Editor’s Note: Part I of Why we change was published last week and mentioned two new programs: The Retained Search and The Career Hub. In Part II, we take a look at the market and how it is dictating change for all of us: Healthcare employees, organizations, and consultants.  

The Market

Let’s begin with a non-revelation: The world has turned upside down since the pandemic started in March 2020. The repercussions continue today and will for the foreseeable future. Consider the generations that dominate today’s workforce: Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers. Let’s look at the market status of each via data:

1. According to Insider’s analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, elder Millennials* are the only generational age group among those tracked to report a higher level of employment than before the pandemic. The unemployment rate for the age group was 3.3% in December 2021, which is well below the national unemployment rate of 3.9%.

* Elder Millennials are those aged 35 to 44 

2. A recent Federal Reserve survey of business contacts noted that Baby Boomers were leaving jobs and selling businesses to retire early — a trend that was due (1957 marked the peak year for births among Baby Boomers; those babies turn 65 next year) but has accelerated because of pandemic burnout.

That shows up in the data. People over the age of 45 have been slower to return to the job market since the start of the pandemic. That group includes members of Generation X, which ranges in age from 41 to 56, and baby boomers, who are roughly 57 to 75. It’s not clear if the apparent rush toward early retirement is going to stick. If older workers stay out, America’s labor force participation rate — and the pool of workers available to employers — may remain depressed compared with levels that prevailed before the pandemic. That will be bad news for employers.  (NYT.com  12/29/21)

I review those statistics, and I look at the employment market today, and I ask a question: 

Have organizations accepted that there is a new reality when filling healthcare facilities positions? 

From the trades level to the management level and all stops in-between, there are not enough people to fill open roles. Organizations understand this. Nobody needs to tell them this. They feel it acutely every day in staffing. But have they adapted their approach to the changing reality?

We don’t think all have. We receive phone calls weekly from healthcare facility directors leaving the discipline for multiple reasons, from stress to under-appreciation to vaccine mandates. The reasons vary but the trend is apparent: There is a talent drain in healthcare facilities management. 

Five questions organizations should ask during the hiring process

From our perspective, there are at least five pertinent questions organizations should ask themselves about their internal hiring process:

Q1: Are we overly dependent on our market salary survey? 

If your market salary survey was conducted before Summer 2021, it is probably not entirely accurate and may be outdated. 

In early 2022, salaries are on the high end of the range. If the role is in an area of the country that is seeing an inflated housing market, i.e., prices are high and starter housing is at the level of finished housing, relocating will likely be difficult for candidates. In addition, if you are located in an area with high taxes and restrictive Covid mandates,  it is even more difficult to attract candidates from other country regions. 

Organizations should be considering these factors. Indisputably, most candidates do not like to lose money when they take a new job. Even if the salary is higher, they will consider the cost of living. This places an additional strain on a market that is seeing significant retirements. It is a candidate’s market. 

Q2: Are we ruling out candidates because we feel they are over-qualified? 

Increasingly, we hear from candidates who will call and say they have been told that they are over-qualified for roles and are therefore disqualified from consideration. They are frustrated by their disqualification. 

To us, this is outdated thinking on the part of organizations. Increasingly we are seeing candidates who are moving up, moving down, and moving laterally in their career, by their choice. Candidates have personal reasons for making their career decisions, and Covid has further influenced candidate thinking. 

If you think a person is over-qualified, you also believe they are qualified. Ask why and listen to their reasons for their interest in your role. If you can hire an over-qualified person in a depressed employee market, consider it. Don’t dismiss them out of hand without asking why they are interested.

Q3: Are we afraid that the person we hire will leave us shortly after hire?

If you are afraid the person you hire will leave in 3 years or less, we encourage you to move beyond that fear.

Gone are the days of the long-tenured employees. Instead, we live in a mobile society.  Christine Pirri, SVP, Chief People & Diversity Officer, Bassett Healthcare Network, Cooperstown, NY, addressed employee tenure in a High Reliability podcast. She said that she tells her hiring managers that if they feel that a prospective employee can provide 3 to 4 years of strong service, then hire them. Then, hopefully, they will stay longer.

If you are hiring in 2022, the 8-10 year employee is likely gone. 

Q4: Are we ruling out qualified people because they lack a degree?

We do not favor a blanket proclamation that a degree is needed in the director role, especially given employee shortages in the industry. 

We are passionate about this issue. We have seen current hospital directors removed from an applicant pool more than once because they do not have a degree, despite having double-digit years of hospital director experience. We’d rather see a non-degreed director with years of experience hired over a degreed individual who doesn’t know The Joint Commission from CMS. This hiring scenario happens. 

We will continue to bang the drum on the degree question. It is short-sighted, we believe, to rule out directors who have X years of experience, but no degree, given the nature of the market. There are some roles and organizations where a degree is necessary. But blanket degree proclamations should be avoided.

Q5: Do we treat the candidates we are interviewing like guests in our home?

The answer should be an easy yes. But based on stories we hear from the market, it is not.

Meet candidates at the time you say you will. Be on time for calls. Feed them, or sit with them, if you are keeping them over lunch. Value their time. Make sure you know the motivations of the people you will have interview candidates; are they properly representing the organization?

These are snapshots of what we hear is ongoing in the market. If it were a full market with plenty of candidates for the next ten years, then perhaps candidates would overlook these things. But it is not a full market. Candidates are evaluating how they are treated. 

Listen to the candidates

Part of the reason I enjoy what we do, and most definitely the reason we enjoy recording the High Reliability podcast, is because we enjoy hearing the personal stories of the people who work in healthcare facilities management. How and why did they follow their career path, and what can we learn from them?

In these days of employee shortages, organizations would be well served to listen to the unique stories of qualified healthcare individuals who apply for their positions. Resumes alone do not tell their story. This is why we developed our Partnered Search for organizations. It is why we created the Career Hub for individuals. 

Together, let’s navigate employment challenges.