Greg Till is executive vice president and chief human resources officer at Providence, a healthcare system based in Renton, Wash., With 52 hospitals in seven states. Mr. Till spoke with Becker November 5 on how the network is handling the health workforce crisis.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited slightly for length and clarity.
Question: How does Providence retain and recruit its staff during this difficult time?
Greg Till: I think, like others, we deploy a lot of similar techniques, and we do a few special things. So first of all, I would say our focus is on retention. We know the best recruiting strategy is a good retention strategy, and we want to do everything we can to keep the caregivers we have. And so from a financial point of view, a few months ago we announced an additional investment of $ 220 million. Most of it was just a gratitude bonus for everyone up to and including director level to make sure they know we really appreciate the sacrifices they’ve made over the past year and a half.
Second, we’ve done a lot in terms of retention to make sure our caregivers understand that we really care about their mental health and well-being. Healthcare is going through quite a burnout, on top of all the other crises we face and everything we have been through in the last year and a half. We have therefore invested much more in the well-being of our own caregivers. They have almost unlimited access to mental health resources, including 25 free behavioral health visits.
The third thing we do is prepare our leaders very well to have ongoing conversations with our caregivers and do all we can to reduce the conditions that create burnout. We’ve given them new technology, we’ve given them greater access to free development for their careers, and even creative things like extra time off and time off if they really need a break.
Like everyone in the healthcare industry, we face increasing attrition. Our caregivers really stayed with us during the pandemic. Last year, we saw the lowest levels of attrition since we measured it at Providence, and that includes everything from new caregiver attrition to retirements. Well this year, like everyone else, we’ve seen a spike in attrition, including an 18 percent increase in retirements. Our healthcare professionals who stayed with us when they wanted to retire last year are [retiring] This year. And so we’re really focused on doing whatever we can to hire. And for us, like others, we are hiring in a smaller pond. We receive 50% fewer applications. Last month, the unemployment rate in hospitals was below 2%.
And so it’s even harder. Some of the things that we do is that we have attached referral bonuses to every position that we have opened in organizations. It is a way of rewarding our internal caregivers for having referred their friends, their family, their former colleagues in order to fill some of the staff shortages. We have also, like others, attached login bonuses to our most competitive positions. Over 50 percent of our positions now have registration bonuses, including, in some of our markets, up to $ 35,000 for nursing positions.
One of the things we do that isn’t monetary is try to highlight what makes Providence special. For us, as a faith-based, mission-driven, and values-driven organization, we believe we have a great opportunity for caregivers to align with their calling in a way that can provide them with special experiences.
We have also made a fairly significant commitment, particularly in health care, to development. We aim to release education debt. We’re not there yet, but across our family of organizations we’ve offered $ 5,250 in education reimbursement. We aim to make almost all of our certifications free or low cost for our caregivers, and we show them the path from the lowest paying positions to the highest paying positions. So we devote a lot of time, effort and focus to the development and growth of caregivers – both current members and members of the community who wish to be in the health field – to try to alleviate the crisis. of the workforce that has settled in the industry over the past 10 years. . Over the past 10 years, we have opened more positions each year in healthcare than we have filled, and this has just been exacerbated by the current crisis.
Q: How is Providence handling this period of disinformation caused by the pandemic?
GT: I think it gives our caregivers access to tools, resources and information in many different ways. With the misinformation about vaccines in particular, we have taken a multidimensional approach. We have communication videos. We had communication closer to the field at the hospital level to ensure that our Black Caregiver Resource Groups and Latinx Caregiver Resource Groups provide information to their communities.
At the individual leader level, we give leaders very easy access to tools and resources like FAQs, answers to common misconceptions, and we have offered everyone in our organization a free telehealth tour with a provider. if they are still hesitant to get vaccinated. . So they can anonymously phone a provider in our own organization to have a conversation about some of the vaccine myths.
When we see misinformation, and vaccines are just one example, it’s really a holistic approach to have macro level communications and change management tactics down to individual supervisors.
Q: What advice do you give to other HR managers?
GT: I think our main focus at the moment is a dual purpose. As we focus on the massive workforce crisis that all industries are going through – and I think healthcare is worse than others – we need to be determined to reflect on our vision for l ‘to come up. We will not be able to do the same things in five or 10 years and be successful in health care. The workforce will not be there. And so we need to get out of our tactical mindset that we need to employ right now to make sure we’re retaining and hiring the best, and really think about how we’re going to design a new workforce to be successful, how we’re going to automate so that we can make sure all of our caregivers are practicing at the top of their license and unlock new access to sources of talent that we didn’t have before. And no single system can solve this problem on its own, so I think partnering in this transformation is going to be essential.