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March 23, 2017 Guest articles No Comments

Winning the Cutthroat Competition for Health Tech Talent
By Rachel Neill

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In the past 10 years, we’ve gone from a massive recession to an amazingly low national unemployment rate of 4.6 percent. It’s hard to believe that not long ago, senior managers were scrambling to take on entry-level work just to stay afloat in their respective industries. However, in 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released reports that healthcare, and professional and business services added over 900,000 jobs in the preceding 12 months. Competition for talent in the health tech industry has become cutthroat, in part because of the rapid pace of industry growth. Established companies with significant market share have historically been able to lock up the best and brightest workers by virtue of buying power alone, but those days are over for now. Top talent is fleeing traditional powerhouse companies and jumping to nimble, well-funded competitors.

Employers have to think beyond traditional hiring processes and employee incentives if they want to stay competitive. Elaborate job descriptions and standard salary and benefits paradigms fall short. In order to attract and retain the best workers, especially those much-maligned-yet-undeniably-desirable Millenials, companies can make simple, yet significant, changes to adapt to the evolving needs and desires of the people they employ. Consider the insights below as you begin to rethink how your organization attracts and retains the best talent.

Keep an Open Mind … and a Short Job Description!

I hate job descriptions (Note to HR: Are they really a necessary evil?). Job posters may think they’re doing potential hires a favor by making an exhaustive list of qualifications, duties, and descriptors, but they’re probably not. There always seems to be a big disconnect between the actual hiring manager and the HR department, and a smart-sounding, long job description written out for legal or other well-intentioned purposes that often – and unfortunately -  eliminates some potentially good fits before they’re even in the door.

Hewlett-Packard’s internal report findings show that men apply for jobs when they are 60-percent qualified on paper, but women don’t until they feel 100-percent confident or have checked off every item on the description. That isn’t good; it means that a lot of talented people, women in particular, don’t even have a chance to succeed in many positions. The longer and more verbose a description, the less likely you are to get a diverse candidate pool. Job descriptions don’t lend themselves to transferability, either. For example, Epic implementers make great project managers across multiple industries based on the training and hands-on experience they get while traveling and working at multiple healthcare systems. They can define the scope of a project, put together a detailed plan, manage a budget, and get executive buy-in. None of those skills is unique to health tech, or any other industry for that matter.

What can you do that is actionable? Keep job descriptions short and simple. Don’t be overly specific unless a skill can’t be learned or there isn’t a substitute skill out there. Think about complementary skill sets someone might have and incorporate examples into your job posting. Finally, make the application process simple and encourage current employees to refer people they think have the chops.

Employee Perks and Benefits Matter

You may have heard about Netflix’s unlimited paid parental leave or France’s new law that aims at making it illegal to require employees to answer after-hours email. (Supporters of the law have compared humans and technology to dogs and leashes). More and more employees are seeking work-life balance and flexible employment. You may not have the budget for unlimited parental leave, but there are plenty of other programs you can put in place.

Develop an employee perk page. Don’t worry, It’s free. Work with local and national companies to negotiate discounts – this can be on anything from gym memberships to clothing. Think creatively, but don’t overload employees with perks they might not use. If you aren’t sure, ASK. Most people would appreciate lower-cost access to health and fitness programs, but not everybody wants 10-percent off at the local drapes emporium.

Re-think your vacation policy. Maintaining an open vacation policy and becoming a results-based work organization doesn’t mean your employees will never show up to work. Actually, compensation and benefits research indicate that employees with flexible vacation policies don’t take any more time off than those with formal PTO programs in place. However, it gives an employee autonomy and the ability to stay healthy and take care of life as it happens. Tying paid time off into a results-based plan means that you can limit the program for any outliers who may not be meeting standards or that are taking advantage of the program.

Remote work. These days, technology allows us to fulfill many of our professional responsibilities from just about anywhere. Offering employees the option to work from home can help employers recapture time that may have been lost because an employee felt that they needed to take PTO.  If your employees can get their jobs done from another location, then why not let them have some flexibility?

Workers Want to Make an Impact

Today’s employees today, especially Millennials, are looking at the impact their position will have beyond the four walls of their office. They want to know that the work they are doing is meaningful, often in ways wholly unrelated to the job itself. Many are making a difference with data, or attacking and solving big problems in healthcare. Firms attracting top talent like Healthfinch, Catalyze, Redox, and CareMerge are sifting through and connecting the massive amounts of data to improve patient outcomes. Consider making this meaningful impact a highly visible part of the much-dreaded job description I mentioned above.

In the end, Professor of Management and Human Resources Peter Capelli leaves us with some parting wisdom: “If there’s nothing distinctive you can offer to set your organization apart, and you don’t want to pay enough to buy the talent you prefer, then, just like any other shopper, you’ll have to start compromising on what you want.”

Rachel Neill is CEO of Carex Consulting Group in Madison, WI.


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