Through our research on workforce challenges and conversations with imaging leaders, Advisory Board has uncovered the following three necessary mindset shifts to support imaging hiring and retention:
1. The main workforce challenge during the pandemic is burnout, and burnout can’t be fixed by financial levers alone.
Imaging leaders, and system leaders more broadly, have been deploying many initiatives to retain and hire staff during the pandemic. Common approaches include sign on bonuses, retention bonuses, referral bonuses, and extra bonuses for shifts that are open 24 hours before their start. While large sign-on bonuses may be useful in attracting new hires, they are not sustainable. Regional competitors may find themselves in a “bidding war,” raising bonuses until it is not financially viable for any institution. While appropriate compensation is an important of long-term workforce strategy, imaging leaders should be aware that the most pressing reason for workforce challenges is not a lack of financial incentive, but rather burnout from the unprecedented stress and workload of the years-long pandemic. Many staff members were furloughed and/or asked to take on bigger or different roles during the pandemic.
2. Younger generations have different workplace expectations; to attract and retain younger talent, organizations must adapt.
In our conversations, imaging leaders shared their frustrations that millennial and Gen Z staff seem to have different workplace goals and values than previous generations. For example, younger staff may move around rather than growing their career at one organization for decades. It is true that younger staff often do want different outcomes from their occupation, and they are more willing to move organizations in pursuit of better opportunities. However, while workplace loyalty may look different in younger generations, it is not impossible to foster. Organizations must accept that these staff are the future of health care and adapt accordingly to provide an engaging work environment.
3. Career development beyond a two-step ladder is crucial but doesn’t always mean a new role.
Many organizations don’t have a traditional career ladder for technologists who do not want to advance to a management role. Even among those that do offer a career advancement pathway, it may be considered more of a “stepping stool,” with only one or two rungs, than a full “ladder.” In a common scenario, the technologist will come in as a generalist and then train in and be promoted to a new modality.
A challenge for leadership is that technologists have a clearly defined role. While their position is important, there is often limited room for growth—an ultrasound tech of 10 plus years may be doing the same day-to-day work of a tech with less than two years’ experience. This staffing situation can be demoralizing for the technologist. Organizations will have to think creatively about how to develop and promote technologist’s skills, without creating an unsustainable system of constant role promotions.