Do Healthcare Leaders Know What Employees Want?

Solving healthcare talent woes is a top challenge for leaders this year. Part of the problem may stem from organizations’ lack of understanding of what matters most to their employees.

Huron surveyed 715 healthcare workers and leaders about what they value in their workplaces and their satisfaction with those factors. The survey included over 100 nurses and physicians, 200 staff, and 300 leaders. This measurement of healthcare worker sentiment compared with leaders’ beliefs about what is important to staff provides new data and insights into where leaders and employees are united and divided in the workplace.

“The variation we see between managers and employees signals an opportunity for organizations to make meaningful changes to how and where they invest in employee retention and recruitment,” says Jennifer Miller, principal at Huron.

Among the areas where employees are most satisfied include benefits related to health insurance, transportation, and retirement. Employees also express satisfaction with their employers’ efforts related to environmental sustainability and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. On the other side, clear dissatisfaction arises related to day-to-day work. Employees are highly dissatisfied with the workload, scheduling flexibility, salary, and formal recognition for their work.

What Leaders Are Missing

While dissatisfaction factors matter, it may not be the first place leaders should look to improve. Instead, leaders need to also consider what’s important to employees. Executives only correctly identified six of the top 10 opportunities to improve staff's job experience.

Leaders’ blind spots — improvement areas identified by staff but not management — include employees’ interest in professional development and growth, feeling valued, and the ability to access and use data, technology, and analytics. On the other hand, leaders and employees both identified opportunities to improve workload, salary, role alignment, work-life balance, and leadership excellence.

Manager Burnout on the Rise

Widespread burnout among healthcare workers and leaders continues to play a role in the overall condition of the industry’s workforce. A full 64% of respondents report feeling burned out more than a few times a month over the past six months, with nearly a third considering leaving their positions in the next year.

More than 70% of managers report burnout — the highest level of all cohorts surveyed. Top factors driving stress in the workplace include not feeling listened to and an unmanageable workload.

Where to Start to Improve Workplace Engagement and Culture

Although factors such as work-life balance can be challenging to improve in the healthcare setting, the results of Huron’s research highlight several high-value opportunities for organizations, including formal recognition, role alignment, professional growth opportunities, feeling valued, and team rapport.

“With the right information and data in hand, leaders can work smarter, not harder, to build workplace satisfaction and engagement,” states Miller.

Leaders can think about talent strategies in three buckets.

  • Maintain: Where leaders should continue their efforts. For example, workload appears as the top area of concern for nurses and physicians. The same is true for nonclinical functions, including finance, operations, marketing, technology, and digital staff.

  • Focus: Where leaders should increase their efforts. While an organization’s staff responses may vary, strong trends in this area indicate that feeling valued is a top opportunity to improve relationships with clinical staff and physicians. Professional growth and the availability of technology and analytics could improve the experience of staff.

  • Reallocate: Where leaders should refocus their efforts. Once organizations better understand what their employees value, it can reveal areas to scale back high-investment programs that matter less to employees than leaders realize. For example, financial incentives and bonuses may not carry as much weight for certain functions.

Overall, the research indicates that talent strategies must evolve to better support employee needs and values. Organizations will need a holistic, people-focused approach to secure the best talent and ensure the sustainability of their businesses. There are opportunities to not only improve retention and recruitment but become an employer of choice for those willing to listen and act.

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