Lisa Katz| Crain’s Detroit Blog

Health care is big business in Southeast Michigan. It also is a BIG employer. In fact, health care is the single largest occupational employer in the region, accounting for more than 310,000 jobs, with the vast majority of these focused on health professions responsible for some level of care (e.g., nurses vs. accountants). Last year there were almost 30,000 health care jobs posted online, with nursing accounting for almost one-third of total demand.

Source: Working Smarter: Understanding Jobs & Talent in Southeast Michigan 2013

Similar to other occupational clusters in the region, today’s health care employers are concerned about available talent. In the last five years, demand for health care occupations grew more than 28 percent. This growth comes at a time when employees in this field are growing closer to retirement: 20 percent of the region’s health care workforce is over age 55.

Source: Working Smarter: Understanding Jobs & Talent in Southeast Michigan 2013

Southeast Michigan is not alone in facing these dynamics. Other major national metropolitan markets, including Chicago, Boston, Houston and Atlanta are facing rapidly growing demand as well. Recently, CareerBuilder conducted a national survey of 556 health care employees and 503 employers to understand how these changes are affecting the workplace. Employers want experience, and workers want good salaries from an employer they can trust. Both agree that, with a focus on cost reduction and efficiencies, delivering quality care is becoming harder to do, but the need is driving employers take further steps to invest in talent development.

Hiring trends

How can a health care employer attract a top-notch worker? Key drivers in hiring decisions among employees include: salary (83 percent), location (76 percent), work schedule (74 percent), benefits (72 percent) and the employer’s reputation (55 percent). Almost two-thirds of workers said that a negative reputation would affect whether they would even consider an employer, and 30 percent said they would not consider an employer if it had a negative social media presence.

What do employers seek in candidates? Employers rank relevant experience as their top hiring evaluation criteria for candidates (77 percent) followed by education (72 percent). When asked what to identify No. 1 factor they consider when hiring candidates (vs. evaluating), experience rated much higher (43 percent) than education (16 percent). In fact, 49 percent of employers said that not having the right experience automatically eliminates an applicant from consideration. Another 16 percent of employers said that those with less than three years’ experience were automatically dropped from consideration.

Workplace issues

Among workers and employers, 60 percent agree that there is a strong push to decrease health care costs and achieve greater efficiencies, but this comes at a price, namely stress on workers.

While the report found that 56 percent of health care workers believed there existed a high burnout rate among them and their peers, only 37 percent of employers believed their employees felt this way.

Of employees, 54 percent said that the push towards cost reduction has made it more difficult to do their job, and 66 percent point to longer hours and shifts. To make up for smaller teams, employers put greater emphasis on more experienced staff. The report indicated that 58 percent of employers agreed that poor experience and training negatively impacted patient care, while 50 percent said they hired workers with experience as a way to mitigate risk.

At the end of the day, both employees and workers agreed that the most influential measure of overall success in a health care organization is the rate of positive patient interactions (36 percent and 40 percent said so respectively). This outcome rated even higher than accuracy of service.

To achieve these and other outcomes, 60 percent of employers said they must invest in in training and education to deal with the growing shortage of skilled professionals. As such, many employers said they were offering tuition reimbursement (50 percent), training/development programs (46 percent), and continuing education/certification reimbursement (43 percent) to attract candidates.

Despite the aging workforce, only 20 percent of national health care employers said they were preparing for this demographic shift.

Implications for Southeast Michigan

Here in our region, eight health systems have formed a partnership to explore how they might share better talent-demand information with talent partners (universities, colleges, Michigan Works! Agencies, and others). The goal is to ensure that workers and talent partners can respond better to changing demographics, health care policy, and other factors that change employment demands. They also are exploring ways to reduce training costs by co-defining their training needs and exploring joint training solutions.

These conversations are in the early phases, but the health systems have recognized that finding the right talent is becoming increasingly difficult, and poaching workers from one another is not a sustainable strategy. The direction the health system employers will provide to talent partners will help ensure that training and education solutions are focused in the right directions. It also could serve to increase awareness among workers of employers’ needs, making sure they focus their careers appropriately. The vision is a better aligned relationship among jobseekers, employers and educators—a positive outcome upon which we can all agree.

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