by Charlotte Gurney
There’s no question that the pandemic placed acute pressure on the healthcare industry. However, many of the issues that we see today were already embedded before the arrival of COVID-19. The state of the healthcare industry has a significant knock-on impact on workforces across the country - where experiences are more positive for healthcare workers, they will also be better for the patients that those workers treat. As a result, there are a number of ways that healthcare leaders can impact their own workforces that are likely to have a broader positive impact.
Improving the experience of healthcare workers
One of the simplest ways for healthcare leaders to influence workforce growth is to look at the day-to-day experience of staff. Since the pandemic, stress levels have risen to almost unacceptable levels. A survey by Mental Health America, 2020 found that 93% of healthcare workers were experiencing stress and 76% went through burnout during the pandemic. Focusing on employee mental health and providing genuine support and care within healthcare organizations is key to correcting this situation and creating the conditions for a workforce to grow. Most organizations will need to dedicate time and data to understanding the inherent risks within their own workforce. Which workers are most at risk of stress, where are the highest number of departures happening and where would an influx of new skills and experiences make things easier?
Improving the supply of workers to drive workforce growth
A clear change is necessary in the way that healthcare workers are sourced, recruited, onboarded and managed with an omnichannel strategy the optimum way forward. Long-term retention of staff can help to shore up workforce growth by avoiding a situation where an organization is driven to recruit continuously (and bear the costs of that continuous hiring). There are many key factors involved in this, including best practices to help identify candidates that are going to be a good fit for the business, whether that means using technology such as AI or investing in exploring non-traditional talent sourcing pools. Compensation and benefits also have a big role to play in retention and offering tailored benefits (such as financial support during training) can create a more competitive offering.
A clear vision of the future
Defining the future of the healthcare workforce is also vital to ensure ongoing growth. This means looking at the way that healthcare is changing and identifying the roles that are going to be critical to service delivery and the talent recruitment that will be necessary to ensure that happens. A future focus that leverages machine technology and human ingenuity can create both certainty and savings - for example, the use of automation in the Singapore healthcare system could free up more than 15 million working hours. (Accenture study, designing for a future-ready Singapore Health Workforce, 2020) Reimagining roles so that they are more effectively supported by technology could make a huge difference to the workforce of the future.
Healthcare leaders today face many challenges, especially when it comes to sustaining workforces. For all, the key will be to focus on worker experience, securing talent recruitment pipelines and being clear (as far as is possible) about what the future holds.
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