When recently featured in an employee spotlight, our own Morgan Babcock was asked to share what helps her thrive in the workplace. Her answer? A collaborative team and a healthy work environment.
But what does a healthy work environment look like? Or, more importantly, what doesn’t it look like? Many healthcare organizations are assessing how to best answer that question now after the pandemic “brought a heightened focus on the challenges on the workforce.” And with a renewed focus on such benefits as more mental health resources and support, remote work options and flexibility, and better benefits, many healthcare professionals are reconsidering what guides them in their career trajectories.
The survey says…
We recently asked over 300 healthcare team members in roles throughout hospitals, health systems, and private practices about their priorities when choosing a new position. Our respondents could choose from 4 answer options as their top priority:
- scheduling flexibility
- rate of compensation
- development opportunities
- benefits/PTO package
Here’s a look at the results of our homegrown survey, including responses from those in non-clinical healthcare roles:
As you can see, scheduling flexibility won out – even over rate of compensation. This aligns with the post-pandemic trending concern of creating a better work/life balance. Our work lives and our personal lives look different, so there is no one answer that defines what that delicate balance looks like. However, the freedom of scheduling flexibility is key to finding it.
Exploring the broader trend
Let’s think about how our survey connects to a broader trend in employee priorities. In a May 2021 Harvard Business Review article, respondents cited flexibility as their top ranking priority. In fact, 76% of those polled believed that employees across all industries will be more likely to prioritize family and personal interests over proximity to work and will even take salary cuts to provide more balance.
“In order to position themselves to win in the future, companies will need to meet employees where they are.”
The concept of flexibility is undeniably connected to how employees perceive their value within their organizations.
That is clearly not a new notion. A 2012 article from Becker’s Hospital Review noted the following 10 pillars of success when it comes to healthcare employee satisfaction:
- professional development
- organizational pride
Each of these center on one thing: “People want to feel valued,” according to Paul Spiegelman, founder and CEO of BerylHealth. They also want to see leadership’s commitment to highlighting that value.
A 2019 survey ranked flexible schedules third behind competitive salary (first) and good benefit package (second). In this research, salary figured heavily into the employee’s perception of their own value in the organization.
In a 2020 survey of healthcare employees, we see the issue of value as it connects to pay arise. For instance, “home health workers provided the first line of defense against COVID-19 for millions of elderly and vulnerable people living at home.” Without the support of those essential team members, hospitals’ resources would have been stretched ever further. But many of those team members feel as if their value was not appropriately compensated.
The concept of how employees want to be shown they are valued has ebbed and flowed over the years, but here in 2021, we can’t ignore employees’ interest in securing more autonomy, trust, and flexibility to get their jobs done.
Pandemic conditions have certainly advanced this paradigm shift. As jobs increased flexibility out of necessity, many employees realized the possibilities such flexibility provided. For those managing quarantine conditions, virtual school, child care, their own healthcare, aging parents/loved ones, or even just learning to work in a more distanced environment, the changes have left a lasting imprint.
This isn’t true just for behind the scenes healthcare employees. Take for instance the top 3 nursing recruitment strategies from Anne Dabrow Woods, DNP, RN, a practicing acute care and critical care nurse practitioner at Penn Medicine:
- a belief in workforce well-being and supporting work-life integration.
- flexible staffing policies in place
- professional autonomy
These priorities serve to reinforce the importance of balance for all no matter what the job entails. To create more engaged employees with a high job satisfaction, healthcare organizations must realize that everyone has priorities outside of work: children, pets, appointments, hobbies, desire to spend time with friends and family, etc. Offering flexible and holistic support for employees’ lives provides a valuable and sought-after commodity and helps organizations retain talent.
Looking into the future
- Many functions within healthcare will always require an in-person touch, but many behind the front line services such as coding, denials management, and risk adjustment management can provide quality support remote or semi-remote.
- Feeling valued in the workplace will remain a critical concern, and it’s incumbent of employers to enhance how they show that.
- Employees as well as students in healthcare have unique needs in different phases of life, and it’s crucial for organizations to be aware of those needs and how to best address them.
- Demand for healthcare positions of all types is expected to grow exponentially over the next few years, with an estimated addition of 1.9 million jobs nationwide before 2028. Challenges exist to providing the numbers of necessary workers to support this type of growth.
- Beyond staying abreast of the rapidly changing priorities of new generations of workers, employers will need innovative ways to attract and retain talent. There is no one easy solution, but having a partner who can deliver the expertise needed is an impactful place to start.