June 3rd, 2024

HR Challenges in Healthcare: 7 Solutions for Staff Retention and Engagement

There is broad consensus across the American healthcare industry that staffing represents a big challenge. In fact, 37% of medical leaders surveyed by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) in 2023 cited staffing as their top concern. It’s no surprise that turnover was exacerbated by COVID-19, and we have yet to return to pre-pandemic turnover rates in hospitals alone. 

Human resources (HR), therefore, has an important role to play in combating healthcare staff turnover and has many tools at its disposal to improve staff retention and engagement. In this article, we’ll look at various strategies that can address HR challenges in the healthcare industry by improving employee engagement and ultimately increasing healthcare staff retention rates.   

Solutions for Healthcare Staff Retention and Engagement 

Here are seven solutions that HR departments in the healthcare industry can take to improve employee experience at all levels.  

1. Competitive Compensation and Benefits Packages  

One of the most effective ways to ensure staff retention is to offer employees competitive compensation and benefits. This involves staying up to date on compensation competitors are offering and making regular adjustments to match them. In terms of benefits, comprehensive health insurance is typically a standard in the healthcare industry, but other financial benefits, such as student loan repayment plans and retirement plans, should also be considered.  

2. Work-Life Balance Initiatives  

Finding a good work-life balance is integral to maintaining staff engagement. Unfortunately, it is often a struggle for healthcare workers, who are faced with long hours and stressful conditions. HR departments can encourage a healthy balance through a number of initiatives and policies, including paid time off, flexible working arrangements when possible, and regular check-ins with staff on how their experience can be improved.      

 3. Invest in Employee Well-being  

The benefits of investing in employee well-being are wide-reaching, not only improving employee satisfaction but also boosting productivity and lowering HR costs associated with turnover and healthcare. Healthcare benefits that cover mental health services are an effective way to invest in employee well-being, as are other initiatives, like free food in the workplace, fitness classes, and child-care services.  

Mental health is especially important for front-line healthcare workers. In a study of physicians in Ontario, Canada, the absolute proportion of physicians with one or more mental health and substance use visits increased from 12.3% before the COVID-19 pandemic to 13.4% during the first year of the pandemic. Any human resources department in a healthcare setting should have a clear process for employees to access mental health care.  

4. Provide Opportunities for Growth and Development  

As in all industries, employees in healthcare become more engaged with the organization if they know they have room to grow within it. It also means they are more likely to stay on rather than look elsewhere for growth opportunities. HR departments can improve retention by establishing clear avenues for career growth through training sessions, conferences, and workshops, as well as by offering staff career guidance services. 

Mentorship has been shown to have powerful impacts in the medical field. MSMA’s Women Physicians Section reported that female physicians are less likely to have mentors. This is unfortunate, considering that female mentors are essential to career growth and advancement. A well-established HR function can help develop programs that pair mentors and mentees together for their mutual benefit. 

5. Invest in Technology  

The market is expanding for healthcare technologies and software tools that can dramatically alleviate the amount of paperwork and administration that healthcare workers must handle. Tools like online appointment scheduling and automated claims processing can free up substantial time for essential staff, who can dedicate their focus to patients. In HR specifically, HR management solutions (HRMS) can streamline onboarding and payroll processing, which frees up time to focus on workplace culture and employee experience.  

6. Focus on Diversity and Inclusion 

In order to improve staff engagement and retention broadly, it is vital that HR departments place an emphasis on diversity and inclusion in the workplace. In healthcare, where there is a lot of workplace diversity, inclusion is particularly important: each staff member, regardless of their background, should feel valued as a team member and be provided with the same opportunities as everyone else. According to research analyst Josh Bersin, companies that place an important focus on DEI are actually “2.6 more likely to engage and retain the workforce.”  

6. Positive Work Environment 

While all these strategies will help to create a more positive work environment, there are specific steps that can be taken to improve morale before launching any formal initiatives. Workers tend to thrive and feel more optimistic when they feel seen and heard. Healthcare HR teams should, therefore, emphasize open communication with staff and take any reported concerns seriously. A positive work environment can also be nurtured through collaboration and regular encouragement.  

You don’t have to do it alone 

We understand that healthcare HR teams are often already stretched thin, and implementing a host of new strategies is a complex undertaking. That’s where PEO services like Obsidian come in. Our PEO team supports the integration of proven strategies to improve retention and engagement so you can focus on the rest of the organization.  

If your healthcare organization could benefit from a more advanced HR function, schedule a quick call with Obsidian HR today.