I recently read the results of a reputable survey that indicated 21 percent of employees today are “highly disengaged,” triple the number reported in 2007.

 Reading that, you might be thinking, “Oh great. This is not the time for employee morale issues or staff turnover. Between HIPAA 5010, ICD-10, HITECH, and health reform, I’m challenged as never before to find new talent and skills.

 “These new mandates aren’t just ‘business opportunities’ to pursue; they’re a complete re-write of the rules and a drastically different version of the survival model. With the tightening HIT labor market, I don’t know where I’ll find the new people I need. The last thing I need right now is staff discontent.”

 Two vexing problems, right? Maybe … but maybe not. I think they’re so closely related that the solution to one problem lies partly within the other.

It seems everyone is chasing the same talent, and there’s too little of it. Some of the expertise now required is so rare or so new (how many ICD-10 experts could you name before a couple of months ago?), that there may not be enough resources to go around at first. This is especially true if you’re in a geography with a limited labor pool--a rural hospital, for example.

 You may find that the best answer to the immediate recruitment needs lies in a three-pronged strategy:

1) Use traditional recruiting methods to fill the spots you can;

2) Seek creative approaches to candidate sourcing, such as flexible work arrangements and collaborative efforts with other organizations (e.g., trade groups, business partners, and even competitors);

3) Look internally to your existing team to develop the required expertise where possible.

This last tactic is key. Turning inward to develop your existing staff will help address the need for new skills while providing job enrichment to the troops. A sincere, thoughtful approach to staff development will make your team feel more important and appreciated. It will enhance their perceived value while providing them with new opportunities for fulfillment. You may find that it leads to greater engagement and avoids or reduces staff turnover.

This approach may not be appropriate for every position, but it may be for some. For example, you may not find a CMIO internally, but you might be able to develop an ICD-10 leader from within if you act quickly.

The next few years will be a wild ride for all, but a more engaged and fulfilled staff will go a long way toward achieving success. It’s there for the taking. But the key is to get started now – this week, not next.

Jim Gibson has been in health care for over 25 years. In 2002 he founded Gibson Consultants after several years in healthcare IT and group health insurance. Gibson Consultants is a national search firm specializing in healthcare IT companies.


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