In the throes of a global crisis, the U.S. healthcare industry had to quickly confront and re-examine its time honored methods for building and maintaining a highly specialized and diverse workforce that could reach and reflect the communities in which it serves. As increasingly overworked and burnt out healthcare workers began to leave their positions, the healthcare industry sought a solution. It found it in recruitment marketing.
However, while nearly 20% of healthcare workers may have quit their jobs since 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the healthcare workforce was only down 2.7% from the start of it. This implies that while some people are leaving the industry altogether, most just appear to be job-hopping in search of better working conditions. Furthermore, worker shortages can be felt more acutely in different parts of the country—the figure does not account for regional variability.
Where have all the healthcare workers gone?
Understanding where healthcare workers are fleeing could be helpful in understanding what it is they’re looking for when seeking out new opportunities. Unfortunately, that data is hard to come by, but we do have some anecdotal insights to work with.
According to Becker’s Hospital Review, many workers have become interested in temporary or travel assignments that offer higher pay and greater flexibility than they get as full-time employees in hospitals or clinics. In an effort to stave off the burnout that’s plagued so many workers through the height of the pandemic, they’ve begun prioritizing their own well-being—and, honestly, who could blame them?
However, high turnover rates in the industry can have negative downstream effects not only for the facility and its workers, but also for the patients. Yet while turnover is arguably a better problem to have than attrition, it can still contribute to workplace inefficiencies and employee burnout as organizations scramble to attract, hire, and train replacements.
Just as more precise data illuminates what’s really going on in the healthcare workforce, the use of people analytics in recruitment marketing provides better insight into what strategies are needed to hire and retain workers.
In this clip, Providence’s Chief People Officer, Greg Till, explains why understanding their workforce is essential to their business success.
Recruitment marketing in healthcare needs new life
Recruitment marketing refers to the tactics and methodologies used to build brand awareness and visibility among candidates in the “pre-applicant” phase of hiring. It brings the benefits of inbound marketing to the world of hiring, with marketers targeting potential employees rather than potential customers.
Healthcare talent acquisition teams had to get creative when it came to attracting new talent into full-time roles within their health systems. In the past, healthcare facilities had relied on job fairs to attract and recruit students who were readying to enter the job market. With the social restrictions brought on by pandemic-related lockdowns, large-scale networking events were no longer an option.
How were recruiters supposed to fill their facilities, let alone build a pipeline, at a time when they most needed to? The answer was inbound marketing, which flips traditional marketing on its head. It utilizes technology to target specific demographics with online content, allowing the ideal customers, or in this case employees, to find the organization rather than the other way around. The added benefit of inbound marketing is that it collects data that can then be used to refine and perfect the overall strategy.
Challenges of recruitment marketing in healthcare
While it’s true that workers are seeking more flexible workplaces, better shifts, and higher pay, it’s a bit more complicated than simply offering new hires all of the above. As previously mentioned, the 2.7%–or about 524,000–of worker shortage hasn’t affected facilities equally across the nation. The shortage has hit some areas harder than others, particularly rural areas that are difficult to staff even in non-pandemic times. Offering higher pay for less desirable locations can help offset the talent discrepancy, but again, that comes with its own set of issues.
By the end of 2021, the federal government allocated $100 million to healthcare hiring as part of the American Rescue Plan specifically to address healthcare inequities in underserved areas. This is a welcome and necessary injection, but it leaves healthcare talent acquisition teams and administrators to determine how best to spend the money.
In determining budgets and allocations, healthcare facilities can rely on data to inform their decisions and ensure money is being spent in the most sensible way possible.
3 ways to use people data for healthcare recruitment marketing
There are a few different ways that healthcare facilities can use data to inform their decisions around resource management and staffing.
1. Determining the best recruitment marketing strategy
Within the realm of recruitment marketing, there are different strategies an organization can choose to pursue, but which one is the best one to meet the needs of your business, specifically? Data can help here.
Using data when assessing and considering recruitment marketing tactics can increase your chances for success when implementing the strategy. By digging into the data, talent acquisition teams can better tailor their strategies and increase their effectiveness.
Here are some questions that data can answer:
- Which job boards, hiring events, social channels, etc. generate the most candidate engagement?
- Which avenues produce the greatest number of qualified hires?
- What variation in candidates can be expected by role, unit, facility, or region?
- Does “cold calling” candidates increase the likelihood that they’ll apply for the open position?
- How many touches does it take before the candidate does apply?
- At what point in the hiring process does a candidate or applicant drop out? Why?
2. Using qualitative data to assess the talent pool
Before hiring anyone, healthcare facilities should first identify existing talent gaps within the organization so they can understand where specifically they would need to focus their recruitment marketing efforts. Additionally, by collecting data from existing workers, staffers can see whether or not their current workforce can fill in some of those gaps. This can be achieved by conducting surveys or engaging in one-on-one conversations between workers and administrators.
The healthcare industry can sometimes be perceived as one with few options for upward mobility unless workers choose to go into administration, education, or the like. However, just as workers aren’t a monolith, their skillsets, interests, and passions shouldn’t be generalized or assumed either.
Rather than solely considering what health care workers are looking for in new jobs, facilities can discuss non-traditional career paths with existing employees. By encouraging lateral movements or promotions where they make sense, workers can enjoy a morale boost while the administrators can take better advantage of all their staff has to offer.
Qualitative data could be, for instance, that administrators find that some workers would prefer to work in a similar but different area of the organization than where they currently are. Or, they could find that workers are happy where they are but would feel more empowered and more highly valued if they were given greater responsibility. Some might even express an interest in training or mentoring newer employees.
3. Using quantitative data to identify worker trends
Assuming that healthcare workers actually want to stay in their chosen profession, some have carried the burden of being expected to do so much more with so much less. Better resource management can help mitigate their strain, while potentially reducing turnover rates. Spending some time upfront to collect relevant data can pay off when it comes to addressing both the needs of the business and the preferences of the workers.
An example of quantitative data could be the number of hours worked per shift or per week juxtaposed against different performance metrics related to, say, the number of errors entered into patient logs. Insights such as how many hours a worker can typically work before showing signs of burnout can inform decisions around how long those shifts should be, how often workers should work them, and which workers perform better on different shifts.
It’s all about identifying trends in the data and finding creative and innovative ways to apply them to the organization’s operations. Once the data has been collected and analyzed, administrators can more easily recognize where the existing skills gaps lie and who can fill them. Rearranging existing workers or creating non-traditional roles could reduce the overall hiring demands of the facility.
Merge data democratization with privacy
Any time data is being collected, privacy concerns tend to crop up (understandably!). Fortunately, these concerns can be allayed by restricting access to the data.
Oftentimes in healthcare, there can be a disconnect between administrative staff and hospital directors. Considering the fact that they both work in different areas of the business, their priorities can vary, they can suffer from miscommunication between one another, and they can have conflicting ideas of how things can or should get done. Functionally, this can lead to time delays and energy wasted when it comes to obtaining, understanding, and utilizing data.
By using a robust people analytics system, different roles in leadership can have access to those data sets that most specifically pertain to their area of expertise while keeping less pertinent information private. This way, people can spend more time doing their jobs and less time jumping through superfluous hoops.
And generally speaking, the fewer hoops, the better.
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About the author: Yasmin Khan
Yasmin has been working as a marketer and writer for over ten years. She specializes in breaking down complex topics for general audiences. Over the course of her career, she has covered numerous topics, from interior design and music theory to power grids and fracking. When she's not working, Yasmin hosts and produces a podcast where she explores the history behind today's global events. And when she's not doing that? She's probably baking.
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