4 health systems retaining talent with perks beyond pay

As hospitals and health systems continue to grapple with staffing shortages, employers are using perks beyond pay to recruit and retain talent. 

Incentives beyond the norm are attractive to employees: They prove the employer values them personally, beyond their work performance. 

These four health systems offer perks beyond pay, like extra paid time off, well-being coaches, adoption assistance and local discounts. 

Food, entertainment and staycations

Nashville, Tenn.-based Vanderbilt Health said it will launch a new employee awards program in September that offers workers perks, discounts and a grand prize “staycation.”

The month-long Work Perks program will feature a website where employees can play games to earn perks in music and entertainment, health and wellness, dining and Nashville-area attractions, according to an Aug. 29 news release shared with Becker’s.  

Workers will also be able to enter a drawing for a staycation. Five employees will win grand prizes including a one-night stay at a downtown hotel, passes to Nashville attractions, dinner at a local restaurant and a gift basket with items from Nashville businesses, including a winery and chocolate company, Vanderbilt Health said.

“We’re excited to show appreciation for our dedicated workforce in this way, and we’re grateful to so many generous partners to help make it happen,” Amy Schoeny, PhD, chief human resources officer, said in a release. “This is just one of the many benefits and perks that we offer to those who choose to pursue careers in making healthcare personal for our patients today and in the future.”

Work Perks will launch Sept. 5.

“We Hours” program

Marlton, N.J.-based Virtua Health told Becker’s it has instituted a “We Hours” program “to give employees more time to do the things that are important to them — from self-care to community service.”

The program offers eight additional hours of scheduled, paid time off per year for most of Virtua’s 13,000 employees. 

“The ultimate goal is to encourage mindfulness and a healthy work-life balance,” Rhonda Jordan, Virtua’s executive vice president and chief human resources officer, told Becker’s. “We Hours are intended for colleagues to pursue something rewarding or fulfilling, such as volunteering, recognizing a religious or cultural event, or ‘recharging their battery’ with extra time away.”

Ms. Jordan said Virtua workers may also use the program for practical matters, such as a physician’s visit or attending to household repairs.

The program name stems from Virtua’s “Culture of We,” a set of guiding principles that include continuous learning and innovation, open communication and inclusive teamwork, among others. 

A colleague committee developed the tenets in 2019, and employees are encouraged to share how they spend their We Hours in a private Facebook group, according to Ms. Jordan. She cited examples including photos from a visit to a botanical garden, a description of volunteer work helping nonprofit organizations, and a photo of the day one worker spent with her son, who’d been away serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.

“One of my favorite outcomes of the We Hours is that they invite us to learn more about our colleagues and the people, causes and activities that are most important to them,” Ms. Jordan adds.

Walking trails and well-being coaching 

Charlotte, N.C.-based Atrium Health encourages all-around health through their LiveWell programs. 

“[LiveWell] exists to support teammates in working meaningfully, eating healthfully, learning continuously and living fully … living their best lives so that we can deliver on the mission of Atrium Health,” Scott Laws, vice president of enterprise total rewards at Atrium Health, told Becker’s. 

Physical health is encouraged through perks like discounted gym enrollment, tobacco cessation programs and on-site walking trails at Atrium Health facilities. Financial assistance is provided through free webinars and individual medication management consultations. One-on-one well-being coaches encourage employees to consider personal health.

Those that take advantage of the LiveWell resources are rewarded. 

“By completing certain physical, personal and financial well-being goals — which include participation in wellness exams and programs or financial education — teammates are eligible for financial incentives, paid into their HSAs,” Mr. Laws said. 

Adoption assistance

Springfield, Ill.-based Hospital Sisters Health System offers adoption assistance as part of its benefits package.

“HSHS provides financial support up to $7,500 per child for eligible adoption expenses to qualified colleagues,” Catie Sheehan, vice president of advocacy and communications at Hospital Sisters, told Becker’s

Alicia Corman, an occupational therapist in the health system, was first to receive the benefit. After the adoption decree was signed, the human resources department helped her submit a breakdown of what the financial support would cover, Ms. Corman said in a video shared with Becker’s. The funds she received aided Ms. Corman and her husband in adopting their son. 

“I’m very grateful because if you look across the U.S., adoption is not very supported in a workplace,” Ms. Corman said.

What does ‘quiet quitting’ look like at hospitals?

The trend of “quiet quitting” has recently gained traction on social media, referring to a phenomenon in which workers to reduce their enthusiasm at work and stick to the minimum expectations of their role. Some professionals, including Generation Z workers, have embraced the concept as an increased form of work-life balance, and others see it as a lesser-version of actually quitting. Regardless of how an individual interprets the idea, the concept is not new among the U.S. workforce or in healthcare, according to Jeremy Sadlier, executive director of the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration.

“Before the term quiet quitting was in vogue, we were talking about employees who would ‘quit and stay,'” said Mr. Sadlier, who previously served as a market director of human resources and provided operational support at Advocate Aurora Health, an organization with dual headquarters in Downers Grove, Ill., and Milwaukee. “In essence, it’s the same concept with a nearly identical motivation. No matter the term used, many disengaged employees will stick around long after they’re finding motivation and stimulation in their work.”

In healthcare, this phenomenon has only grown. An April Gallup poll found that 34 percent of U.S. employees were actively engaged at work in 2021, compared to only 32 percent this year. Healthcare professionals saw the largest dip in engagement, with their engagement scores dropping nine points year over year.

Mr. Sadlier noted that this trend can have significant effects in the industry.

“Any lack of engagement on the part of staff ultimately impacts patient care, teamwork, safety and throughput, all of which impact the financial health of an organization and the patient experience. It’s incredibly important for leaders to focus on engagement, growth opportunities, and to recognize and reward hard work. These are a few ways to focus on your employees to help them feel engaged with their work,” he said.

Still, quiet quitting doesn’t look significantly different in healthcare than it does in other industries, according to Mr. Sadlier. “Colleagues in other industries like hospitality and retail, for example, all talk about a lack of willingness among workers to pick up extra shifts, or work beyond the bare minimum requirements. That’s a sign of growing disengagement and may be quiet quitting,” he said. It is greatly concerning that, while the motivation may not be largely different than in other industries, the effects of quiet quitting in healthcare have a direct connection to patient care, quality and safety, according to Mr. Sadlier.

He also said lower patient experience scores may indicate that a hospital is experiencing decreased employee engagement, which can spread among all its staff.

“There’s an absolute hierarchy [in healthcare], and it doesn’t require somebody to work in healthcare to recognize that when physician engagement falters, that impacts nurses, and when nurses don’t feel engaged, that impacts the rest of the staff, whether it’s ancillary staff, support services,” he said. “There’s a trickledown effect to a lack of engagement at any part of the organization. Inevitably that impacts every position and is ultimately felt by those we serve.”

Additionally, he pointed to financial struggles at U.S. hospitals as a contributing factor for workloads increasing. On Aug. 29, Kaufman Hall released a new report that showed hospitals are experiencing some of the worst margins since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This means some organizations have had to implement layoffs and other cost-cutting measures.

“Cost-cutting measures are becoming harder to accomplish without having a direct effect on the care patients receive. When [full-time equivalents] are affected, in many cases the responsibilities are shifted to other members of the team. The additional responsibilities can lead to frustration and burnout and negatively impact employee engagement. These factors are what then lead to quiet quitting,” Mr. Sadlier said.

To avoid quiet quitting or disengagement, he recommends that hospitals provide open and honest communication, set and maintain realistic work expectations, closely monitor employee engagement, recognize and reward high performance through options that extend beyond pay, and provide opportunities for career growth.

At the same time, he acknowledged there’s no absolute formula to identify disengagement at the individual level.

“The more you round, the more that you spend time with your staff, the more likely you are to recognize changes in demeanor and perspective,” Mr. Sadlier said. “The sooner you recognize it, the sooner you’re able to have an influence on it. So that’s where the regular engagement for leaders and supervisors has the biggest benefit — recognizing [disengagement] early and trying to find a way to reenergize and reengage staff.”

During an interview with Fortune, Katarina Berg, Spotify’s chief human resources officer, said her company is working to avoid quiet quitting by encouraging a culture of trust where workers feel psychologically safe.

Her advice for leaders is to talk about “the part of quiet quitting that has to do with people not [being] trusted, and they also don’t trust their management team. Therefore, they don’t find any other resolution other than doing this type of very silent activism. So, I think with culture you always have to be proactive … and you have to be very deliberate and intentional.”

What does ‘quiet quitting’ look like at hospitals?

The trend of “quiet quitting” has recently gained traction on social media, referring to a phenomenon in which workers to reduce their enthusiasm at work and stick to the minimum expectations of their role. Some professionals, including Generation Z workers, have embraced the concept as an increased form of work-life balance, and others see it as a lesser-version of actually quitting. Regardless of how an individual interprets the idea, the concept is not new among the U.S. workforce or in healthcare, according to Jeremy Sadlier, executive director of the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration.

“Before the term quiet quitting was in vogue, we were talking about employees who would ‘quit and stay,'” said Mr. Sadlier, who previously served as a market director of human resources and provided operational support at Advocate Aurora Health, an organization with dual headquarters in Downers Grove, Ill., and Milwaukee. “In essence, it’s the same concept with a nearly identical motivation. No matter the term used, many disengaged employees will stick around long after they’re finding motivation and stimulation in their work.”

In healthcare, this phenomenon has only grown. An April Gallup poll found that 34 percent of U.S. employees were actively engaged at work in 2021, compared to only 32 percent this year. Healthcare professionals saw the largest dip in engagement, with their engagement scores dropping nine points year over year.

Mr. Sadlier noted that this trend can have significant effects in the industry.

“Any lack of engagement on the part of staff ultimately impacts patient care, teamwork, safety and throughput, all of which impact the financial health of an organization and the patient experience. It’s incredibly important for leaders to focus on engagement, growth opportunities, and to recognize and reward hard work. These are a few ways to focus on your employees to help them feel engaged with their work,” he said.

Still, quiet quitting doesn’t look significantly different in healthcare than it does in other industries, according to Mr. Sadlier. “Colleagues in other industries like hospitality and retail, for example, all talk about a lack of willingness among workers to pick up extra shifts, or work beyond the bare minimum requirements. That’s a sign of growing disengagement and may be quiet quitting,” he said. It is greatly concerning that, while the motivation may not be largely different than in other industries, the effects of quiet quitting in healthcare have a direct connection to patient care, quality and safety, according to Mr. Sadlier.

He also said lower patient experience scores may indicate that a hospital is experiencing decreased employee engagement, which can spread among all its staff.

“There’s an absolute hierarchy [in healthcare], and it doesn’t require somebody to work in healthcare to recognize that when physician engagement falters, that impacts nurses, and when nurses don’t feel engaged, that impacts the rest of the staff, whether it’s ancillary staff, support services,” he said. “There’s a trickledown effect to a lack of engagement at any part of the organization. Inevitably that impacts every position and is ultimately felt by those we serve.”

Additionally, he pointed to financial struggles at U.S. hospitals as a contributing factor for workloads increasing. On Aug. 29, Kaufman Hall released a new report that showed hospitals are experiencing some of the worst margins since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This means some organizations have had to implement layoffs and other cost-cutting measures.

“Cost-cutting measures are becoming harder to accomplish without having a direct effect on the care patients receive. When [full-time equivalents] are affected, in many cases the responsibilities are shifted to other members of the team. The additional responsibilities can lead to frustration and burnout and negatively impact employee engagement. These factors are what then lead to quiet quitting,” Mr. Sadlier said.

To avoid quiet quitting or disengagement, he recommends that hospitals provide open and honest communication, set and maintain realistic work expectations, closely monitor employee engagement, recognize and reward high performance through options that extend beyond pay, and provide opportunities for career growth.

At the same time, he acknowledged there’s no absolute formula to identify disengagement at the individual level.

“The more you round, the more that you spend time with your staff, the more likely you are to recognize changes in demeanor and perspective,” Mr. Sadlier said. “The sooner you recognize it, the sooner you’re able to have an influence on it. So that’s where the regular engagement for leaders and supervisors has the biggest benefit — recognizing [disengagement] early and trying to find a way to reenergize and reengage staff.”

During an interview with Fortune, Katarina Berg, Spotify’s chief human resources officer, said her company is working to avoid quiet quitting by encouraging a culture of trust where workers feel psychologically safe.

Her advice for leaders is to talk about “the part of quiet quitting that has to do with people not [being] trusted, and they also don’t trust their management team. Therefore, they don’t find any other resolution other than doing this type of very silent activism. So, I think with culture you always have to be proactive … and you have to be very deliberate and intentional.”

Developing a compelling value proposition for employees

https://mailchi.mp/ff342c47fa9e/the-weekly-gist-july-22-13699925?e=d1e747d2d8

As we’ve been discussing, the COVID pandemic and ensuing economic environment have driven health system job vacancies and attrition rates to all-time highs. Right now, for myriad reasons, many hospital workers are deciding that the financial, emotional, and professional benefits of working for a hospital are outweighed by the toll working in a hospital takes on them personally.

Health systems are responding to this challenge with a wide variety of discrete measures—including hiring and retention bonuses, incentive pay, employee wellbeing initiatives, and expanded professional development opportunities— that target specific groups of employees, but don’t form a long-term solution to workforce instability. 

To rebuild a stable and committed workforce, health systems must create, and then communicate, a compelling employee value proposition—a concise statement highlighting why employees should work for them.
 
The graphic above shows what we believe are the key components of a successful employee value proposition, which must have a clear vision and focus on the things most important to employee needs: compensation, work-life balance, and career support. Systems can use the guiding questions listed in each column to craft a value proposition that is differentiated in their local labor market, informed by their level of resources, and undergirded by their own culture and values.

Omicron Is About To Make Americans Act Immorally, Inappropriately

A friend called me for medical advice two weeks ago. He’s single, in his thirties and generally healthy, but he’d developed a dry cough with mild congestion. After a self-administered Covid-19 test turned up negative results, he remained suspicious he could be infected.

He was set to fly west in a couple of days for a conference and dreaded the thought of infecting other passengers. I recommended a PCR test if he wanted to be more certain. When the lab results came back positive, he spent the next five days at home alone (per CDC guidance).  

If you were in his shoes, chances are you, too, would make a reasonable effort to avoid infecting others. In the near future, that won’t be the case.

Americans are playing it safe—for now

A whopping 91% of Americans no longer consider Covid-19 a “serious crisis.” Social distancing has reached a low point as public-health restrictions continue to ease up.

Yet, there’s still one aspect of the pandemic Americans are taking very seriously.

As a society, we still expect people who test positive for Covid-19 to stay home and minimize contact with others. As a result of these expectations, 4 in 10 workers (including 6 in 10 low-income employees) have missed work in 2022. Overall, the nation’s No. 1 concern related to Omicron is “spreading the virus to people who are at higher risk of serious illness.”

Most Americans are eager to move on from the pandemic, but those who are sick continue to avoid actions that may potentially spread the virus.

Call it what you will—group think, peer pressure or the fear of violating cultural taboos—people don’t want to put others in harm’s way. That’s true, according to polls, regardless of one’s party affiliation or vaccination status.

What’s immoral today will be appropriate tomorrow

Don’t get used to these polite and socially conscious behaviors. All of it is about to change in the not-distant future. Let me paint a picture of tomorrow’s new normal:

  • A factory worker tests positive over the weekend for Covid-19 and comes to work on Monday without a mask, informing no one of his infection. 
  • A vacationer with mild Covid-19 symptoms refuses to postpone her spa weekend, availing herself of massages, facials and group yoga classes.
  • A couple plans an indoor wedding for 200-plus, knowing the odds are likely that dozens of people will get infected and that some of those guests will be elderly and immunosuppressed.

These actions, which seem inappropriate and immoral now, will become typical. It’s not that people will suddenly become less empathetic or more callous. They’ll simply be adjusting to new social mores, brought about by a unique viral strain and an inevitable evolution in American culture

A crash course in a unique virus

To understand why people will behave in ways that seem so unacceptable today, you must understand how the Omicron variant spreads compared to other viruses.

Scientists now know that Omicron (and its many decimal-laden strains: BA.2, BA.2.12.1, BA.4, BA.5, etc.) is the most infectious, fastest-spreading respiratory virus in world history. The Mayo Clinic calls this Covid-19 variant “hyper-contagious.”

“A single case could give rise to six cases after four days, 36 cases after eight days, and 216 cases after 12 days,” according to a report in Scientific American. As a result, researchers predict that 100 million Americans will become infected with Omicron this year alone—via new infections, reinfections and vaccination breakthroughs. 

In addition to Omicron’s high transmissibility, the virus is also season-less. Whereas influenza arrives each winter and exits in the spring, Americans will continue to experience high levels of Covid-19 infection year-round—at least for the foreseeable future.

With its 60-plus mutations, immense transmissibility and lack of seasonality, Omicron is an exceptional virus: one that will infect not only our respiratory systems but also our culture.

Over time, Omicron’s unique characteristics will drive Americans to deny and ignore the risks of infection. In the near future, they’ll make decisions and take actions that they’d presently deem wrong.

A culture shock is coming

Culture—which comprises the shared values, norms and beliefs of a group of people—doesn’t change because someone decides it should. It evolves because circumstances change. 

The pandemic has no doubt been a culture-changing event and, as the circumstances of Covid-19 have changed, so too have our underlying values, beliefs and behaviors.

If 100 million Americans (one-third of the population) were to become infected with Omicron this year, we can expect that everyone will know someone with the disease. And when dozens of our friends or colleagues say they’ve had it, we will begin to see transmission as inevitable. And since, statistically, most Americans won’t die from Omicron, people will see infection as relatively harmless and they’ll be willing to drop their guard.

We’ll see more and more people going to work even when they’re infected. We’ll see more people on trains and planes, coughing and congested, having never taken a Covid-19 test. And we’ll see large, indoor celebrations taking place without any added safety measures, despite the risks to the most vulnerable attendees.

Amid these changes, health officials will continue to urge caution, just as they have for more than two years. But it won’t make a difference. Culture eats science for breakfast. Americans will increasingly follow the herd and stop heeding public-safety warnings.

The process of change has begun

Cultural shifts happen in steps. First, a few people break the rules and then others follow.

Recall my friend, the one who took two tests out of an abundance of caution. Next time, perhaps he’ll decide he’d rather not miss the conference. Perhaps when he returns home, he will tell his friends that he felt sick the whole trip. Perhaps they’ll ask, “Do you think you might have had Covid?” And perhaps he will reply: “What difference would it have made? I’m fully vaccinated and boosted.

And so, it will go. The next time someone in his social circle feels under the weather, he or she won’t even bother to do the first test.

This change process has already begun. Take the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, for example. Last year, the event was cancelled. This year, guests had to show proof of vaccination or a negative same-day test. However, that rule didn’t apply to staff at the hotel who worked the event. Unsurprisingly, several high-profile attendees got Covid-19 but, so far, no reports of anyone being hospitalized. A year from now, assuming no major mutations cause the virus to become more lethal, we can expect all restrictions will be dropped.

Culture dictates how people behave. It influences their thoughts and actions. It alters their values and beliefs. The unique characteristics of Omicron will lead people to ignore the harm it inflicts. They won’t act with malicious intent. They’ll just be oblivious to the consequences of their actions. That’s how culture works.

Charlotte, NC-based Atrium Health and Illinois- and Wisconsin-based Advocate Aurora Health announce plans to merge

The combined health system will become the sixth largest nationwide, with $27B in revenue and 67 hospitals across six Midwest and Southeast states. The system will be based in Charlotte, and known as Advocate Health, though Atrium will continue to use its name in its markets.

Atrium CEO Gene Woods is slated to ultimately lead the combined entity, after an 18-month co-CEO arrangement with Advocate Aurora CEO Jim Skogsbergh. While the cross-market merger is unlikely to create antitrust concerns about increased pricing leverage, the Biden administration has been making noises about applying stricter scrutiny to the impact of health system consolidation on labor market competition.  

The Gist: Earlier this year, Utah-based Intermountain Healthcare and Colorado-based SCL Health combined to create a 33-hospital, $14B health system, which became the 11th largest nationwide. While these mega-mergers of regional systems can realize cost savings from back-office synergies, there is a significant opportunity to create larger “platforms” of care to win consumer loyalty, deploy digital capabilities, attract talent, and become more desirable partners for nontraditional players like Amazon, Walmart, and One Medical.

It will be critical to watch whether the governance and cultural challenges that often hinder health system mergers come into play here. Advocate Aurora has had two prospective mergers fall apart in recent years, the first with Chicago-based NorthShore University HealthSystem, and the second with Michigan-based Beaumont Health (who subsequently finalized a merger with Spectrum Health earlier this year). 

But the combination with Atrium is structured as a joint operating agreement, essentially creating a new superstructure atop the two legacy systems. This may allow the combined entity more flexibility in local decision-making, but the ultimate question will be how the combined entity will create value for consumers. Time will tell.

The important role of the CFO in innovation

Although CFOs often hold the key to resources, acting as gatekeepers, they can also be critical allies in innovation, enabling programs and initiatives, according to an April 12 McKinsey report

While innovation is often thought of in a traditional sense, with new offerings and services coming to mind, innovation can also mean disruption and change in business models, productivity improvements and new ways to service consumers. The CFO has the perspective to see where fresh ideas are needed in the business from a financial perspective, and the power to make them happen.

Innovation also requires resources and capital, of which the CFO has control and say as to how it gets used. The CFO is an important part of determining which innovations will go ahead and is akin to a venture capitalist, deciding whether to invest in a start-up. 

As members of the C-suite, CFOs also have an important role in encouraging a culture of openness and innovation where staff members feel comfortable coming to company leaders with new ideas. By creating an atmosphere of innovation, the company can build a pipeline of innovative talent and concepts, which the CFO can help bring to fruition.