Academic journal article Frontiers of Health Services Management

Addressing Workforce Challenges in Healthcare Calls for Proactive Leadership

Academic journal article Frontiers of Health Services Management

Addressing Workforce Challenges in Healthcare Calls for Proactive Leadership

Article excerpt

Today's senior leaders are feeling intense financial pressure to reexamine workforce needs and understand the importance of talent in their overall business strategies. Unfortunately, they frequently lack the proper tools to predict workforce needs in difficult times. As a result, their organizations operate in a continual crisis mode. They react to economic turmoil by downsizing their workforce and implementing hiring freezes.

If this situation seems familiar, it is because organizations have operated in this manner during the past several recessions. They bring on talent in good times and purge talent in bad times. This cycle of extremes is costly to an organization and detrimental to the stability of its workforce. To find a more even path to the future, organizations must think now about workforce planning and execute a well-defined process. In a changing and complex healthcare world, workforce planning is vitally important to recruitment and retention. It is the key to helping employers address the workforce challenges of the present and the future. Through planning, healthcare organizations can develop the capacity and capabilities to deliver efficient and effective patient care.

As employers, healthcare leaders need to explore new approaches to recruiting, retaining, and developing employees. Significant changes in the way employers plan, design, and deploy strategies to address workforce challenges are required to ensure that all roles can be filled. Innovation and flexibility, when embraced by employers, can support a strategic plan that ensures a vibrant workforce. To create such a plan, several models are available. Sources include the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, the Society for Human Resource Management, and the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration.

Unfortunately, healthcare faces several barriers to building a skilled and capable workforce. These barriers include a shortage of skills in key areas (physicians, nurses, allied health professionals), limits to the number of staff an organization can hire, increasing salaries, an aging workforce (especially in top executive roles-a serious concern of many boards), growing competition for employees, and a declining number of new workers entering the labor market.

Amid these dynamics, one thing is constant: The workforce represents the largest expense in healthcare, so it is always going to be a source of concern. With proper planning and execution, leadership can both predict and prepare for future challenges.

Workforce Planning

When addressing matters related to recruitment, retention, generational differences, staff wellness initiatives, and professional development, leaders must understand both current and future needs. As millennials become more influential members of the workforce, healthcare organizations need to address the factors that have an impact on their engagement, because as many as 60 percent of millennials expect to change careers in the next ten years (Adkins 2016).

Just a few years ago, healthcare employers focused on finding typists, registered nurses, medication nurses, computer operators, and housekeepers. Today, their job ads are seeking more care coordinators, electronic health record operators, nurse practitioners, and environmental services technicians. Being able to hire workers today who can hit the ground running with an understanding of healthcare technology is crucial. In one approach to meet that need, some healthcare entities are collaborating with local colleges and universities to ensure proper training. With this approach, the students come out of school with an understanding of the new and evolving work environment.

We are living in a world few could have imagined 50 years ago, so what will the workforce and workplace look like 50 years from now? We can begin to tackle that question by examining the past, present, and future. …

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