Healthcare News & Insights

Top 10 benefits health IT employees want from hospitals

Finding and keeping health IT staff is challenging right now – and it’s made even more difficult when hospitals don’t know what benefits health IT employees want most. 

help-wanted-signHealth IT is becoming a critical part of care delivery for most hospitals. One of the biggest challenges: With the sharp rise in the adoption of tech systems, health IT employees are in high demand and finding employees with the right skills is getting difficult.

Health care in general is a favorable job market for employees, but competition for health IT pros is especially high, according to a recent survey from Towers Watson.

Among the 100 healthcare organizations surveyed, 67% said they’re having difficulty attracting experienced health IT employees. In comparison, just 10% of organizations said they were having troubling recruiting other kinds of healthcare professionals.

Retaining employees with health IT skills is less of an issue but still challenging, as 38% of hospitals say retention of health IT employees is difficult. A survey of health IT pros also found that those employees are likely to change employers, with fewer than half (48%) saying they would stay in their current position if a comparable job was offered somewhere else.

Those findings echo the results of other recent surveys. For example, a recent CareerBuilder survey found that 23% of healthcare providers currently have open health IT jobs they’re struggling to fill.

And a study from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) found that the majority of hospitals had to add staff to complete health IT implementations and that a lack of qualified staff was the biggest obstacle for those health IT projects.

What employers must offer

Towers Watsons’ research suggests one reason it’s difficult for hospitals to attract staff with health IT skills: They don’t have a good understanding of what those employees are looking for in a job.

Of course, an organization’s ability to find and keep skilled employees depends in part on salary — hospitals must make sure what they’re offering is in line with the current market rates, or recruiting and retention will be extremely difficult.

However, there are several other factors that will have an impact — in fact, when Towers Watson surveyed a group of health IT employees, salary wasn’t the most important factor.

Here’s how health IT pros ranked rank the factors that will affect whether they accept or keep a job:

  1. Job security
  2. Salary
  3. Convenience of the hospital’s location
  4. Health benefits
  5. Vacation
  6. Career advancement opportunities
  7. Flexible work arrangements
  8. Opportunities to learn new skills
  9. Challenging work
  10. The organization’s reputation

When hospitals were asked what they thought health IT employees valued, the answers were very different. For example, employees ranked challenging work as the ninth-biggest factor, while employers gave it the most importance. And two of the factors listed by employees (convenience of the location and vacation) weren’t cited by any hospitals.

Likewise, employers listed two factors that didn’t make it into employees’ top ten: the organization’s mission and values, and the chance to have an impact on the organization.

The full ranking of the factors cited by hospitals:

  1. Challenging work
  2. The organization’s reputation
  3. Career advancement opportunities
  4. Job security
  5. Opportunities to learn new skills
  6. The organization’s mission, vision and values
  7. Health benefits
  8. Salary
  9. The ability to have an impact on the organization
  10.  Flexible work arrangements

To improve their recruiting and close IT skills gaps, most hospitals could do a better job of tailoring the benefits they offer to what health IT professionals want the most. In addition, changing what the organization emphasizes during the recruiting process could help to bring talent on board.

Other recruiting and retention opportunities

The survey also found there are some potentially beneficial actions many hospitals aren’t taking to recruit health IT employees.

For example, only 10% have developed partnerships with local schools, and only 9% offer internships for students. Recruiting experts say those are very effective ways to tap into the emerging talent pool, especially in a rapidly growing field such as health IT that is seeing an increase in degree programs and students.

And just 4% have increased the paid time off that they offer potential employees —  even though the health IT employees surveyed said that was a key factor which would impact their decisions.

Taking those steps before competitors do could give hospitals a big leg up in the war for health IT talent.

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