Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the healthcare industry faced a worker shortage crisis. Many factors led to the problem, including employee burnout, an aging workforce and inadequate investment in training programs. The U.S. experiences a shortage of 300,000 allied health workers each year, and a recent AMN Healthcare study found that 85% of healthcare facilities are seeing moderate (or worse) shortages, while three in ten workers are temporary staffers, up 5% from before the pandemic.
Healthcare employees are understaffed and overworked, having to take on multiple roles and care for a higher-than-normal number of patients. The situation has put a significant strain on the entire system of workers. The Great Resigners study found that 31% of healthcare workers are dissatisfied, compared to 11% dissatisfaction among the overall workforce. This dissatisfaction with working conditions led hundreds of thousands of workers to strike across the country and the world, from the United Kingdom to New York to Minnesota.
Some employees decided enough was enough and joined more than 47 million workers who quit in 2021. At Cengage Group, we call them the 'Great Resigners.' We polled 1,200 Great Resigners in November 2021, including 200 in healthcare, to understand their motives. One year later, we returned to see how things were going and find out what’s next.
Learn more about the results of this study and the implications for employees and employers:
Mission is the Motivation
Overall, across industries, alignment with company mission was the most significant determining factor for Resigners leaving their old roles (34%) and seeking new ones (27%). However, it meant much more for healthcare workers. 52% said their previous employer no longer aligned with their values, while 40% said their new role was a better fit. The study found that, although they chose to leave for greener pastures, healthcare Resigners were more likely to stay within the industry for a new position.
Employers must consider employee values when evaluating the organization's direction. Actions speak louder than words and in developing a strong culture and sense of mission, the effort needs to be organization-wide, starting from the top down. Healthcare workers have clarified their motivations, and recently we've seen a misalignment of values around employee well-being, work-life balance, quality of care and more. Leaders need to talk to their employees and find out what matters most to them. Then, after identifying these fundamental values, the real work of building a strong values-defined culture begins.
Preparing for the Future
We found that healthcare workers value online training opportunities and consider their availability when leaving for a new role. Healthcare Resigners were much more likely to engage in short one to three-month online training courses (68%) than the average Resigner (47%). And they're also looking for those opportunities from employers: 70% said paid online training was an important factor when choosing a new job, and 72% found those training programs at their new employer.
Upskilling opportunities are no longer just a nice bonus. They are increasingly required to attract and retain the best talent, and employer-paid training is an important piece for closing labor shortages. Employers who don't offer paid learning and development will likely see increased turnover. The good news is there are many options for employers to find skilled employees and ensure candidates can learn the best skills for the job with flexible learning opportunities that don't interrupt productivity. For example, Cengage recently released Ready To Hire, a solution designed to narrow the skilled labor gap for employers. With Ready To Hire, companies can foster new talent with train-to-hire programs, upskill their current employees with new programs and certifications, and unlock local talent pipelines through strategic workforce and academic partnerships.
Is Healthcare Still Recession-Proof?
Despite the long-standing belief that healthcare is a recession-proof industry, Resigners are concerned about an economic downturn's impact. The vast majority (84%) believe a recession could jeopardize their employment, significantly higher than the overall Resigners demographic (71%). Even more concerning, 97% would leave the industry entirely if their job were eliminated during a recession.
Both employers and policymakers have a role to play here. Only 9% of Resigners indicated they would move into healthcare from another industry, lower than other fields like technology or finance, meaning the worker shortage could grow wider. But policymakers need to ensure that the funding exists for programs beyond the traditional two or four-year degree. Grant funds need to be expanded to include online and other non-traditional programs like train to hire or apprenticeships so employees can pursue programs and build a diverse set of skills.
Explore the full findings in our “Where Are They Now? The Great Resigners, One Year Later” report, which serves as a sequel to our 2021 Great Resigners Report by exposing the real motivations behind the Great Resignation and providing an update on Great Resigners’ new careers and overall job satisfaction.