Tips to win the IT ‘talent war’

The Department of Labor projects the need for 50,000 health IT workers in the coming years.

Begin with a strategy, advises one recruiter

The U.S. labor market may be soft, but health IT is booming, with many hospitals locked in pitched competition to hire skilled technology professionals. One recruiter has laid out a battle plan for finding – and keeping – good employees.

In her presentation, "Winning the Healthcare IT Talent War," Tiffany Crenshaw, president and CEO of Greensboro, N.C.-based Intellect Resources, who spoke at the recent HIMSS Virtual Conference & Expo last month, offered tips on "Winning the Healthcare IT Talent War.”

With meaningful use and ICD-10 and accountable care all adding to the healthcare workload, Crenshaw's core message was that organizations "need to have a good strategy" to recruit and retain good talent. It’s critical to have a plan, she told her audience, because a dearth of talented and motivated employees can have an adverse impact on hospitals' organizational goals – and ultimately slow the nationwide push to digitize healthcare.

"Our candidate pool is very lean right now in health IT," she said. "There is extreme demand for resources."

She said, when it comes to IT professionals with in-demand skill sets the "turnover rate is starting to increase dramatically" at hospitals nationwide.

Moreover, the quality of that scarce talent is improving – which Crenshaw chalked up to a "hangover from the recession," when many skilled workers lost their jobs.

At the same time, "structural issues are starting to come to the forefront" at many healthcare organizations that show that they're badly lacking when it comes to attracting, on-boarding, and keeping these crucially valuable employees.

The Department of Labor projects the need for some 50,000 workers in health IT in the coming years, Crenshaw pointed out. Meeting that need will strain many providers' resources as they try to offer higher salaries and better benefits in an extremely competitive market.

Those that can't attract top talent will suffer: Understaffing will impact their organizational goals, their ability to meet deadlines, their team morale, their ability to retain staff and more.

Crenshaw highlighted what she called a "scary statistic": Without sustained structural improvements in acquisition and on-boarding, she said, turnover could reach 28 percent by 2013.

With a "booming go-live market" and "more emphasis on training than ever before," that's not a recipe for any sort of sustained success. So she laid out a strategy for winning, starting with the need to "size up the enemy."