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HR’s Growing Importance in Healthcare

In the healthcare industry, human resources professionals are poised to play a critical role in bolstering the healthcare management system by helping to close the growing talent gap plaguing the industry. However, HR’s role goes beyond simply recruiting enough qualified doctors, nurses and other professionals. It requires creative thinking from HR professionals to help establish a strategy that positions the healthcare organization for the long-term. An aging population is expected to put pressure on the healthcare system due to retiring healthcare professionals and an increase in healthcare needs from consumers.

As the industry strives to mitigate these issues, HR will play an increasingly large role in the overall strategy of healthcare organizations. HR professionals can impact several areas in healthcare management, including:

Strategy and Decision Making

An HR professional who can adopt a strategic perspective can equip the organization to solve problems in a more intentional way. For example, instead of reacting to an immediate HR problem, such as a departmental staffing shortage, a strategic perspective may aim to establish a better practice of training and promoting from within across departments, addressing not only the obvious need, but likely future needs as well. To effectively adopt a strategic perspective, HR professionals will need to collaborate with colleagues and other departments.

Performance

Human resource management can drive performance with thoughtful incentives and motivations to improve performance. HR impacts performance at every stage in an employee’s time with an organization, from recruiting top talent, to training & development, and cultivating organizational partnerships and communication across departments. 

In the healthcare sector, better performance can be pivotal for patient outcomes – which sometimes can mean a life-saving difference. When HR professionals help cultivate better teamwork within the organization, healthcare providers can better coordinate patient services and improve the positive impact on the population, according to a seminal study published in Human Resources For Health.

Targeted Recruiting

Recruiting itself needs to change, as only 29% of Millennials use online job boards, according to Hospitals & Health Networks. Meeting these needs requires unique solutions. In some instances, HR teams are partnering with marketing at healthcare facilities to apply marketing principles like search engine optimization, lead tracking and customized recruiting targeted toward certain groups, such as a specific specialist or generation. To fill specialized positions, HR departments can partner with telehealth or multispecialty providers, or advocate the organization for acquisitions of practices or specialty groups. 

Company Branding

Another key facet of recruiting is the organization’s overall image, which can be extended through employees. HR professionals can encourage existing staff to leverage social media channels to share job openings, emphasize the unique benefits available, and promote the organization at large. As part of recruiting conversations, HR professionals should ensure the overall mission – and new expansions – are clear both to current employees speaking about the organization and in job postings and recruiting materials.

Importance of Leadership

Poor management can be a huge driver of talent loss in an organization, and one that is entirely under an organization’s control. HR professionals can champion the importance of leadership and ensure managers have the right resources in place to support staff effectively. HR professionals also play a clear role in overall organization leadership, as the overall vision of the hospital will dictate the type and skill of staff requirements, which ultimately impacts HR planning and policy.

Creative Benefits & Scheduling

As the designer of the benefits packages offered to candidates, HR professionals’ approach can mean the difference between recruiting and retaining top talent or losing that talent to a more creative organization. A dynamic landscape requires updated approaches to benefits. In some cases, HR departments are directly addressing the staggering debt many new professionals are burdened with after earning their degrees. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, some examples of this include:

  • Student loan repayment
  • Signing bonuses and/or relocation support for professionals who accept positions in underserved areas
  • Stipends for new doctors – in addition to regular pay – to help encourage retention after the residency ends
  • Employer-funded loans for employees, which can be forgiven once an employment commitment is met

To reduce burnout, HR professionals can establish practices that allow employees to choose their shifts and hours, and get creative about the roles professionals play (such as nurses stepping in on some roles doctors traditionally serve or leaning on temporary employees to fill gaps).

Training

When HR professionals are integrated into the strategy of the overall organization, they are better equipped to identify the overall development requirements of the organization and then establish plans and goals at a team and individual level. Rapid advances in technology may also require retraining of existing staff to help fill the gaps and keep the organization running efficiently.

More broadly, HR professionals can keep a pulse on the incoming talent pipeline by partnering with training institutes to understand future candidates through monitoring enrollment and graduation rates. In healthcare settings, many organizations offer training through hands-on teaching programs that can be designed to help with future staffing needs and ensure high-quality service. A properly – and currently – trained healthcare workforce is indispensable to meet the public’s healthcare needs.

Regulations

HR professionals can be a critical line of defense against penalties for health law violations or employee contract disputes. HR managers should maintain a working knowledge of applicable rules and regulations that relate both to the organization and its employees, sometimes in partnership with the organization’s legal team. HR professionals should also evaluate practices to ensure compliance; for example, understanding and reviewing the practice for complaints with The Medicare and Medicaid Patient Protection Act of 1987. This extends to reviewing contracts established with medical practitioners. HR practitioners also establish quality assurance practices and policies to ensure individual providers and the facilities they work in adhere to safety, competency and quality regulations.

Internal Collaboration/Stakeholders

As a strategic partner, HR can help drive change, Amy Goble, vice president of the Health Career Center, told Hospitals & Health Networks. HR professionals can help champion the value of talent and craft strategies that cultivate talent in a more strategic way, aligned with where the organization’s strategy plans to move. An HR department disconnected from strategy might continue recruiting generalists heavily, not realizing the organizational stakeholders have decided to specialize more. But with a cohesive understanding, HR can craft a recruiting and training strategy that aligns with overall goals. Critical HR issues often involve multiple stakeholders across other areas, including finance, education and donors, and HR professionals will need to collaborate with these stakeholders to ensure all interests are considered in critical policies.

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