Talented IT professionals are testing the waters, and finding that climate is extremely inviting.
According to the October healthsystemCIO.com Snap Survey, nearly a third of CIOs say their organization has experienced higher staff turnover in the past 12 months than in previous years, and it has leaders concerned. As a result, many executive teams are taking steps to curb turnover by implementing retention bonus programs, but in some cases, that simply isn’t enough.
“The best people have choices,” remarked one CIO.
Said another, “Pay is key, but not the number 1 driver,” remarked one respondent. “People have to feel appreciated by their leaders or they will leave — or worse yet, stay and be disengaged.”
When asked how they would characterize their IT team’s level of job satisfaction, 55 percent indicated it was average, which may not be enough to keep the best and brightest people in today’s highly competitive industry. According to the survey, the top sources of frustration for workers are burnout and poor work-life balance, proving that isn’t always about the money. Although CIOs are finding that flexible schedules and career ladders can go a long way toward increasing satisfaction, something as simple as communicating more effectively can pay dividends, as well as making an effort to acknowledge work that often goes unnoticed.
“At the end of the day, it’s a combination of all options,” stated one CIO. “However, it starts with feeling underappreciated, having a lack of clarity of organizational direction, and emotional burnout.” Another reiterated the point, noting that “management support and positive interaction can have a major impact on burnout, positive or negative.”
(SnapSurveys are answered by the healthsystemCIO.com CIO Advisory Panel. To go directly to a full-size version of any individual chart, click on that chart.)
1. How would you characterize your organization’s ability to recruit and retain top talent?
- We have not had to recruit new talent recently because our retention rate is quite high — even among our top talent.
- We started going after the best and brightest college graduates in science, math and engineering. They cost less, work harder and don’t need deadlines.
Somewhat successful (we’ve had challenges but also successes)
- Location sometimes hard to recruit to.
- We have had to recruit from out of state.
- Often requires a geographically broader recruiting process than our health system understands or is comfortable with.
- Some areas we can recruit, other areas we must grow our own.
- Demand for specific skills in high demand (e.g., security) is always the challenge.
- Relocation to the mid-west is a challenge.
- Always depends on what type of talent we are recruiting and what the general market is.
- Some things are just out of our control. We just had someone leave to be closer to home (had a 1 hour commute).
- We do a poor job of working with HR to attract great talent. It seems as hospitals we just think everyone wants to work here, when in reality, the best people have choices.
- We have an isolated market that makes it difficult to recruit to.
- We are in a geographically undesirable area that is difficult to recruit to.
- Last 3 years we have had CEO and CFO turnover: 4 CEOs, 3 CFOs. We’ve also had turnover with many other CXOs. And we have difficulty recruiting top talent to this rural community.
- As part of our merger (‘as equals’), our senior HR person has moved her focus away from people management and became much more involved in hospital operations. As a bi-product, HR has lost the trust of the organization to ‘do the correct and appropriate HR actions,’ and numerous employees have made it clear by voting with their feet.
2. How does the level of turnover in the past 12 months compare to previous years?
It’s been higher in the past year
- We have a lot of new leadership and are changing at a rapid pace. We have lost good talent because we are poor at sharing that vision and communicating the reason for changes.
- Mainly for 2 reasons: 1) Consulting firms with higher salaries, and 2) The ex-CIO paying contract wages and allowing them to telecommute so they pay SF wages outside of that area. It’s all about $.
- Recently higher due to changes with a Managed Services provider; about the same for directly employed staff.
- EXTREME increase. There are great demands and needs for IT talent, and we are trying to manage an organization as if one size fits all. The thought that just because we have fewer patients we can reduce IT support — as we would nursing — is simply incorrect. It has prompted otherwise extremely talented staff to test the waters, and they often rapidly learn they are in high demand. HR must refocus itself.
- Historically I’ve had very stable staff. Lots of people are nearing retirement, and finding replacements has been a challenge.
It’s about the same
- Our retention rate has been consistently low over the past five years.
- Demands continue to increase, but we are managing.
It’s been lower in the past year
- Forty percent of the department left in 2012. We have had little turnover since re-staffing.
- We now have better leaders, which has reduced our turnover. Leadership is doing a better job of listening and we have better governance processes to deal with demand that is greater than the supply.
I’m not sure
3. In general, how would you characterize your team’s level of job satisfaction?
- The work is challenging and the pace is sometimes difficult to manage; however, the team remains committed. A recent merger with a larger health system is a new twist and could impact both employee engagement and our ability to retain talent.
- Healthcare IT Best Medium Sized IT Department ranked #3. #11 last year, #10 in ‘12 and #7 in ‘11.
- Since we started to recruit college students, the morale and motivation levels have gone up.
- We are in the best position we have been in for several years.
- Our organizational promise keeps the job satisfaction high. People know they are contributing to the health and medical care of our patients.
- I have a lot of long-time employees and they are used to the chaos. Those who come in new are on fire to help make positive changes, but those who have been here a while do not share same energy level.
- We have lots to do and limited resources. The demands grow every day but budgets shrink. This is my third health system and they have all been this way.
- My organization doesn’t recognize the value of informatics nurses though I’ve tried. Our CHRO even told me that my department nurses “have less value than floor nurses,” so we have no retention program. Hoping my IS nurses never find out their true worth. :-(
- Extremely stressful time in healthcare IT and healthcare in general.
- Long hours are the rule.
- Very much a factor of the individual personality.
- We fluctuate a little. The work load increases due to new people, and new managers in particular have an impact on overall satisfaction.
- It is really hard to gauge. We seem to have more of an entitlement attitude that makes it more difficult.
- Still very busy, but not so much that it is negatively effecting job satisfaction.
- Frustrated by industry changes, high level of expectations by the organization, and lack of respect for their efforts and willingness to right-size the team to support the increased expectations by the CEO.
- Too much work in the queue — too many demands, not enough staff.
- In two short years, went from well above to well below.
I’m not sure
4. What do you believe is the top motivator for IT staff members to test the job market?
Better pay/benefits package
- I think they move for more money, but if they see a higher level position, they may go there too. If life/work balance is an issue, they leave healthcare.
- However, positive work environment and team can trump pay/benefits alone.
- Especially if you are Epic certified and mobile.
- In addition, I think the lack of upward mobility plays a key role. When IT staff are working hard, the expectation of promotions increases. With limited senior level positions, it becomes a real challenge.
Burnout/poor work-life balance
- Pay is key, but not the number 1 driver. People have to feel appreciated by their leaders or they will leave — or worse yet, stay and be disengaged.
- I believe it’s equally an issue of burnout and lack of upward mobility. The downside of having little turnover, especially in the upper ranks of the IS organization, is a lack of career advancement opportunities.
- I think management support and positive interaction can have a major impact on burnout, positive or negative.
- Pay and benefits are important, but work-life balance seems to be the crucial point.
- Lack of upward mobility.
- Lack of engagement with leadership.
- Job instability.
- Job instability.
- Poor leadership.
- I think all of those are factors, but if you had said wanting growth in career opportunities (regardless of upward mobility), I may have picked that first.
- At the end of the day it’s a combination of all options. However, it starts with feeling underappreciated, having a lack of clarity of organizational direction, and emotional burnout.
- If the immediate supervisor is not a supportive leader, turnover is high. I have staff that say they can make more elsewhere, but choose to stay. Based on that, I don’t think better pay is the primary motivator.
5. What programs/initiatives, if any, have you implemented to try to hold on to top talent?
Opportunities for higher education/certifications
- Education is a double-edged sword. If we educate them they become more valuable outside, and it enables them to find positions elsewhere easier.
Flexible work schedules
- Where possible, we try to provide flexible schedules. We also try to monitor hours worked and offer unofficial “comp time.”
- I have tried to work outside of the HR norms and give people flexibility. I have also implemented recognition time in every department meeting.
- Individual and team recognition, tying work to our mission, and culture and change management work with the team.
- Find opportunities to promote from within whenever possible.
- Financial bonus retention programs.
- We have also added retention and recruitment bonuses for our hard-to-find positions.
- Allowing them to feel and be empowered and not micromanaged is an incredible thing. It leaves room for innovation and creativity (a lost art in IT). We encourage staff to have a voice so that IT is not just the background effort, but a well-oiled foreground engine. We encourage IT staff to work as a team to support one another and back each other up, allowing work-life balance to be in their control.
- Any effort works for a while, and then it is, ‘what have you done for me lately.’ It is hard to stay ahead and to make people look ahead to solutions when they are in the middle of fire fighting.
- Open door policy. As CIO, I maintained an open door policy for all outsourced and directly employed staff and actively helped prioritize and balance work to reduce stress to manageable level. This was not mentioned to pat my self on the back, only to recognize this management style as one “program” to help reduce staff frustration and turnover.
- Value and appreciate their contributions.
- Bonus program and career development opportunities.
- Redesign of roles to allow for staff to learn new skills.
- Bonus pay.
6. Do you have any suggestions for an initiative or program that has helped improve satisfaction in your organization?
- Too early in my tenure, but I have plans.
- Thank you cards mailed to their home.
- Better project management and support in their initiatives.
- Communication —7 times, 7 ways! That really helps.
- A lot of team building. Recognition goes a long way.
- Engage IT workers with clinicians and staff.
- Focus on governance and project prioritization.
- Staff just appreciates department stability these days.
- Go young. Work with the local colleges.
- Rounding to proactively mitigate workplace problems.
- Demand management.
- Career ladders.
- Our employee engagement program.
- Flex schedules and remote work.
- Team building activities related to mission.
- In the past — not now — it all started with communication.
- We have implemented career ladders.
- Our wellness program throughout the facility.
- Nothing that has been really sustained success.
- Working on building staff buy-in and engagement.