Strategies for Investing in the Children’s Hospital Workforce

Strategies for Investing in the Children’s Hospital Workforce

Children’s hospitals retain and recruit staff by devoting time and resources to culture building, financial benefits and work flexibility.

The mission of children’s hospitals to improve children's health and provide care to the most vulnerable patients have traditionally appealed to the health care workforce. For example, at Riley Children's Health, red wagons are synonymous with the organization's mission. They fill the halls transporting patients, family members and belongings. Historically, the “strength of the wagon,” as it’s referred to, has been a strong draw for the workforce, but times are changing. And while children's hospitals' missions are still a significant differentiator, hospitals are looking for new ways to invest in people to retain and recruit new staff.

Hospital leaders and staff can help distinguish their organizations as leading employers and institutions within their communities to recruit and retain employees. At Riley Children’s, this ongoing effort consists of three primary efforts, both short term and long term.

A reimagined compensation strategy

Children’s hospitals are taking a closer look at their compensation strategies and total rewards packages. At Riley Children’s, this means staying nimble, examining the local market and national trends and monitoring competition.

“This is going to be an ongoing effort that we continue to evolve and keep doing moving forward,” says Tyler Leishman, chief strategy officer, Riley Children’s.

With feedback from across the Indiana University Health System, Riley Children’s evaluated the market and looked at all the roles within the organization. “Our past system evaluated certain groups every year, and then they wouldn't get looked at again for a few years,” says Mark Anderson, Vice President of HR at Riley Children’s. “But with everything that's going on in the market right now, we’ve adjusted to look at those things on an annual basis.”

Through market evaluation, Riley Children’s implemented sign-on bonuses, relocation packages and retention bonuses, among other strategies. To gauge this effort, every month the team evaluates the number of employees lost per every 10 hires, which provides retention and workload data.

“We evaluate our first-year employees closely because about one-third of turnover happens in year one,” says Anderson. “And then about another 30% typically happens in years one to three.”

They also routinely ask employee’s likelihood to recommend Riley Children’s as an employer, which provides a strong indicator for general feelings toward the organization and the contributes to the culture efforts.

Re-evaluating well-being, resilience and balance

Children’s hospitals can leverage listening tours, leadership rounds and feedback surveys to capture emerging trends among employees. At Riley Children’s, these efforts made it clear that employees across the organization needed rest, respite and positions filled, more than anything else. “It led us to look at span of control of our leaders, what’s doable and how much leadership can handle,” says Anderson. “This includes evaluating alternative staffing models, whether it’s hybrid work or more telemedicine—what can we do to help?”

The key for Leishman, Anderson and their team is to create proactive change. This means giving employees the tools they need to take control of the workday—especially when it comes to employees’ connections to purpose and the work-life balance.

Rounding out the culture

As hospitals look to invest in the workforce, they are looking for ways to make the employee experience as top notch as the patient experience that the teams provide. 

“We have employees who are doing things that sometimes only a few people in the world know how to do, and we're dealing with the highest acuity situations while providing amazing outcomes for patients and families,” says Anderson. “We want to create a team member experience that matches up with that.”

Peer-to-peer recognition and leadership development allow staff to recognize one another, learn from one another and build their career and network. This committed focus to the culture, relationships and listening have been key to reigniting a sense of belonging and connection to the organization’s mission.

“Intentional listening and increasing the sense of belonging—and really understanding what that means—have been effective,” says Leishman. “Equally important to that is giving team members something to look forward to in terms of growth and development.”

Our Shared Priorities

Children’s hospitals are stronger together and by working toward common goals in areas like behavioral health and quality, our potential influence is exponential.