How Radical Empathy Can Help Healthcare Organizations Retain Talent

January 12, 2022
3 Minute Read

In an industry with the second highest turnover rate, aggravated by the impacts of COVID-19—what does it take to engage and retain healthcare talent? The answer doesn’t lie in perks and pay but in supporting employees and practicing radical empathy across five key areas.

COVID-19 has stretched our healthcare workers to their limits, forcing many to reconsider their priorities. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 18% of healthcare workers have quit their jobs. Employees must not only contend with higher workloads in charged environments, but also consider the risks of COVID-19 exposure to themselves and their families. A recent AMA survey of physicians and other healthcare workers highlighted the issues.

Changing Priorities for Healthcare Workers

At the same time, physicians and other healthcare staff feel disconnected from their employers, lacking the support they need to navigate increasingly complicated and high-stakes roles and responsibilities. A survey of physicians and healthcare administrators revealed that 70% are actively disengaged from their employers and 54% have changed their employment plans due to COVID-19, with half of those considering a move to a new healthcare organization.

In a recent webinar, “Improving the Employee Experience of Healthcare Workers,” Bruce Lindeman and Mark Deutsch from Veracity (an RGP company) explored how depression and burnout, heightened concerns over risk, increased family responsibilities and more are driving high turnover rates. Here’s an overview of the webinar, including how focusing on employee experience can help organizations manage through the Great Resignation. (You can watch the webinar below.)

Healthcare Talent Expects Support from Employers

So, what can employers do to give healthcare workers a sense of purpose, keeping talent engaged and invested in their current roles through this period of massive disruption? It starts with understanding what they are thinking, feeling, hearing, saying, seeing and doing—all of which can vary based on role, department, geography and personal experiences.

We are no longer the survival of the fittest. We are the survival of the nurtured.

Psychologist Louis Cozolino

The American Hospital Association has identified five areas in which healthcare professionals expect support during the pandemic:

  1. Hear Me (And My Concerns)
    There can never been too much communication. As the pandemic rages on and conditions remain in flux, workers need to hear from leadership teams frequently. Team members deserve the opportunity to share their concerns, to know that they’ve been heard, and to gain reassurance that the organization is in it with them.
  2. Protect Me (From COVID-19)
    It may seem obvious, but providing staff with a safe working environment, the equipment they need to stay protected, and education on COVID-19 and protocols in place is essential to creating confidence that their concerns are also your own. Also important are flexible and supportive policies related to time away from work.
  3. Prepare Me (With Proper Training)
    Digitization has accelerated during COVID-19, with telehealth and artificial intelligence (AI) taking off. Team members must be prepared for virtual care to support a larger number of patients, many of which are geographically dispersed, safely and efficiently. Training and cross-training on the effective use of telehealth and how to automate repetitive processes to devote more time to patient care can help boost productivity and morale for over-stretched clinicians.
  4. Support Me (And my Humanity)
    During a period of high stress, recognizing employee contributions is more important than ever. Employers need to acknowledge the intensity of working conditions, celebrate the commitment of their teams and support employee well-being. Augmenting rewards and recognition programs and finding new ways to micro-dose encouragement can go a long way to retaining vital talent.
  5. Care for Me (And my Family)
    Workers are at high risk of burnout and are heavily burdened with stress and fear related to their families. Many families have lost or had to sacrifice an income, had to contend with juggling childcare and remote learning, and of course, manage the constant risk of COVID-19. Now is the time to implement or augment Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and consider bonus pay to help employees work through these challenges, develop new methods of coping and find joy again in their careers.

No one has all the answers in this new reality, which is changing day to day. What’s most important is for employers to acknowledge this fact and engage their team members in the decision-making process. Strategic investments in workplace experience, based on continuous listening to the workforce, can reinforce a Culture of Flexibility—increasing innovation, improving employee engagement, reducing turnover, and ensuring that your organization successfully navigates these difficult times.

We explored each of these areas in more detail in our webinar, as well how improving the employee experience can make a meaningful difference in retaining talent.

Watch an on-demand recording of the webinar, “Improving the Employee Experience of Healthcare Workers.”

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