Hospitals ramping up recruiting, employee benefit offerings amid labor shortage fears, survey finds

Concerns of a sustained workforce shortage and a competitive labor market has more hospitals sweetening the pot for prospective and current employees alike, according to a new survey of more than 1,200 hospitals’ benefits.

Published Tuesday, the poll from professional services firm Aon found 83% of hospitals ramping up their clinical hiring practices and 51% accelerating nonclinical hiring during the past 12 months.

Seventy-nine percent and 66% of responding healthcare employers said they’ve seen higher turnover among clinical and nonclinical positions, respectively, during the same period, the firm found.

The new numbers are an increase from the 40% of respondents in 2021 who said they had ramped their hiring across clinical and nonclinical operations.

More than three-quarters of hospitals today said they either modified or launched new referral bonus programs, increased their minimum wage and adjusted new hire compensation within the past 12 months.

Hospitals’ annual median health benefit expense per employee has also increased 2.7% over last year to $16,114, according to the report.

Many hospitals told the firm they’re offering benefits such as tuition reimbursement (94%), flexible work options (78%), personal leave (74%), cash-out vacation policies (73%) and financial wellness and planning support (72%) to attract and retain talent.

A lower proportion of hospitals say they are now enticing employees with gender-affirming benefits (45%), adoption benefits (44%), behavioral health benefits beyond their medical plan or a typical employee assistance program (40%) and student loan repayment plans (39%, with another 41% considering).

“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the top priority for hospitals continues to be to attract and retain front-line medical professionals in the face of a nationwide talent shortage,” Sheena Singh, senior vice president of Aon’s national healthcare industry practice, said in a release accompanying the report. “This shortage threatens to impact patient care delivery, accelerate burnout among clinical staff and delay attainment of organizational objectives. As a result, health systems have prioritized benefits as a mechanism to reward and build a resilient workforce.”

When asked about their organizationwide challenges or priorities, improving health outcomes fell from the hospital employers’ top collective concern to the fifth-highest priority—a first for Aon’s 17-year-running annual poll—with 83% rating it as a high concern.

It was surpassed by competitive benefits to attract and retain talent (91%), burnout/workforce resilience (89%), whether employees understand their benefits (89%) and access to mental health services/providers (84%).

“It is clear that employees’ health and wellbeing is a priority—and certainly an important tactic to retain talent and ensure that employees thrive, in the workplace and out,” the firm wrote in the report.

Aon’s survey was conducted between April and June 2022. The responses characterize the benefits offerings of 145 health systems with a collective 2.6 million-plus employees.

Workforce shortages are hanging heavy over the hospital industry, driving many systems toward higher contract labor expenses or numerous unfilled positions. The latter threatens to harm patients’ access to care as organizations are forced to limit or shut down their services, hospital leaders warned earlier this month.