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Healthcare Trends Brought on by the Pandemic: Which Had the Greatest Impact?

As COVID cases continue to decline throughout the country, industries and businesses are assessing which practices formulated during the pandemic will continue into the future. This rings especially true for HR and talent acquisition departments and even more so for those in health care, an industry that witnessed the most turbulent year ever. As we are finally seeing the light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel, HR and talent acquisition teams are reassessing their needs and evaluating exactly which pandemic trends proved the most beneficial. So, which of these trends are potentially destined to remain in place, even as we enter the post-pandemic world? 

The Rise of HR

First, it is important to understand how the role of HR evolved during the pandemic within the healthcare industry and beyond. In a survey Accurate Background conducted in January, HR professionals were asked how closely the objectives of their HR department aligned with those of their overall organization. A majority of participants—88%—said completely. As we witnessed, the pandemic propelled HR to the forefront of most organizations, changing the department’s previous influence and shining a light on the importance of HR’s involvement in planning and measuring success. HR leaders now have a rightful seat at the table, with accountability expanding beyond payroll and hiring to revenue and strategy objectives. Along with this greater inclusion and reliance on HR teams, there are two primary post-pandemic trends anticipated to continue and evolve within health care:

The Shift in Healthcare Staffing

With the onset of the pandemic came an evolution in healthcare hiring practices, as HR staffing teams had to quickly modify their traditional practices to accommodate virtual talent management. This newer approach to healthcare staffing included changes in both talent sourcing and filling talent gaps:

  • Sourcing: The protocol for sourcing healthcare staff changed dramatically during the pandemic. Temporary federal and state regulatory changes during COVID enabled some clinicians to practice across state lines, which may, in part, have contributed to 61% of organizations sourcing talent outside of their home state. Significant contraction in the labor force in other industries like retail and hospitality provided another source of talent for healthcare organizations, with the majority hiring staff from non-healthcare industries. Each of these adaptations allowed businesses to hire for roles that may have otherwise remained unfilled.
  • Addressing talent gaps: Skill shortages also became an issue during the pandemic, with 66% of healthcare organizations stating that maintaining adequate staffing was the key concern. Many HR departments looked within their own organizations to help address the talent gaps, identifying new ways of capitalizing on internal talent. Many teams put a focus on both cross-training and interdepartmental transitions, as well as the retention of internal staff, with delayed retirement incentives and location swaps.

The Evolution of Technology for Recruitment and Hiring

With stay-at-home orders implemented globally in March 2020, HR teams had to swiftly evolve their recruitment and hiring processes to ensure health and safety via social distancing while simultaneously sourcing and identifying top talent to join their organization. Fortunately, advancements in technology and automation allowed teams to do just that. Technology was instrumental in expediting the hiring process throughout the pandemic and included virtual job fairs, online application submissions, electronic candidate information and documentation collection, automated prescreening of applications, video interviews, and remote onboarding. With the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimating significant job growth across the healthcare continuum, including 3.5 million vacancies for nursing jobs in the next 6 years, these technological advancements remain critical in streamlining the hiring processes and finding top candidates for open positions, and undoubtedly, the need for even greater technological advancements will continue to flourish.

Needless to say, the pandemic forced almost every industry to make substantial shifts in how it operates, and this was especially apparent within health care. Fortunately, several of those changes resulted in benefiting the industry and its HR teams, including new avenues to fill staffing needs, and technology advancements to assist in identifying and keeping top talent. Most importantly, the pandemic revealed how instrumental the HR and talent acquisition teams are within an organization. As seen in a Deloitte study, the continuing evolution of the HR function is centered on expansion in two distinct dimensions: scope of influence and areas of focus. HR has moved beyond its traditional pre-pandemic duties to now being a central influence in how companies reimagine strategy, build on adaptability, and ultimately impact the value and success of an organization.

Karen Moore is Director of Healthcare at Accurate Background.