Economic uncertainty and the future drive the healthcare workforce trends we’re seeing take shape. While recruiting top talent remains competitive, employers continue to leverage healthcare offerings to ease the significant financial burden and make job postings more attractive.

As we close out 2022, we’re hearing about the following trends among HR teams.

Strategizing the Future of Work for Employees

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, HR professionals remained responsible for setting policies, answering employee questions, and dealing with grievances — duties that aren’t new to their repertoire, but certainly felt like it.

“Being an HR professional over the last couple of years has probably been one of the most stressful, amazing, insightful, and almost religious experiences,” says Marathon Health Chief People Officer Debby Routt.

At Marathon Health’s Engage 2022 conference, Routt described three key challenges for today’s HR teams:

  1. Hybrid workforce: Employers need to find a way to support employees to do their best work at home and in the office while promoting connectivity across teams.
  2. Great resignation: 47 million people quit their jobs in 2021, and the voluntary quit rate remains 25% higher than pre-pandemic levels, according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hiring is more competitive than ever, and retention proves critical to success.
  3. Inflation/threat of recession: Consumer prices rose 8.6% year-over-year as of May 2022, the highest annual increase since 1981. Employers must consider ways to combat inflation with their compensation and benefits packages.

Those three challenges lead HR professionals to reimagine the future of work — a top priority for 42% of HR leaders surveyed by Gartner. To meet the needs of today’s worker, employers may consider increased pay, benefit package enhancements, and making return-to-office asks a request versus a requirement.

Healthcare Workforce Trends Lean into Recruitment Efforts around Better Benefits

In the competitive labor market, just saying you offer healthcare benefits, dental and vision is no longer enough. Employers can stand out from the crowd by providing access to independent primary care and value-based population health management options.

Rachel Stevens, Senior Director of Human Resources for the Indianapolis Airport Authority, says prior to engaging with Marathon Health, many of their employees didn’t seek preventive healthcare. “A lot of it had to do with them being intimidated by primary care offices,” Stevens says. “They don’t understand how the system works. They fear it’s going to be too expensive for them. Or they don’t have convenient access.

“Now, they make multiple appointments with their Marathon Health provider to follow up on issues,” she adds. “The clinicians they see through Marathon Health have a bias for service, not just moving people through their practice. That makes a huge difference in changing someone’s mindset about what to expect from healthcare.”

If you opt into employer-sponsored care, amplify this information in your job description, including whether it’s provided free-of-charge or discounted, and if your plan includes spouses and dependents. It’s a healthcare workforce trend that could pay off in the long run.

“The vast majority of organizations across the United States are only going to be successful if they can attract, develop and retain the best people,” says Jeff Wells, MD, CEO and Co-founder of Marathon Health. “People have a very high expectation of holistic health and well-being as a part of the employer value proposition. There’s an expectation for employers to create an environment that helps employees be their best. When employees are at their best emotionally, psychologically and physically, they’re going to be in the best position to drive the best outcomes.”

Focusing on Employee Wellness Programs to Improve Health and Chronic Conditions

More than ever, employees want to know organizations are invested in their wellbeing.

“When wellness is embedded into your culture, it shows leadership cares about their employees,” says Lauren Hutchens, National Director of Health Coaching at Marathon Health. “It’s a culture tool, and it’s an investment in people.”

But truly investing in wellness means more than hosting a 5K and calling it a day. Tailor workplace wellness programs to your employee population by using data gathered through claims or surveys. For example, if a large portion of the employee population suffers from diabetes, the employer should offer diabetes prevention and management programs.

Half of your employees live with an unmanaged chronic health condition, which often can be remedied with lifestyle changes. The benefits of providing and encouraging participation in wellness programs are often two-fold, as they result in a healthier workforce and less claims.

“If you’re not taking care of your people, they’re not taking care of your business,” Stevens says.

Encouraging the Importance of Healthcare During Economic Uncertainty 

High deductibles and the threat of recession layoffs mean people will put off healthcare to hold onto their money longer. This can lead to delayed diagnoses and higher healthcare costs down the line — for the patient and their employer.

To combat this, we’re seeing more employers offer free or reduced healthcare access to their employees, but just offering it isn’t enough. Now’s the time to ramp up your engagement strategy to ensure employees take advantage of this valuable benefit. Ideas include:

  • Develop monthly campaigns on your intranet or eNewsletter communications to promote services
  • Talk about the healthcare services in town halls or encourage team leaders to add it to their monthly meeting agendas
  • Hold a meet-and-greet with your organization’s healthcare providers
  • Incentivize participating in healthcare or wellness programs with insurance premium discounts or gift cards

Shannon Isom, Director of Member Engagement for National Accounts and Networks at Marathon Health, describes member engagement as a cycle. First, you want to make employees aware of the services available to them. Then, you want to encourage them to try the services, and the end goal is to get members to commit to their health.

“In order for employees to be committed to their health, we first need to get them through the door to experience that high-quality care that Marathon health centers provide,” Isom says.

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