Although pay increases have played a key role in retaining and recruiting health workers amid major labor shortages, benefits such as mental health services and financial aid studies have also contributed to meeting staff needs.
Six healthcare system CEOs and CFOs shared their top tips for retention and recruitment that go beyond compensation:
Editor’s Note: Answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Michael Dowling. President and CEO, Northwell Health (New Hyde Park, NY): A critical key to retaining our workforce is to not only maintain, but also grow our relationship with our team members. Given our organizational commitment and the contribution of team members, one of our areas of focus has been wellness.
We invested in enhancing our already strong offerings for our team members, including implementing behavioral healthcare navigators to help team members and their families navigate and select the right service to meet their needs, emphasizing first aid training for our leadership, rapid response services following crisis events, financial wellness programs, spiritual wellness services, programs through our Northwell Center for Wellness and Integrative Medicine and more. We actively recruit vendors into our network of benefit plans to ensure our team members can access quality vendors at the lowest possible cost.
At the start of the COVID pandemic, we expanded our employee assistance program knowing that the needs could be greater. We created a helpline – which is still open today – that offers free confidential counseling services to employees and their family members. We created our Traumatic Stress, Resilience and Recovery Center to provide resilience coaching and more. We’ve also increased our virtual offerings: virtual fitness, cooking classes, deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and even story time for our team members’ kids. We have installed quiet spaces in several of our hospitals for team members. These were all developed largely in response to feedback we received from our team members.
We are a wellness organization; it’s just the company we’re in, so we had a lot of these tools in place before COVID and we’re grateful we did because they’ve been used exponentially. One of the major improvements was the creation of a dedicated website as a single site for team members to access all of our resources.
These investments in health and wellness reflect our values and culture of great work environment at Northwell. Along with career experience and other workforce experience strategies, these have directly served to drive retention.
Cliff Megerian, MD. CEO, Jane and Henry Meyer President and CEO Chairman Emeritus, University Hospitals Health System (Cleveland): At Hôpitaux Universitaires, we work to create a culture like no other. One where our caregivers feel listened to, appreciated and rewarded for a job well done. In fact, creating a culture of trust is a key aspect of our UH strategy. We’ve also refreshed our core values to ensure we “walk the talk”. Part of this involves engaging our caregivers in deeper dialogue about their work environment and the decisions that affect them, as well as encouraging our caregivers to speak up. We have implemented numerous initiatives to communicate directly with our caregivers (town halls, written communication, touring and recognition programs) and have adopted other multi-faceted strategies to enhance our value proposition, including more flexible schedules, recharging and resiliency programs, career advancement opportunities. , voluntary leave and financial incentives. Importantly, we have also invested significantly in building a sense of belonging through our justice, equity, diversity and inclusion activities, as we strongly believe that our role as a provider health care is to champion health equity for all.
Greg Hoffmann. Chief Financial Officer, Providence (Renton, Washington): At Providence, we have advanced many programs for our caregivers and I will highlight a few. Providence watches first and foremost for the well-being of our caregivers. For us, wellness means the whole person – financial, emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, etc. Examples of our investments include Free Behavioral Health Visits, Behavioral Health Concierge, No One Cares Alone, e-CPR, Choosing Well Focus/Virgin Wellness Pulse Platforms, Web Resources and Tools, and more. Another key area for us is to continue and expand the growth and development of our caregivers. We offer education reimbursement to all of our caregivers. We’ve changed the payment model for most of our certifications so those in our lowest-paying job categories don’t have to pay out of pocket. Additionally, we leaned into virtual platforms and extended the use of a learning experience platform accessible to everyone from their mobile phone, which allowed us to be more agile with development (eg leading through burnout, leading to retention, implicit bias, etc.) . Finally, we strengthen the links of our caregivers with our mission. We did this by virtually expanding training experiences, evaluating our loyalty to the mission, and rewarding leaders for mission- and values-driven results.
Bob Ritz. President and CEO, MercyOne (Des Moines, Iowa): A unique benefit we offer to address labor shortages is our Jump Start program. Individuals earn a monthly stipend while completing nursing school, and MercyOne covers the cost of board exams and licensing fees. After obtaining their nursing license, nurses can begin their career at MercyOne in a selected nursing position. We are also strengthening our partnerships with schools to increase the number of students and learning opportunities in area high schools.
To help retain colleagues, we continued to work on our culture to support staff, including piloting flexible working hours models. MercyOne firmly believes that our ability to extend our mission lies in each of our colleagues. We continue to feature our colleagues’ stories of why they love working at MercyOne in our recruiting efforts. The stories our colleagues are so eager to share as MercyOne Ambassadors open our culture to future members of the MercyOne family. Our colleagues know us best and know who will fit best into our culture. We invite them to recruit family and friends to work at MercyOne and pay a referral bonus to our colleagues who refer a hire.
Bill Gassen. President and CEO, Sanford Health (Sioux Falls, SD): Our highest goal at Sanford Health is to take the best care possible for our patients and residents, and to do that, we must take the best care possible for our employees, especially our frontline caregivers. Sanford Health was proud to be recognized by Forbes as the top employer in South Dakota and North Dakota in 2021. The ranking was based on employee ratings on a variety of criteria, including workplace safety, compensation, and opportunities for advancement. For the past three years, Sanford Health has been named one of the Top Employers of Choice for Transitioning Military Members and Veterans by military times. Our organization is dedicated to supporting veterans and military personnel by providing exclusive services and benefits to our nation’s heroes who choose to work at Sanford Health.
The American Medical Association also honored Sanford Health through its Joy in Medicine program in 2021, one of 44 healthcare systems recognized for their commitment to healthcare team wellness and stress and stress relief programs. Professional exhaustion. We have a comprehensive strategy to support the well-being of our carers, which includes different programs to support our clinicians in their clinical practice, but also as individuals. We invest heavily in every community where our clinics and hospitals are located, and we encourage our clinicians to get involved as community leaders, not just in the clinical setting. We also provide leadership development opportunities because we believe we have a responsibility to prepare the next generation of leaders.
We have built a culture of wellness through small peer groups, training, mentoring, counseling, a clinician wellness council, and other programs that provide support at the organizational level, promote well-being and encourage a healthy work-family-life balance. When someone joins Sanford Health, they become part of our family, and we do everything we can to support their well-being, provide competitive compensation and benefits, and provide opportunities for growth and advancement.
Mike Slubowski. President and CEO, Trinity Health (Livonia, Michigan): At Trinity Health, our colleagues are at the heart of our mission. We know that addressing the healthcare workforce shortage requires a multifaceted approach to benefits retention and recruitment that focuses on improving the lifestyles of our colleagues in impactful ways. For this reason, we have launched a cross-functional team from across our national system to generate ideas and quickly assess and deploy meaningful changes that benefit our colleagues. This includes flexible hours, hybrid work options, an expedited interview process, streamlined onboarding for new colleagues, and health and wellness benefits from day one of their new job. The team is also developing initiatives for current clinical and non-clinical colleagues, such as nurse and physician assistant training programs that allow full- or part-time work while gaining clinical skills and training. .
An example of our innovative approach to recruitment and retention is First Choice, our internal travel staffing program for nurses and clinicians. First Choice is an alternative option for fellow clinical staff who want increased flexibility to stay with Trinity Health. We also place significant emphasis on recruiting entry-level workers who are passionate about our mission. We create workforce development programs that will provide individuals with the training and practical experience needed to enter many healthcare professions.