Hospitals Step Up Hiring And Benefits Offerings To Address Workforce Shortage, Survey Says


With staff shortages on the rise in the industry, many hospitals say they are focusing on hiring efforts and benefit offerings in an effort to strengthen and retain their workforce.

In a recent survey of 150 healthcare systems from professional services company Aon, 40% of those surveyed said they ramped up hiring in the spring in response to growing demand.

Thirty-six percent said they are maintaining their normal hiring practices, while the remaining 24% said they are hiring cautiously, delaying hiring, or instituting a complete freeze.

This is a marked turnaround from the previous year’s survey, Aon noted, when the lockdown-induced cost reduction led respondents to report generalized holidays (54%), layoffs (45%), buybacks (10%) and contributions suspended to the pension scheme (15%).

“The top priority in 2020 was to mitigate rising costs for the employer, which is understandable given the financial shock that healthcare systems were reeling from,” said Sheena Singh, senior vice president of Aon’s national health industry practice, in a statement. “Now the pandemic has exacerbated a workforce shortage that could impact the delivery of patient care, delay the achievement of organizational goals and accelerate clinical staff burnout. “

Employers in hospitals and the healthcare system widely reported being aware of issues that could affect their workforce, including burnout (77%), work-life balance (76%) , financial stressors (75%) and support for diversity, equity and inclusion benefits (73%).

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At the same time, many respondents said they consider strategies related to attracting and retaining high-quality talent (93%), developing existing talent (86%) and improving the well-being of the workforce (77%) as key factors for long-term success. business performance in the long term.

These responses exceeded praise strategies regarding increasing the productivity of the workforce (69%), promoting more innovation (65%) and launching new products or services (49% ).

Survey respondents also highlighted a large list of benefits they offer to employees. Tuition reimbursement programs were by far the most common (94%), followed by flexible work options (69%) and paid vacation policies (66%).

Among these, we must not lose sight of the increase in health spending. According to the report, average spending on healthcare benefits is expected to increase by 2.7% per employee for 2021, largely due to deferred medical services from the previous year.

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Seventy-seven percent of hospital employers said they were looking to cover more than three-quarters of their employees’ health costs, while 23% said they offered a no-cost option for at least part of the cost. their workforce.

“Attracting and retaining talent remains a top priority and health systems have prioritized benefits as a mechanism to reward their workforce,” Singh said. “This is a trend that will continue with a shortage of skilled healthcare professionals and an increasing demand for healthcare services as these organizations seek to build a resilient workforce in the aftermath of the pandemic. of COVID-19. “

Hospital executives have pointed to increased labor costs as a substantial burden on their bottom line; a recent McKinsey poll, for example, found year-over-year increases in nurse turnover and vacancy rates and plans to increase wages to offset those losses.

While it is widely recognized that the pandemic has contributed to the shortage of healthcare workers, a national union recently blamed the overzealous cost-cutting measures of hospitals, which they said raised safety concerns and kept nurses away from practical care.

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