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Developing New Approaches for a Changing Work Force

Tillie Hidalgo Lima, for HealthLeaders Media, September 3, 2008

The American work force is changing dramatically, growing more diverse, older and less populous. This work force of today is comprised of four very distinct generations:

  • Generation Y (born 1978-89)
  • Generation X (born 1965-77)
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-64)
  • Silents (born before 1946)

Many of the silents and baby boomers are on the verge of retirement or will retire within the next five years. As these two generations depart the work force, the overall number of workers will shrink because of the relative size of older generations versus the younger group.

In 2006, two workers left the work force for every one entering it, according to a report by Ajilon Finance, a staffing firm headquartered in Saddle Brook, NJ. This trend will continue into the foreseeable future, putting pressure on employers to become creative and aggressive in their recruitment and retention tactics.

Many employers recognize this coming shortage and are taking steps to create programs that attract potential candidates. In some cases, the efforts that attract new employees can also serve to retain existing workers.

But because of the differences among the four generations in their lifestyles, work styles, and psychographics, devising the right program can be a challenge.

For example, younger workers tend to use e-mail, text messages, and instant messages to communicate with colleagues and customers, whereas many boomers favor face-to-face or telephonic interface. Also, members of the younger generations thrive in a fast-paced world of multitasking, while boomers appreciate a slightly more leisurely workplace tempo.

Staff reductions in the past two decades have burdened the remaining workers, who are under great pressure to produce more and, in some cases, to work longer hours.

Time starved
While there are many distinctions among the four generations, one commonality is that all workers would love to have more time—for themselves, for family, for friends, or to just relax.

According to the American Psychological Association, more than half of all working adults and 47% of all Americans say they are concerned with the amount of stress in their lives. A 2004 Harris Interactive Study reports that one in three U.S. workers feel chronically overworked.

One way of reducing this stress is to help employees achieve a better balance between their work and their personal lives. An innovative method of supporting this mission is to provide concierge services to employees. These services are very similar to what hotels have provided to their guests for years.

Concierges offload simple and time consuming-chores so that workers can use their free time to relax or enjoy friends and family. The most popular of these services are:

  • Personal shopping: picking out gifts for family and friends or picking up groceries or household supplies
  • Automobile services: gassing up the car or taking it in for repair
  • Mail/shipping/postage services: going to the post office to mail packages or buy stamps
  • Information research: finding information on topics such as child or elder care options or researching a product
  • Dry cleaning/laundry services: taking and picking up dry cleaning or laundry

And these offerings are just the beginning of what your organization can offer. For example, many workers take advantage of travel planning services. A concierge can help arrange flight reservations, book a rental car, and find hotel accommodations. Many times the concierges find special deals, saving the employees not only time but also real dollars.

Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, MI, offers its employees such services. "In the competitive healthcare job market, we wanted to provide a premier benefit to our current and future employees that was not available at other organizations," says president and CEO Frank Sardone. "It was our goal to make employees' lives less stressful and complicated."

Real impact, real results
These services provide value to both the organization and its employees. Some of the benefits:

  • It reduces employee turnover: Turnover decreases have been reported ranging from single digits to more than 50% in the case of Bronson.
  • It increases profits: Hospitals can save money on recruiting costs. Bronson, for example, documented a $250,000 annual savings in recruiting costs.
  • It improves productivity: Survey results show that employees saved an average of two hours for each fulfilled concierge service request. Half of those surveyed said they put that time back into their work.
  • It reduces stress: More than 90% of employees surveyed said the service lessens their stress and adds balance to their work and personal lives.

Positive return on investment (ROI)
The annual investment in concierge services can range from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the size of the facility, utilization goals (percentage of employees using the service), and number of concierges, among other factors. However, clients report a positive ROI for their efforts. Bronson's goal was to reduce turn-over to 0.2%. They surpassed that goal by more than 276%.

Making it happen
There are several models and approaches for concierge services. A facility could staff the concierge from within, hiring concierge staffers as employees of the organization. Additionally, a hospital that wants to start with a trial could add the concierge function to the duties of an existing position (not already fully employed) and provide only one or two of the most popular services to get started, such as dry cleaning/laundry and automobile services.

Hospitals can also choose to outsource this function, hiring a vendor that already has established processes and systems for tracking, such as collecting transaction payments (such as for dry cleaning or car repair). A vendor would also have the appropriate insurance and bonding for driving employees' cars and entering their homes. They are also experts at marketing these services within the hospital for maximum utilization and therefore effect for the employees.

Change or lose out
The impending work force changes will require innovation and boldness, especially to attract and keep the best workers of tomorrow. A concierge service, aimed squarely at employees' level of satisfaction with their employers is one way to do this.

Crittenton Hospital Medical Center in Rochester, MI, also offers concierge services. "Getting help in life, being taken care of, are as important to my well being as being able to pay my bills," one employee there said.


Tillie Hidalgo Lima is president and CEO of Best Upon Request, a concierge service provider in Cincinnati, OH. She can be reached at 513-605-7800 or thl@bestuponrequest.com.thl@bestuponrequest.com.
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