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Top 8 HR Challenges for the Health Care Industry

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    The health care industry faces many HR challenges, from high burnout and turnover to increasingly complex compliance requirements. But with a willingness to adapt, a renewed focus on the employee experience and the right HR software, health care entities can navigate the evolving landscape they face. Read what the industry’s specific challenges are and how health care employers can overcome them.

    Health care providers trust employees to save lives and care for patients. Shouldn’t they be trusted with their own data, too?

    After all, the industry’s employees juggle some of the most daunting responsibilities imaginable. And health care’s HR challenges — like a wave of turnover — stretches already-sparse staff even thinner. The last thing nurses, physicians and others in the field need is disjointed human resource systems that:

    • are slow and hard to use
    • require multiple passwords and logins
    • are vulnerable to cybersecurity threats
    • aren’t available anytime, anywhere

    To understand how the right HR technology benefits health care employees, we first need to identify the industry’s obstacles. From there, we’ll pinpoint how HR tech simplifies their work and makes it easier for them to focus on providing a vital service.

    Why is HR important in health care?

    HR is important in health care because it prioritizes the needs of employees who help patients. By forming and implementing strategies to enhance the lives of health care workers, effective HR helps:

    • ensure adequate staffing levels
    • protect employees from unnecessary stress and burnout
    • boost compliance and reduce liability for health care facilities
    • engage staff and overcome the industry’s exceptionally high turnover

    In health care, it can be difficult — and sometimes impossible — to introduce broader time-off policies and flexible working environments. This means many HR professionals in the industry must find alternative innovative and unconventional approaches to enhancing their workforces’ experience.

    What are the biggest HR challenges in health care?

    Events like the COVID-19 pandemic made health care workers’ preexisting struggle with stress and burnout worse. With no signs of either issue subsiding, recruitment and retention are even more important for HR professionals.

    1. Staffing shortages

    Personnel challenges in health care are synonymous with shortages, especially of nurses. But they’re not the only health care professionals with dwindling numbers. The American Hospital Association (AHA) predicts a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians by 2033. The AHA also finds certain rural and urban communities are experiencing shortages.

    But the need for qualified professionals keeps growing. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, health care occupations are expected to expand 13% between 2021 and 2031, generating about 2 million new positions over the decade — more than any other industry.

    Recruiters face a tall order made even more difficult by low retention. In a Morning Consult survey, nearly 1 in 5 health care workers (18%) said they have quit their jobs since February 2020 due to:

    • low pay
    • stress
    • burnout
    • career growth

    It may be hard for every health care business to address all of these issues. None of them, however, should lose talent due to frustrating HR tech.

    2. Outdated hiring processes

    Some challenges lie more with outdated processes. Hiring and onboarding is far slower than it needs to be for many health care organizations. According to AKASA , an AI developer for health care operations, here’s how long it takes to hire a new health care professional based on their experience:

    Experience Cost Time
    Entry-level (0-5 years) $2,167 84 days
    Mid-level (6-10 years) $3,581 153 days
    Senior-level (10+ years) $5,699 207 days

    Imagine how much more efficient a workplace could be if it reduced that time and cost by half or more.

    3. Dispersed workforce

    The health care industry also struggles with accurately and efficiently tracking labor allocations per shift for employees who work in multiple locations (similar to a restaurant or retailer).

    And given the rising trend of travel nurses outlined by NBC News — a group that doubled in 2020 — accessibility to data anytime, anywhere is crucial for health care professionals.

    Communication is also key to a scattered workforce. HR needs to ensure any policy change, announcement or request for feedback can get to employees no matter where they are.

    4. Inefficient preparation

    A health care employee qualified to provide needed (or required) training is subject to the same physical limits as anyone. In other words, they can’t be everywhere at once. This poses a problem for health care businesses across multiple locations.

    5. Cybersecurity threats

    Health care workers have enough on their plate. The last thing they need is for their personal data and pay to be in jeopardy. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the staff of several health care providers endured. According to the AHA, a ransomware attack delayed payroll and threatened to seriously disrupt hospital operations.

    The industry needs HR tech that’s accessible and secure. Any HR software that hasn’t been vetted, certified and proven may not have the protection a health care employee needs.

    6. Employee management

    For health care operations to succeed, employees require focus, engagement and a clear understanding of their roles. At the same time, new hires need to quickly learn how they contribute to their employer’s overarching goals.

    But in a fast-moving industry that potentially leans on outdated processes, it can be difficult to harmonize recent employees and even more established staff. Plus, health care managers can be just as involved with day-to-day tasks and patient interactions as their reports. If paper-based or otherwise hard-to-use methods to manage administrative tasks keep them at their desks, these leaders may:

    • spend less time meaningfully mentoring and developing their teams
    • work longer, more stressful hours just to address basic tasks
    • miss important, time-sensitive requests for time off, schedule changes and more

    7. Employee burnout

    People don’t enter health care because it’s easy. Unfortunately, high impact often comes paired with extremely stressful situations. Over time and without proper attention to employees’ needs, employers in the industry can expect rampant burnout, disengagement and, ultimately, turnover.

    In fact, 46% of health care workers report feelings of burnout and 44% suggest they intend to look for a new job, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Without direct ways to address their staff’s stress, health care employers could find it hard to keep, develop and advance exceptional contributors.

    8. Compliance and regulation management

    If keeping employees wasn’t difficult enough, health care organizations must also maintain some of the most intensive compliance requirements. Certain laws and regulations require employers to:

    • provide up-to-date and accurate records
    • prove the quality of care their facilities give
    • protect patients’ and employees’ safety and privacy
    • maintain their staff’s professional certifications and continuing medical education
    • and more

    Failure to comply with any law that covers a health care employer could result in fines, penalties and even a temporary or permanent restriction of business operations.

    How to overcome HR challenges in health care

    Health care entities may face high hurdles, but that doesn’t mean these businesses can’t address them. The right strategy and willingness to adapt can offer a way to overcome the industry’s largest HR challenges. Here’s how.

    Offer competitive compensation packages

    At first glance, this suggestion may seem as simple as paying health care employees more. While that may be worth investing in, if possible, remember compensation is bigger than a worker’s salary. Consider more unconventional benefits like family-forming programs, pet insurance and more to build a holistic strategy around employees’ needs.

    Streamline scheduling and time-off management

    While health care workers may be limited in how they can adjust their schedules and take time off, the process should still be fluid and easy to manage when they have this option. Unfortunately, scheduling and time-off approvals can easily come down to the wire. In turn, this leaves employees with little opportunity to adequately plan their lives.

    Look for HR software that simplifies scheduling and automates time-off decision-making, so managers and employees alike spend less time with difficult and tedious processes. At the same time, such tech gives contributors a much-needed chance to care for themselves and avoid unnecessary stress.

    Provide adequate employee and manager resources

    When employees are in the thick of caring for patients in need, the last thing they want is a lack of support. Any resource — whether it’s their handbook, benefits info, scheduling policies or more — should be readily available whenever employees need to access it.

    The same is true for managers. They shouldn’t have to return to their desks just to find important materials, complete required training or address any number of administrative tasks. Empower health care workers with tech that meets them at their level and scales with evolving needs.

    Improve employee engagement

    Most who enter health care likely know it’s not a lax or stress-free line of work. Even so, the challenging nature of what they do shouldn’t prevent them from a great employee experience. Health care entities should always consider tools and software that makes it easy for employees to:

    • manage their own HR and payroll data
    • complete required training
    • view and swap schedules
    • ask questions

    While this will help simplify daily routines, consider also empowering workers with development tracks, mentoring programs and other initiatives that speak to their long-term growth. After all, making a commitment to investing in their advancement can help encourage health care employees to invest back into their organizations.

    Use industry-appropriate HCM software

    While you look for HR tech to help address your employees’ needs, consider options that are already recommended by the industry at large. Authorities like the AHA often make recommendations for these kinds of partners. Read into the justification behind these choices and ensure any tech you find prioritizes security, ease of use and any emerging needs of the health care industry.

    What should health care leaders look for in an HR software?

    The right tech should help address all of health care’s HR challenges. Anything short of this is a missed opportunity. Keep these key areas in mind as you consider an HR software provider for health care workers.

    Talent acquisition

    Growth and retention are huge for health care companies across the country. The right tools help ensure strategies for recruitment, engagement and development are seamless, efficient and secure. Doing so helps new health care staff focus on providing and improving their quality of care.


    Saving and improving lives is necessary and rewarding work, but it’s not without its challenges. As such, health care professionals deserve HR software that doesn’t bog them down. The right tech should allow them to communicate with HR and access data anytime.


    What if the staff responsible for training could record content that covers all the bases and distribute it to everyone at once? With the right learning management experience, you can make development:

    • engaging with easy-to-make video content
    • trackable through clear development paths and certifications
    • valuable, especially when it comes to compliance-related topics

    Compliance and security

    Hospitals’ work is unique, and their tools need to be as agile as their employees.

    Health care leaders should prioritize tech that efficiently tracks mandatory or recommended employee vaccines, like the COVID-19 and annual influenza vaccinations, as part of their employees’ HR record. Additionally, the recorded data needs to flow seamless through one software.

    HR challenges in health care: FAQ

    What is the role of human resources in health care?

    In health care, HR helps ensure employees have access to the tools and resources they need. This helps workers focus less on menial tasks and more on caring for patients. HR is also responsible for helping their facilities stay in compliance while addressing their people’s unique needs.

    Do health care providers need HR?

    Yes. Without it, entities could struggle to adequately schedule employees, mitigate burnout and maintain complex compliance requirements.

    What role does tech play in solving health care’s HR challenges?

    HR tech can help health care entities manage their compliance needs, empower employees with accessible resources and create avenues to engage staff. This is vital for an industry that experiences high levels of stress, burnout and turnover.

    What are some future HR trends in health care?

    Similar to other industries, HR in health care will likely continue to focus on employee training, engagement and retention. Doing so will require a holistic approach to HR management that prioritizes the employee experience, juggling workers’ needs without compromising the quality of care these organizations provide.

    Explore Paycom to learn how its single software makes work easier for the health care industry.

    DISCLAIMER: The information provided herein does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, tax, accounting or other professional advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation and for your particular state(s) of operation.