3 ways to hire--and keep--exceptional employees

Although yesterday's report about nationwide job cuts in the healthcare industry may indicate otherwise, most hospitals and health systems are struggling to find--and keep--good employees.

And staffing problems will only get worse once the mandates of the Affordable Care Act go into effect in 2014 and 32 million more newly insured Americans seek healthcare services. Demands for HIT expertise are also on the rise in the midst of initiatives such as ICD-10 and Meaningful Use.

"In the next five years staffing needs will grow exponentially," Michael Lynch, president of Tiva Healthcare, a physician outsourcing and recruitment company in Sunrise, Fla., told FierceHealthcare for its newest ebook, Human Management in Healthcare: Hiring Right to Meet the Demands of Healthcare Reform.

And though offering job candidates and employees higher compensation may initially be welcome, it's not the solution to the problem, say experts interviewed for this in-depth report. Instead, consider these three strategies:

Offer quality-of-life benefits
One way to meet the staffing challenge is to reconsider the benefits you offer, emphasizing those that focus on quality of life. For example, give physicians more days off in exchange for longer days, increased time off for continuing medical education and access to gyms.

When Bill Hughes, administrator of a 65-employee ob/gyn practice in Jensen Beach, Fla., couldn't guarantee raises for his staff, he put in place performance-based bonuses that depend not only on how each individual employee performs, but also on the practice's financial performance.

Create internship for students in the community
Dan Zuhlke, vice president of human resources for the 22-hospital Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, Utah, suggests organizations partner with their nearby high schools, colleges and universities to create relationships with students in health IT, nursing and other programs who will soon be entering the job market. Hospitals can support educational programs to augment their labor force, such as by offering internships and residency programs, he tells FierceHealthcare in the eBook.

That's how Mission Hospital, an 800-licensed-bed facility in Asheville, N.C., is growing its future workforce. The hospital, which has more than 8,000 employees, has created intensive internships for students in junior high school through college. The interns work in the hospital over the summer and develop a long-term relationship with the organization, Sheila Meadows, Mission's vice president of human resources, tells FierceHealthcare.

Assign mentors to new hires
And Jim Root, vice president of human resources at Ministry Health Care, a 25-bed hospital and skilled nursing facility with 100 long-term care beds and 49 assisted-living apartments in Wabasha, Minn., said organizations shouldn't underestimate the value of taking the time to nurture the relationship with new employees instead of the mentality of hiring them with the intent of getting them on the floor on day one.

Ministry Health has developed a new-hire mentorship program pairing new employees with seasoned ones who can field concerns and decide when the new hire is ready to take on more responsibilities. The mentors receive a bump in pay for their additional responsibilities, which continue long after the orientation period ends.

"The financial upfront cost in investing in that [mentorship pay] was something that some may look at and say, 'We can't afford to do it'; but when you look at the cost of a new hire, it's definitely money well spent," Root says in the eBook. - Ilene (@FierceHealth)

Editor's Note: For more expert advice on recruiting and retaining great employees, download the free FierceHealthcare eBook, Human Management in Healthcare: Hiring Right to Meet the Demands of Healthcare Reform.

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