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Top Challenges Facing Healthcare HR Leaders

  • Article by:Health Career Center
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The American Hospital Association and HealthCareerCenter.com hosted a Critical Conversations event last week at Lakeland Regional Health’s Promise Center in Lakeland, Florida.


The dialogue centered around workforce strategies amidst a sea of change as organizations move from traditional volume-based care to value-based services and focusing on the needs of the population. Of the nearly 40 healthcare leaders participating, all agreed that the pace of change in today’s environment is fast-moving and the need to embrace this change as opportunity is a key to success.


Many of the attendees from Florida have experienced significant growth, echoing statistics shared from the Department of Labor that total healthcare job growth in 2015 was up 53% compared to 2014. While job growth has largely been attributed to ambulatory and outpatient facilities, hospital job growth also continues.


Key factors driving this growth include the focus on population health and the importance of clinical integration. Organizations are realigning care teams in a targeted way to improve outcomes such as readmission rates and reducing avoidable hospitalizations. Growth in roles for care coordinators and patient navigators have followed to help bridge the gaps that existed in the delivery system. Likewise, many are deploying new types of services for health and wellness, expanding the need for health educators and patient experience roles. The emphasis on clinical integration and deployment of the electronic health record, brings with it a new need for data scientists and a focus on analytics – for business and clinical intelligence.


Participants discussed key recruitment challenges in this environment such as the difficulty in attracting experienced nurses – who, today, have more options for employment. Similarly the competition for talented IT staff is fierce. Employers are no longer just looking for traditional healthcare IT expertise, but for technical talent that can bring innovation and new thinking to an organization. In order to attract this type of candidate, a hospital is competing with large high-tech industry employers – companies that provide opportunities for individuals to create and build. Creating a culture and environment that embraces change and new thinking is key to attracting and retaining these types of candidates.


Another challenge identified is the need for skills improvement for all employees – particularly for business and technical skills. Tracy Brahman from Lakeland Health in Michigan shared that they have deployed a partnership strategy across the organization to shore up gaps in these areas. Similar to the HR partner model in which representatives from HR support business unit leaders with hiring, benefits and talent management, they are partnering with finance and technology to improve knowledge and skills in these areas for leaders.


Training is key for today’s workforce and it is imperative for leadership to embrace ongoing learning and development. The group discussed the idea that training does not always flow just from experienced employee to new employee, but that in today’s environment, an organization must create an environment in which the Millennial Generation can share their technical knowledge and talents of a mobile and digital world that is not yet second nature to other generations.


While the group shared many challenges that they are grappling with in the immediate term, they also shared how they are looking into the future to get ahead of the curve and appropriately plan for the workforce of the future. Utilizing tools like the AHA’s Workforce Planning Model can be a catalyst for conversation across the organization regarding needs for the future to actively anticipate change in strategy. Similarly, digging deeper into workforce analytics to help set goals and strategies for improvement were determined vital. One key element was ensuring that executive leadership is focused on these goals – but also ensuring that all business leaders have access to transparent metrics as relates to workforce key indicators within their business units or departments.


In all, this event was a great opportunity to gather healthcare leaders to discuss workforce implications in today’s fast-moving and ever-changing environment. Stay tuned on our blog for more from this event and the workforce challenges that are being shaped by the rise of population health, new technologies, and an abundance of data, new care settings, and demographic shifts.