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Closing the Healthcare Industry’s Skills Gaps

May 15, 2017
by By Terry McDonough, CEO of Strayer@Work
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The healthcare industry is hiring. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare jobs are projected to grow by 19 percent from 2014-2024. But, as in many other dynamic industries, healthcare is changing rapidly, driven by the increased use of technology and the aging population. Finding talent with the right skills to keep pace with these shifts is an ongoing challenge.

Unfilled jobs cost U.S. businesses $160 billion annually, according to a report produced by the UK-based research firm Centre for Economics and Business Research on behalf of employment search engine Indeed. Another survey by the staffing firm ManpowerGroup found that nearly one-third of employers in the U.S. expressed difficulty filling open positions due to talent shortages.

Identifying the Skills Gaps

Healthcare hiring managers are having a particularly challenging time filling positions that require information technology skills. A Skills Index analysis by Strayer@Work, which tracks supply and demand of particular skills across seven major industries using select data from LinkedIn, revealed that three of the top skills deficits in healthcare were enterprise software (74 percent gap), programming (65 percent gap) and database administration (45 percent gap). The gap represents how adequately the supply of a skill in the labor pool meets employers’ demands for that skill.

In addition to needing more people with technology skills, the healthcare industry also faces a growing need for leaders and strategists. Some of the largest gaps were for strategy (55 percent gap), program management (39 percent gap) and project management (39 percent gap) skills. People with clinical trials skills are also in relatively high demand and short supply (22 percent gap).

Creating a More Skilled Workforce

Healthcare employers who can correctly diagnose the hard and soft skills they need their employees to have can take actionable measures to create a hiring advantage. From a morale and cost perspective, the most effective step companies can take is to upgrade the skills of the talent they already have. For instance, they can provide skill-specific training programs to help high-potential employees advance in their careers.

Apprenticeships, certificate programs and coding academies (like New York Code + Design Academy) also can be viable options companies can pursue to further develop their existing workforce. Many forward-thinking companies have also explored customizable degree programs that they can offer as part of a comprehensive employee benefits package. In addition to motivating employees to acquire the skills they need to succeed presently, these types of degree programs can also equip employees with an accredited degree at no cost, which can help them advance in their long-term careers.

Rethinking compensation and benefits packages, as well as traditional roles within an organization, can also give healthcare employers a hiring and retention advantage. The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) advocates for employers to develop new compensation packages that better address the financial needs of new physicians. At a recent Texas Medical Center conference, attendees brainstormed new positions, such as a “grand aide”—a cross between a nurse’s aide and a wise grandparent—that could be created to address a shortage of physicians and dentists.

The overall need to identify, develop and retain talent is not particular to any one industry, but companies in the rapidly evolving healthcare industry do have specific needs. By understanding what these needs are at a macro level, as well as at every level within an organization, companies can start to take a more thoughtful approach to developing their existing employees and making smarter hires to close their skills gaps.


Terry McDonough is the CEO of Strayer@Work, a human capital consultancy. Prior to his tenure at Strayer@Work, Terry was a consultant with McKinsey & Company.


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