There are two quotes about parenthood that I really like. The first, from Jackie Kennedy, is: “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.”
The second, from the novel Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver, is: “It’s the one job where the better you are, the more surely you won’t be needed in the long run.”
The former has always stuck with me because it emphasizes the importance of raising children, and serves as a great reminder to parents (and those about to become parents, like my husband and I) that once you have children, they become job number one — it doesn’t matter if you’re a politician, a professional athlete, or a neurosurgeon. Looking out for that little person (or little people, in our case) is your top priority.
And then there’s the second quote, which suggests that truly effective parenting means giving your children all of the tools they need to thrive, while also realizing that eventually you need to let them succeed — or fail — on their own. Good parenting means ignoring that instinct to take on every burden for your children and instead teach them independence. If you do this, your children will respect you and will appreciate that you put your trust in them.
When I was speaking with Bobbie Byrne, MD, CIO at Edward Hospital and Health Services, the issue of staff burnout came up, and she talked about one of the strategies her organization is employing to retain good people. Byrne said that while ramping up for a big migration to Epic, Edward Hospital toyed with the idea of hiring several consultants, but then decided to take a different approach. “We pulled the vast majority of the extra individuals coming to the project off the floors and out of the departments” and sent them to Epic for training, she said. These employees would continue to receive their full salaries while studying to be Epic-certified, and were guaranteed their jobs upon returning to Edward.
It was a gamble, Byrne acknowledged, but one they were willing to take. “I know that some people will take their Epic certification and they’ll go out into the market. We’ll lose some people. That’s just going to happen.” But what it also did was make Edward a more desirable place to work — a place where employees felt as if leadership was truly invested in them. And for leadership, it ensures that they’re getting “the best and brightest” to staff the project, she noted.
To Byrne, the benefits outweigh the risks. The way she sees it, by providing her staff with the tools and training to become more skilled, she’s not only making the organization stronger — she’s also making a strong case for highly-valued IT talent to stay at Edward. It’s an interesting strategy; one that might have more appeal than offering flexible schedules or throwing staff parties (which Edward also does).
And let’s face it, with the demand for IT talent far surpassing the supply, healthcare organizations around the country are being forced to take action. A survey of 1,200 IT hiring managers conducted in December of 2011 found that 65 percent said they plan to hire IT professionals in the first half of 2012 and that nearly 30 percent said they intend to expand their IT workforce by more than 20 percent.
Another survey by Randstad Technologies found that 54 percent of IT professionals plan to explore other job options once the market picks up, and that 41 percent believe they’ve been held back in their careers because of the poor economy. And perhaps most alarming is the fact that “IT workers are already more likely than 2,900 professionals surveyed in other departments to be networking online and in person in preparation for switching jobs,” a Network World article stated.
So what does this mean for CIOs? It’s simple: unless you are taking proactive steps to hold on to your people — whether that means providing timely reviews and raises, offering flexible work arrangements, and providing training opportunities — you could lose them. The hard truth is that even if you do offer all of those benefits, there are still people who are going to move on to greener pastures. But there are others who will decide that if an organization treats them well and allows them to flourish, there’s no need to leave the nest.