial conversations, they will better understand their impact and role within the organization.

Beyond the soft skills, HR leaders are challenged to educate the workforce on what is next for their organization and what they can expect to see in the future. Human resources professionals are expected to be “future readers,” and with the many changes in the industry, are expecting to help lead an organization into a new future. Read more about how organizations are encountering changes in “Redefining the Hospital.” With these changes comes the need to train employees on how factors such as hospital integration into health systems, a growing variety of payer mix, and increase in value-based payments will affect their day-to-day activities.

With a current rate of 17.2% turnover in hospitals and 89.1% of organizations viewing retention as a “key strategic imperative,”4 there is a strong need to address this challenge in the marketplace. What is good turnover vs. bad turnover? How is the demographic landscape of the field affecting turnover? Read more about demographic shifts in the marketplace in our 2015 Health Care Talent Acquisition Environmental Scan.

One of the most inevitable shifts in the workforce is the rapid retirement of baby boomers and a major concern is how their knowledge and expertise can be handed off to new, less experienced team members. What strategies can your organization put in place to ensure that new team members are learning and benefiting from the valuable tenured team members?

It is clear that human resource professionals face numerous challenges in the healthcare environment. The Health Career Center understands these challenges and will continue to provide resources that can assist you in tacking them and help your organization thrive in this new environment.


The Advisory Council is a distinguished group of HR leaders that meets yearly to discuss pressing topics in the field. For more information about how you can get involved in the Advisory Council, email Amy Goble, Vice President, Health Career Center at