How to attract and retain healthcare employees in the current environment: foster a sense of belonging, development and wellness

As healthcare workers continue to leave the industry at startling rates, health systems must find more effective ways to attract and retain employees. 

In a June Becker's Hospital Review webinar sponsored by Quest Diagnostics, three healthcare executives discussed current workforce challenges, creative attraction and retention strategies and the results that have been achieved. And how intentional initiatives that focus on helping employees feel like they belong, have a career advancement path, and focus on wellness have also been proven to be effective. Presenters from Quest Diagnostics were:

  • Ebony David, Executive Director, inclusion and diversity, and corporate social responsibility
  • Steven E. Goldberg, MD, Vice President of medical affairs, population health and Chief Health Officer, health & wellness
  • Cecilia McKenney, Chief Human Resources Officer

Four key takeaways were:

  1. Healthcare employees who are leaving the field at an alarming rate reiterate dissatisfaction with their work environment. Thirty to 40 percent of healthcare workers are considering leaving healthcare, exacerbating the current labor shortage. "Employees want more flexibility," Ms. McKenney said. "They can make more money if they change jobs. We're hearing that departments are short-staffed, existing workers are burned out and patients have never been more difficult." More recently, some healthcare employees are demanding a union to protect their rights.
  2. Quest Diagnostics has launched The Great Re-engagement to counter The Great Resignation. The four components of this program are:
  • Redefine our employee brand. Workers want an increased commitment to inclusion, well-being and giving back to the community.
  • Make investments in the workforce. Quest fosters ongoing, meaningful connections with employees through stay interviews. Quest has also focused on developing leaders from within, helping employees see a career advancement path.
  • Modernize the workforce. "We're improving the employee experience with digital enablement," Ms. McKenney said. "We are looking at apps to connect employees; they crave communication, especially in a distributed workforce."
  • Review total rewards offering. A competitive benefit study looks at what employees value from a total rewards perspective.
  1. Inclusion and diversity initiatives must focus on helping employees feel like they belong — in everyday interactions and through special initiatives. "Inclusion should happen every day in every interaction," Ms. David said. However, one special initiative that's driving this sense of belonging is Quest's employee business networks (EBN). Every year, employees are invited to "join two challenge." They are encouraged to join one EBN that they connect with and to select one that they can learn and be an ally such as Pan-Asian leadership (PAL), African-American leader(ABL), Pride, caregivers or a host of others. "These employee-led groups give individuals something that makes them feel like they belong," she added. "EBNs are a major source of pride and give them another reason not to walk away." 
  2. Accessible wellness programs that are incentivized and tied to lower healthcare costs are attractive to employees. Quest introduced a comprehensive annual care plan with a virtual-first strategy. "We provide annual screenings and help route people into care for preventative checkups," Dr. Goldberg said. "We are looking to be innovative with insights such as pharmacogenomics, which are tests that let you know how your genetics impact how you process medications."

Quest has also expanded its mental health offerings including a partnership with Johns Hopkins. "We got more than 13,000 people screened and generated almost 4,000 referrals," he said. "It helps build our brand as an employer of choice."

In addition to helping attract and retain employees, wellness programs have reduced the cost of healthcare for Quest. "We've been able to reduce the out-of-pocket healthcare costs for employees at an average rate of 3 percent over the past two years," Dr. Goldberg said. "It's been estimated this effort has saved Quest $80 million since 2015" in which Quest has reinvested a significant amount of that savings back into the employee Health Program.

By focusing on creating a sense of belonging, offering professional development opportunities and improving overall wellness, health systems can more successfully attract and retain hard-to-find employees.

To gain access to the webinar recording, click here. To register for upcoming webinars, click here

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