Just about all employers were struck by the pandemic. But hospital and health service systems may have gone through the most turmoil. As a result, they are continuing to reflect on and adapt to a post-pandemic environment.
Chief among hospital challenges is a massive surge in hiring amid the acute labor shortage of skilled employees, particularly nurses. To meet demand, hospitals increasingly rely on competitive and relevant benefits packages to attract and retain front-line medical employees. According to Aon’s 2022 Benefits Survey of Hospitals , the global professional services firm surveyed 1,200 hospital employers throughout the country between April and June 2022.
Although hospital HR pros face industry-specific obstacles, benefits managers in all industries can learn from their concerns and actions outlined in the Aon survey. Let’s take a closer look.
The Year of the Employee
Health system employers have had to pivot this year away from an emphasis on cost containment and systems operation to supporting their workforces, both during and outside work hours. Of the top 10 priorities hospital executives were asked to rank in the Aon survey, investment in the workforce, recruitment and retention, resilience, work/life balance, and health improvement ranked highest among respondents.
At the same time, concern about increasing healthcare system costs- a long-time hot-button issue — dropped five places to number 10 this year, taking a backseat to attracting and retaining skilled workers. Towards that end, healthcare HR leaders are seeking to reward employees with competitive benefits, including tuition reimbursement programs (94%), personal leave (74%), cash-out vacation policies (73%), and financial wellness/planning (72%).
Employers Shift Gears
This shift in priorities likely comes from the sheer demand for hiring throughout hospitals nationwide. The Aon survey reports that 83% of U.S. hospitals surveyed have accelerated hiring to meet the demand for clinical positions. (Fifteen percent report normal hiring, 1% cautious hiring, and 1% delayed hiring.)
Demand is high for non-clinical hiring as well. More than half of the hospitals surveyed reported accelerated hiring for those positions.
Hospitals see benefits as a powerful tool for handling the talent shortage. More than 90% of survey respondents ranked “competitive benefits to recruit and retain talent” as their number one concern, followed closely by concern about “burnout and workforce resiliency.” Burnout moved up seven spots from last year in the wake of the pandemic. To address the issue, the survey found that many hospitals are enhancing their Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and are considering virtual care options for mental health support.
In previous years, the number one priority on the survey has vacillated between employee benefits and hospital employers’ concerns about improving health outcomes. This year, however, concern over health outcomes dropped four places to fifth place. At the same time, member satisfaction with their health plan gained importance, rising three places to seventh place.
The Communication Gap
Aon’s survey points out the importance of offering holistic benefits as part of your total rewards strategy and the need to communicate that to employees effectively. But communication seems to be lacking, according to survey respondents. While 61% felt that their total rewards package is competitive, only 15% believe employees understand the value of their benefits. That may be why 89% of respondents ranked “employees understand value of benefits” as their third most important concern in 2022.
This communication gap is not uncommon, according to SoFi at Work’s 2022 The Future of Workplace Financial Well-Being study, which included 1,600 HR leaders and employees. In that survey, around half of workers — but just a third of HR leaders — said that their company rarely (or never) communicates with workers about their financial benefits and well-being.
SoFi’s survey also found that, on average, 38% of workers were not using their financial benefits. When asked why, quality and awareness emerged as key issues. Around one out of five workers reported that the quality of their financial benefits is poor (23%), they’re not sure how to get started (21%), and/or they weren’t aware of these benefits (19%). Benefits satisfaction also varied widely by income, with 81% of those earning $200,000-plus per year being very satisfied with their financial benefits versus just 32% of those making less than $60,000 per year.
A Greater Focus on Financial Well-Being
Financial stress and rising healthcare costs emerged as top sources of concern for health system employers in Aon’s survey. At the same time, hospitals are seeing a rise in bad debt from patients — including employees — who cannot pay their bills, according to Aon’s report.
This tracks with SoFi at Work’s recent findings. In the Financial Well-Being study, three out of four employees reported feeling stressed about their finances, and nearly 30% said they had difficulty covering essential bills, like their rent or mortgage. Employees also reported spending over nine hours per week at work dealing with issues related to their financial situation (which adds up to a full 12 weeks of work each year).
Clearly, financial stress takes a toll not only on employees, but also on employers in the form of reduced productivity. According to Aon’s survey results, hospital systems are working to mitigate the problem through lower employee contributions and cost share for health plans, emergency savings programs, short-term and long-term disability coverage, and student loan payment assistance.
But concerns remain: HR teams aren’t convinced that these programs are working as well as they could be. Only 38% of respondents in Aon’s survey ranked their current financial well-being benefits (e.g., financial planning and loan programs) as highly effective.
Recommended: 4 Ways HR Pros Can Better Support Financial Wellness
Hospitals are on the front lines when it comes to recruiting and retaining talented employees in the midst of a labor shortage. Their priorities, concerns, and tactics for dealing with a post-pandemic environment can provide insights for all HR Pros. Emotional and financial well-being are taking a front seat in benefits considerations among hospitals nationwide.
SoFi at Work offers the benefit platforms and education that can help boost financial health in your workforce. Our emergency savings, student loan payment assistance, and financial planning programs can help reduce financial and emotional stress and lead to happier, more engaged, and more productive employees.
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