There’s good news about the job market; but behind the positives there are some troubling realities.
April marked the 103rd straight month of job gains and resulted in a 50-year low unemployment rate of 3.6%. Specifically, a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report observed that notable job gains occurred in professional and business services, construction, healthcare, and social assistance. However, underlying this in post-acute and long-term care facilities, hospitals, and other healthcare settings, labor costs are increasing and operating margins are shrinking.
According to one report, labor costs in healthcare organizations represent about 60% of net revenues. At the same time, operating margins have gotten smaller as Medicare and Medicaid, instead of private insurance, have become primary payors for most patients. While technology has increased labor intensity, this hasn’t resulted in substantially fewer jobs or lower labor costs.
To meet the demands of a rapidly aging population, the BLS suggests that the healthcare workforce needs to increase by 1.26 million annually over the next 10 years. This includes 446,000 more home health aides, 95,000 nursing assistants, and nearly 30,000 nurse practitioners, not to mention 50,000 or more physicians. Even if any of these predictions are off by a few thousand, the numbers still make it clear that worker demand is significantly outpacing supply.
While physician burnout gets the headlines, the truth is that this is a problem across disciplines and at all levels. For instance, a recent study revealed that 15.6% of all nurses reported feelings of burnout, although this was much less common in nurses who reported feeling “engaged.” Studies suggest that burnout and stress seem to increase when workers feel unappreciated or ignored and/or when they are frustrated by changes they see as wasteful or frivolous. Management and leaders can exacerbate these feelings when they complain about regulatory changes as burdensome or unnecessary. Even if these are honest opinions, they can negatively impact staff morale and optimism; so team leaders would be well advised to stress the positive aspects of change to staff.
With unemployment way down, workers—especially those at the lower end of the pay spectrum—have more job opportunities than ever. While you might not be able to compete with salaries or hourly wages in other industries, you can help provide an appealing work environment where workers are respected and involved, there are fun activities that encourage bonding and team engagement, and there are opportunities for flexible work schedules and career advancement. At the same time, consider offering benefits—such as on- or near-site childcare, freebies such as meals and/or scrubs, and transportations allowances—that give your organization a hiring edge.
Look for ways to compete successfully for qualified candidates. Start by finding out why your current employees like working at your organization and what benefits are most appealing. Use this information to help create a hiring strategy that attracts—and keeps—the best employees.