Nursing Shortage – The Tale of the Talent Pool

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Talent pools are something we all should be well aware of as HR Leaders. As we work with our recruiters or do the recruiting ourselves, finding the right employees to fill open roles and adding staff to support our business goals is an essential function of what we do. Yet, sometimes the challenge rests not in our ability to chart the depths; rather, it is the fact that we can already see the bottom.

Nursing Shortages?

While unemployment numbers in the US declined as a whole, certain full-time professions have seen unemployment remain high or only experience slight drops. Much of this has to do with factors outside of our direct control. However, the findings seem indicative of what we can only assume is a surplus of potential hires. For many, our objectives may seem pretty easy – post a job and the line will form, right?

 Yet how often have we sat pouring over interview notes, resumes, questionnaires and social media inquiries only to find that what we thought would be simple turns into a mountain of effort? Depending on the industry, this timeframe of waiting for the right candidate can result in decreased revenue and/or negatively impact customer service. In other sectors, the consequences may be more severe.

For those of us in the healthcare industry, the concept of a nursing shortage is not new. If you do not work in the healthcare arena, the shortage arises when the demand for certified medical practitioners outpaces the supply of qualified talent. Examples of a national-level shortage occurred as recently as this decade – helped to a certain extent by the recession. At a local level, however, healthcare professional shortages exist to such an extent that they are recognized by the federal government. As you can imagine, a lack of trained nurses can grind hospital and clinic operations to a halt. To paraphrase Patricia Keenan’s findings, understaffed facilities can lead to staff fatigue, poor judgment, and faltering levels of care for patients. Our duty requires that we find a solution at least at the local level.

Be Proactive

This brings us back to a broader set of points that can not only benefit HR professionals in the healthcare industry, but also benefit those practitioners whose industries face shallow (or completely empty) talent pools:

  • Invest in your employees – develop your people (through certifications and training) and use strength management concepts to strengthen strengths.
  • Establish career or tenure paths – have you given your employees a plan for their future? Work with your managers to define roles and career paths and revisit the definitions with annual reviews; this will smooth out implementation and give confidence to your employees that you want them to succeed.
  • Offer internships or rotations – are you courting the next generation of employees? Programs similar to our Management Fellowship have worked well in preparing the next generation of leaders within our organization. Internships, fellowships, and (from a medical standpoint) clinical rotations will keep the talent pool full and knowledgeable about all aspects of your business. For those who have the corporate flexibility, virtual internships can also provide valuable insight to prospective employees about how your company operates.
  • Hire locally, but don’t be afraid to recruit regionally or nationally – in a digital age, how can you find pockets of potential new hires and focus your efforts? College job fairs can yield results and – if the need is strong enough to conduct a national search – focus on universities with a high output of non-local students. Also, take advantage of professional networks whose existing membership of trained employees are a potential goldmine of talent.
  • Fringe benefits – for distant prospects, can you offer relocation package benefits, family focused benefits, or competitive vacation/leave time? Salary isn’t everything and the people you are interested in want to know that you are thinking about all aspects of their well-being.
  • Location, location, location – Is the city in which your company operates desirable to people who may relocate? Sometimes it means being a spokesperson for your town/city as much as for your own corporate culture.

Above you will see two major themes:

  1. Who do we already have?
  2. What can we offer to those people who have yet to join our ranks?

Talent is a two-way street where maintaining your current workforce is just as essential as adding new people at the right time.

Moving Forward

The issue of scarcity is one that impacts every company and industry in different ways. For some of us, it is ever-present in fields where jobs or location may make it challenging to attract talent. Working hard to demonstrate the best your company has could be the difference. And for those you who do not face hiring challenges, remember the importance of keeping your HR skills sharp and staying up to speed on recruiting methods that work – you never know when you might need them to hire that perfect employee!

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