Turnover Will Rise As We All Become More Serious

February 15

You can get away with a lot in August. Everyone seems to be on vacation so schedules and deadlines often seem less serious. But when September comes, things change. There is no forgiveness with children's school schedules. It is one thing to be late for a grown-up meeting and another to be negligent with your child's future. Even for those of us whose children are grown, the sun becomes a little less distracting and we carry that seriousness into the workplace. The pressure of the economy has worn on most of us for so long that we have forgotten what it is like to really worry about hiring and retaining enough people. We still have openings and we still worry about that stubborn area or hard-to-fill job, but vacancy and turnover rates continue at an all-time low.

Get ready for a change.

When the unemployment rate was announced this month for August, 2010, things generally had inched up a bit from 9.5% to 9.6% but in healthcare the rate went from 3.1% to 3.0%. Even with the slight increase in unemployment, the economy was able to create a total of 67,000 jobs in August, the eighth consecutive month of job growth.

Twenty-eight thousand jobs were created in healthcare in August and 9,000 of those were in the acute care environment. Long-term care job creation continued at the forefront of the growth, with the creation of 17,000 jobs. Acute-care facilities had routinely eliminated jobs in the first seven months of 2010, so the August change was a pretty big deal signaling that the staff stretched so thin for so long was beginning to get some help.

College-educated workers, including those in the sciences, reported an unemployment rate of only 4.6%, and according to a report in USA Today, "the job outlook for executives is strong." People are beginning to move. Workers who have endured the sluggish economy are beginning to speak with their feet and they are generally the ones we want the most. "I'm so out of here" may not be voiced out loud, but if managers could only read the invisible bubbles above workers' heads it might not be one of contentment.

It is not just that healthcare is one of only two sectors (education is the other) to grow during the Great Recession, it is exacerbated by the fact we are predominately female. Eight-one percent of all employees within healthcare in this country are female and the unemployment rate for all females is currently 7.1%.

But, the biggest reason healthcare recruiters and hiring managers responsible for retention should be taking the change of season seriously, is that while so many females deliver healthcare in this country, they also are most often the driving factors within the home. Almost 40% of the professionals who plan on making a career change will do it during the last week of September, all of October and the first week of November.

That would coincide with getting the kids back in school and on schedule and before starting to worry about the turkey, holiday parties and decorations and what to do with the kids during school break. Another 19% will move right after the children are back on schedule, after the new year and before Spring Break, Mother's Day, graduation and summer.

This is not news. We've known about the female effect in healthcare recruitment for years, but 2010 will be different because:

  • Routine high movement among female workers is coinciding with job creation, a fundamental change in how healthcare is paid for and a general unhappiness among healthcare workers. You have heard of "triple witching" on Wall Street- well take that and add another factor.
  • Healthcare Reform has lifted the cap in rehabilitation reimbursements, and consequently long-term and out-patient facilities are capitalizing on the ability to provide better care with additional Physical and Occupational Therapists and Speech and Language Pathologists. Each fully utilized PT will drive, on national average, an additional $187,200 to the bottom line. Rehab professionals will, by far, be the most sought after healthcare professional in the near future.
  • With all types of jobs being created, healthcare workers who earlier had no alternative but to keep their head down and working now have options, and they are exploring them. Spouses are finding jobs and the healthcare workers who didn't endure layoffs, don't have to be the only provider. RNs are turning over more quickly than ever recorded, with as many as 49.1% never celebrating their first year job anniversary. This is in part because of the influx of the famously mobile Generation Y, but also because options abound.
  • Retirements are finally coming into play within healthcare. For so many Baby Boomers, the dream of cutting back or quitting all together, seems no longer to keep moving further into the future. Spouses are getting jobs, children are completing their education and people are re-thinking what they need to live comfortably. We are recalibrating as a nation.
  • There are not enough healthcare workers to provide for the additional 38 million people who will be covered by Healthcare Reform. All the coverage won't be complete until March 31, 2014, but there is plenty of action right now impacting recruitment. Incentives for moving individuals out of long-term beds is prompting gold rush type activity within home care. Wellness initiatives, immunizations, mammograms and colonoscopies are all covered and everyone wants to get in on the money to be made, if only they have professionals to provide the services. Paperwork accompanies everything and there are not enough lab professionals.
  • Generation Y is now the largest work group and they don't have the same dogged attitude of their predecessors. For those healthcare delivery systems who have not learned to speak their language and provide more of work/life balance, better communication and project a social responsibility, look for the feet to speak as they turn in their resignations.

So when you see that school bus on the corner or the clumps of little people in plaid skirts, uniform pants and white polo shirts, think about what they mean to you professionally. Move quickly with an aggressive recruitment plan so the unhappy professionals working across the street at the competition will turn to you, but do it before the ads for Free Range Turkeys start to appear.

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