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Author's profile photo Susan Galer

Can Human Resources Help Cure Our Healthcare Crisis?

HCWF2020skillgapscn.pngFinding and retaining qualified talent is one of the major healthcare crises facing the industry, and it’s only going to get worse. The World Health Organization (WHO) forecasts a shortage of 12.9 million healthcare workers by 2035, up 79 percent from today’s 7.2 million gap. But the news isn’t quite so dire for high-performing healthcare organizations that are finding the antidote in strategic human resources (HR), leadership development, and targeted employee training and education.  An exclusive healthcare data cut from the SAP-supported Oxford Economics “Workforce 2020” survey of over 2,700 executives from 27 countries worldwide provides a unique window into the HR strategies of high-performers versus companies with below-average profit margins.

Understanding the new face of work

For the first time in history, healthcare organizations have five generations of employees in the workplace along with swelling ranks of contingent workers. They also face unprecedented challenges from continuing globalization and an aging workforce. High-performing healthcare companies are responding strategically; over 50 percent say workforce issues are already driving strategy at the board level. That percentage is only slightly lower for underperformers now but falls to 25 percent in three years.

HCworkforce2020leadershipcliffscn.pngAvoiding the leadership cliff

I’ve written before about how companies overall are using HR to address gaps in leadership development, and findings from the healthcare survey data reveal unique industry problems. In some cases, high-performers appear more aware of the dangers around leadership development, and are taking more remediation steps than underperforming organizations. Executives at high-revenue-growth companies are significantly more likely to say that senior positions tend to be filled from within the organization (50 percent vs. 42 percent of underperformers). Similarly, over 50 percent of high-performers say expansion plans are limited by access to the right leadership, compared to 31 percent of underperformers. However, many companies haven’t made the connection between talent strategy and employee engagement, regardless of performance levels. A paltry 17 percent of underperformers and just 29 percent of high-performers say long-term loyalty and retention is an important part of talent strategy.

Bridging the skills gap

Perhaps the most perplexing thing about these survey findings is how healthcare organizations aren’t doing enough to address the obvious chasms. Nearly one-third of underperformers and 21 percent of high performers say that problems with talent and skills affect business performance. Yet neither group has a groundswell of well-defined processes and tools for developing talent (49 percent of high-performers and 37 percent of underperformers).

During times of uncertainty, it’s tempting to hunker down to slash costs via downsizing and restructuring, but the research shows high performing companies are doing just the opposite. While there’s no cure-all for the complex challenges facing the global healthcare industry, strategic HR can be an important part of the path to a healthier future for companies, caregivers and their patients.   

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