DATIS’ annual State of Workforce Management Report surveyed over 400 Health and Human Services executives regarding current priorities, challenges, and goals. Not surprisingly, the biggest challenge overall was recruiting and retaining top talent. 42% of respondents answered that their respective organizations experience turnover rates of 20% or higher. Employee turnover at these rates not only costs organizations substantial money and resources, it also impacts the quality of care provided to their clients.
So why is recruiting and retaining talent so difficult for organizations in this industry? Again, not surprisingly, the biggest challenge is the organizations’ inability to offer competitive salaries and benefit packages. According to survey results, 53% of respondents believe that their inability to offer competitive salaries and benefits is their biggest restraint in recruiting talent.
Unfortunately, many organizations, particularly those that are nonprofits, do not have the financial capital to match the salaries and benefit packages offered by some of their competitors. This doesn’t mean, however, that they can’t still attract and retain top talent.
In order to overcome this challenge, Health and Human Services executives need to:
Foster a stronger employee-employer relationship.
There are several ways to create stronger ties between employees and their respective organizations. One way, especially for organizations that are located near colleges or universities, is to maintain a strong internship/mentor programs and invest in marketing strategies to begin to attract talent before potential employees enter the workforce.
College (or even high school) students who are looking to get first-time experience or mentorship are not typically ‘shopping around’ for organizations that offer the most competitive salaries or comprehensive medical coverage. Rather, they are looking to work for organizations with a strong reputation (this is where marketing and branding strategies come into play), and programs that will give them the best on-the-job experience. From there, successful interns/mentees can make strong hires, because they already have experience with the agency and will feel that they have already made a substantial investment in the organization and that the organization has invested in them.
In an article by Behavioral Healthcare Executive, Dawne Carlson, Vice President of Human Resources for Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, describes how her organization “offers a graduate school program that helps create a direct link from education to active clinical work at its facilities. Talent can be replenished close to home, and new openings can be filled by the graduating students who are already familiar with the organization.” Programs like these can be effective ways to recruit top talent and increase retention.
Revisit current employee incentives and policies.
Referencing back to the DATIS’ State of Workforce Management Report, respondents revealed that about 83% of their employees are millennials. Forbes reports that 75% of the entire workforce will be millennials by 2025. It is commonly stated that millennials have the mentality of “work to live” while those belonging to older generations “live to work.” It’s fair to say that Millennials place much more importance on having a healthy work-life balance.
Applicants and employees are more heavily weighing PTO and vacation policies when searching for jobs and deciding where to work. Executives may need to revisit their PTO/vacation policies and accrual methodologies in order to provide more competitive and appealing time-off offerings. As an example, some organizations still do not allow employees to ‘roll over’ accrued PTO hours into a new calendar year.
Not only are rules like this unattractive to applicants and frustrating for employees, but they can result in situations where too many employees want to ‘use up’ accrued PTO (so as to not lose it), particularly at the end of the year. This causes an influx in PTO requests, which results in either staffing shortages, or unhappy employees with denied requests and lost PTO hours. Policies like these should be reviewed and adjusted to stay competitive and promote employee satisfaction.
Get creative in what they can afford to offer to applicants and employees.
There are many creative ways to target potential needs or priorities of applicants and employees—It just requires understanding what is important to your employees and potential employees. For example, if your organization is mostly comprised of millennial workers, the chances are high that a lot of those workers (or potential applicants) are paying off student loans or are aspiring to earn additional degrees. With this in mind, offering student loan forgiveness or academic scholarship could be attractive alternatives to offering higher salaries.
In January 2018, Behavioral Healthcare Executive surveyed treatment center professionals on industry-specific workforce issues. Of more than 600 respondents, nearly 17% believe that student loan forgiveness or academic scholarships would be the best solution to help attract more workers to the behavioral health field—second only to strategies that would increase workers’ pay. This strategy, although it does cost the organization money, can be more cost-effective, and can also help to increase retention. If an employee is receiving loan forgiveness or decides to pursue a degree paid for (even in part) by your organization, it is likely that of the employee will stay with the organization for longer.
Health and Human Services organizations often lack the funding and resources to offer the highest salaries and most comprehensive benefits packages. However, one thing employees have in this industry is a passion for the work they do and the help they provide to their clients. Organizations can overcome the challenges of this competitive job market—and better recruit and retain talent—by fostering strong employee-employer relationships and listening to the wants and needs of their workforce to provide creative incentives and employment benefits.