THE BLOG
06/09/2014 03:41 pm ET | Updated Aug 09, 2014

How to Become a Health Care Employer of Choice by Investing in Your Workforce

Enactment of the Affordable Care Act legislation is transforming the delivery of health care, with an objective to make it more accessible and affordable. With these lofty goals, how can health care organizations ensure they are competitive amid a rapidly changing health care landscape? How can they attract and retain the best candidates to staff their hospitals and medical facilities? A good place to start is by investing in the skills and career development of their existing frontline workforce.

Frontline health care workers perform a variety of high-touch jobs requiring less than an associate's degree. They work in jobs such as patient intake coordinators, medical assistants, certified nursing assistants and dietary service staff. They often serve as the first point of contact for patients and are central to their overall experience.

The fact is, our nation's health care system is in need of a reboot when it comes to how we enhance the skills and develop our frontline health care workforce. Meeting the challenges of providing better and improved outcomes at a lower cost, in conjunction with the goals of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), call for training to higher performance standards. This requires skill-specific training in some areas, e.g., customer service or technology, and the understanding of new processes and procedures of quality measurement, career coordination and patient-centered care.

To keep up with these changes, a push is on to increase investment in the skills and career development by health care organizations nationwide. CareerSTAT, an employer-led initiative of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions and its implementation partner, Jobs for the Future, is recognizing nine health care organizations for their efforts as 2014 CareerSTAT Frontline Healthcare Worker Champions. They are creating cultures of opportunity in the workplace for frontline workers and striving to become employers of choice in their local markets by offering robust benefits packages that include workforce training and opportunities to move up the career ladder and earn higher wages and promotions.

CareerSTAT's health care leaders chose these organizations for their ability to demonstrate exemplary practices in making skill and career development accessible to frontline workers through on-site training, providing release time from work or employee coaching. In addition, they have programs of a significant scale, track data on program outcomes, impact and/or return on investment, and show a commitment to sustaining the investment over time. In short, they are creating a collective win-win for the organization and frontline worker and, ultimately, the patient.

As a result of these investments, health care organizations benefit from lower costs due to employee turnover and lower vacancy rates. TriHealth, Inc. in Cincinnati, Ohio, for example, realized more than $200,000 in savings from turnover costs by effectively retaining program participants.

Overall, through workforce investment, frontline employees are reporting higher levels of job satisfaction through participation in several workforce programs. Patients are reporting higher levels of satisfaction and quality of care.

Investments by health care organizations in their frontline workforce is also a remedy for closing skills gaps. A case in point is a Boston hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, which after establishing several pipeline training programs to move workers into in-demand occupations--such as medical laboratory technicians, pharmacy technicians and patient care technicians--saw dramatically lower vacancy rates and improved employee retention.

Another reason to invest in frontline workers is that as the economy improves, the search for finding and keeping talent becomes a competitive advantage and necessity. John Prout, president and chief executive officer at TriHealth, Inc., attests to the investment in the skills of his employees, saying, "At TriHealth, much of our success depends on our ability to attract, retain and develop the talent we need to provide quality care. As an organization, we realize the importance of developing the skills of our employees. In fact, it is a major strategic initiative of ours."

Our health care system and the patients we serve are dependent upon having skilled workers from the frontlines. Thanks to investments by progressive health care employers such as these, frontline workers are moving into positions with more opportunity, including registered nurses, clinical technical assistants and medical laboratory technicians.

As such, we are proud to recognize the following organizations as CareerSTAT 2014 Frontline Healthcare Worker Champions and encourage others to reap the benefits by following their lead:

To learn more about CareerSTAT and the Frontline Healthcare Worker Champions program, visit http://nfwsolutions.org/initiatives/careerstat.

Jan Hunter is CareerSTAT director, an employer-led national collaboration of health care leaders committed to promoting health care employer investment in the skill and career development of the frontline workforce.