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Facing down the challenges of healthcare HR

In an interview with Richard Pizzi, editor of Healthcare Finance News, Jay Weiss, vice president at Symphony Corporation, offered readers insight into trends in healthcare human resources management over the course of the next year. His firm, based in Madison, Wis., specializes in healthcare management technology and services, with a heavy emphasis in human capital management solutions.

What are some issues that are top of mind for healthcare human resources executives as we move toward 2012?

Recruitment and retention of the correct number of qualified staff is very high on the list. Everyone knows there is a big nursing shortfall, but there is a need for highly qualified individuals all around. Due to the rapid growth of the healthcare sector and its sheer size, it is a challenge to fill jobs. And despite this need, there are obvious pressures for cost containment with people accounting for the lion’s share of an organization’s costs.

Because of that, there is a pressure to make the HR organization world class, or at least strive to be better. As a result, it has become an imperative to employ better processes and technologies to overcome the challenges – talent management, workforce planning and scheduling, self-service applications, business intelligence, etc.

Compliance with new standards is another key issue.

Lastly, keeping up with the technological change is an issue for healthcare staff.  Advances in technology require continual training and career development for employees to remain effective and maintain standards of care.

How is HR management at healthcare organizations different than HR at other companies?

I don’t see too much of a difference except in a couple of areas…or, at least, there shouldn’t be too much of a difference. One significant difference right now is that healthcare organizations are essentially hiring instead of firing; hence, recruitment and retention are one of the most significant issues. This is not necessarily the case in other industries.

Another key difference is in regulatory compliance. While all organizations have some form of universal compliance – EEO, etc. – and others have their own regulatory issues, healthcare has some unique requirements which must be met, such as JHACO, which requires compliance with quality standards to ensure that the consumers of healthcare are receiving consistent levels of safe, quality care and includes constant monitoring of performance and patient safety records.

Lastly, I think as a result of the recent emphasis placed on recruiting and retention and the recognition that people make up 50 percent or more of the resources of a healthcare institution, these institutions have a renewed focus on HR Management and the need for better technology to manage human resources. A case can be made that healthcare institutions have lagged in this area relative to other industries.

You’ve mentioned employee recruitment and retention as a big issue. What are some other trends you see in these areas in healthcare?

First off, I think healthcare is embracing the processes and technology necessary to effectively manage these processes. More and more, organizations are implementing talent management and workforce planning solutions. As part of that, better performance management practices will enable them to identify, develop and retain not just all employees, but the right ones. Additionally, as the pressures in the workplace mount, we’re starting to see a focus on quality of life initiatives.

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