One of the most important elements of a company’s success is also one of the least tangible —culture.
Does the environment at your organization help employees thrive and grow, or does it drive dysfunction and put your organization at risk?
“The right culture can help an individual grow and become the best version of themselves,” says Ngo. “But the wrong fit can lead to high turnover and prove highly disruptive to an organization, including the potential of financial costs.”
Setting the right tone can be challenging, particularly as the pandemic has upended the workplace. We spoke to Ngo about why culture is so important and what organizations can do to foster a positive environment for their workforce, even in challenging times.
What are some key strategies that healthcare facilities can use to create a healthy workplace culture for staff?
“An organization’s culture should foster collaboration and trust and help align everyone to the same mission of improving patient care,” says Ngo. “Promoting a shared goal of delivering an excellent patient experience can be highly impactful."
Culture begins from the top down and is driven by strong leadership with an emphasis on work life balance. “It’s important that staff members are taking time to unplug and connect with family and loved ones outside of work,” says Ngo.
Leadership must also create a solid support structure for staff members. They must consistently provide access to the resources their employees need to get their jobs done and to overcome any obstacles that may arise. A key approach to supporting their staff members is having a strategic workforce solution in place and working with a trusted partner.
“If you’re not having regular transparent communication with your employees, then it’s hard to have your finger on the pulse of how people are doing,” says Ngo. “Conversations must be regular and candid, and leadership should be visible and available.” While meetings conducted by using remote technology are effective, there’s no substitute for face-to-face interactions where this is possible, he says.
How can you determine that a nurse or staff member is a good culture fit?
“It is imperative to make sure that nurse and staff member values are aligned with your facility’s mission and vision. A multistep interview process, which incorporates both peer and leadership representation, is a powerful tool in assessing candidate fit with the culture and dynamics of the facility and patient care unit,” says Ngo.
The peer interview process helps to foster a culture of engagement and ownership. This empowers team members by providing a voice and ensuring alignment with leadership.
How does culture fit positively affect medical facilities financially?
“A healthy culture is a key driver of employee engagement. Leadership must be intentional when focusing on building an inspiring culture. Failure to do so may often lead to high employee turnover,” says Ngo. Turnover is costly, so making investments to improve the work environment truly does pay off. “We have very low turnover among our clinician travelers at Medical Solutions,” says Ngo. This is largely attributed to the open lines of communication our company has established with those staff members. Proactively checking in with them on a regular basis ensures that the job is a good fit and helps address potential problems early.
Certainly, maintaining a cohesive organizational culture has gotten more challenging due to the pandemic.
“We’ve been making changes and adapting to the new environment,” says Ngo. “We’re still transitioning as we figure out the optimal approach and what will be most effective in terms of collaboration and teamwork.”
The pandemic has changed the way many organizations do business. But, whatever changes they make, organizations should aim to stay true to their own core values.
“Medical Solutions has done really well in handling the pandemic and bringing solutions to our health system clients,” says Ngo. Keeping close tabs on performance metrics helps to chart a clear course.
“We focus on our completion rate which, at 95%, has consistently remained above the industry average, and on maintaining our high fill rate. We also track the time it takes to fill positions and time to start, in addition to conducting quarterly business reviews with our partners. These are examples of the consultative strategic value we provide to our customers,” says Ngo.
A culture of open communication also helps to foster strong client relationships, he says.
“Medical Solutions is really focused on taking a consultative approach with our clients,” says Ngo. “Our goal is to be a strategic, integrated partner to the health systems.”
In the end, a strong culture is about relationships and building close ties with your employees through effective leadership, empowerment and communication. Employees need to have a clear vision of what they’re working towards and know that their efforts to achieve those goals are valued and appreciated. Because workplace environment plays an outsized role in any organization’s success, putting time and resources into developing a healthy culture is always a worthwhile investment.
The pandemic brought unprecedented workforce challenges for health systems around the country.
“Whatever staffing models organizations had prior to the pandemic went out the window,” says Ngo. Open positions for nurses and allied professionals that were normally filled in 30 to 45 days needed to be filled within seven days to accommodate the surge in patients and staffing shortages. These pressures exposed weaknesses in some staffing models, and the strengths of others. Ngo discusses which strategies paid off during the pandemic as well as staffing practices that, likely, will continue to pay dividends in the future.
How have recruitment strategies been impacted due to the pandemic?
Patient surges were seen throughout the pandemic in various hospital units across the country.
We needed to respond accordingly by quickly sourcing, credentialing and onboarding clinicians while making sure to follow hospital-specific protocols and other certification, licensure, and training needs for the job. Technology played a key role in streamlining operations to create a frictionless, automated process for both our health system clients and traveling-clinicians. Our sophisticated AI-driven lead management process helps us match interested candidates to the right job. Technology helped us optimize our interactions with prospective candidates, automate an otherwise manual process, and secure better matches in less time. To ensure our clients get the best travelers, our internal quality team, staffed with seasoned clinicians, vets candidates by conducting behavioral interviews and culture fit assessments. Our goal is to match the right job to the right candidate, at the right place, time and price.
How have retention strategies changed because of COVID-19?
We have an industry-leading retention rate that continues to increase because of our deep relationships with our travelers. Our career consultants engage with our travelers on an ongoing basis by phone, email and texts. Open communication allows us to quickly identify potential issues that might arise during their assignment.
When recruiting, organizations should focus on culture, technical skills and experience, and credentialing. We spend a lot of time on culture fit to make sure that the job is a great experience for everyone.
Because of our longstanding relationships with many of our clients, we have an insider’s perspective and understanding of the culture at individual organizations. We convey these insights to potential candidates to make sure they have the right expectations. It also allows us to verify that each candidate is compatible with the organization and its staff. We also understand the importance of location. If you don’t like the location, you’ll likely be unhappy, even if the job is a great fit professionally.
The nursing landscape was tricky even before COVID-19 hit; what strategies would bring nurse staffing to healthy levels?
In addition to workforce solutions on the traveler side, there are other components to consider, including the permanent staff, float pool, per diem, and contingent workers. Without a complete view and understanding of all of these components, it’s difficult to accurately forecast staffing needs. Our predictive staffing model can forecast staffing needs 90-days out and more—which allows us to get a head start on difficult-to-place jobs.
Completion rate is also critically important because if a traveler doesn’t complete his or her assignment due to a poor fit, it can be highly disruptive to the organization. We lead the industry when it comes to our completion rates for our travelers’ assignments.
What staffing models can help with cost management and budgeting as health systems begin to rebound from 2020’s unprecedented financial challenges?
Health systems need a staffing model that is proactive and flexible and one that can understand and address the individual needs of each health system as it evolves. They also need technology solutions and services to help them get ahead of the curve, especially when it comes to labor spending, which is the highest cost category for a health system’s operating budget. Organizations benefit from knowing how labor costs are distributed across each facility in their system and having the ability to drill down to a particular region, hospital, and even the individual unit. This requires an understanding of historical trends and the ability to predict future staffing shortages, which is why a strategic workforce solutions partner can provide immense value. With enterprise visibility to labor spend across different modalities, our clients can be more strategic in how they plan for their staffing challenges as the severe supply-demand imbalance continues for the foreseeable future.
However, while technology can optimize processes, streamline operations, and point you in the right direction when it comes to staffing, organizations should keep the human element front and center. Having a comprehensive understanding of the organization’s culture and candidate preferences can help to ensure the right match. Ultimately, a successful staffing model achieves this balance by augmenting the human experience with technology-enabled services offering actionable insights to meet the needs of the organization and help them navigate these challenging times.