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Designing Benefit Plans

How to be competitive in today’s tight job market
By Patrick Pilch and Beth Garner

HEALTHCARE is one of the largest and fastest-growing portions of the U.S. economy. Against a backdrop of an extremely tight labor market, many organizations across the healthcare continuum are having a difficult time filling jobs with the right people.

While offering a competitive salary matters, it takes more than a paycheck to attract and retain workers in today’s labor market. Record low unemployment rates are forcing employers in the healthcare sector to take a closer look at their benefit plans to remain ahead of competing healthcare organizations, as well as companies from other sectors, in the search for top talent.

Management teams and benefits professionals have a difficult task in choosing from the extensive range of benefits options that are available today. In addition to traditional retirement plans and health insurance, many organizations are now offering benefits such as student loan assistance, multi-tier healthcare options and even in-house yoga classes and pet care.

So how can healthcare organizations put together a benefit lineup that will attract and retain top talent—while staying within budgets that work for a healthcare industry that is navigating massive shifts in payment models? We examine trends that are shaping the healthcare sector and look at some of the most effective ways healthcare organizations can design competitive benefit lineups.

Healthy and Growing
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare jobs are expected to grow 18% from 2016 to 2026, outpacing the average for all types of work. The healthcare sector will add 2.4 million new jobs over this timeframe, more than any other occupational group. The BLS noted that the growth is in step with the health care requirements of our aging population.

Wages are rewarding in this sector as well. The median wage for medical talent, including doctors, nurses, surgeons and dental hygienists, was $66,440 in 2018, significantly higher than the $38,640 average for all jobs in today’s economy.

But it takes much more than medical talent to run a healthcare organization. Information technology professionals, attorneys, finance professionals, billing specialists and building maintenance personnel are among the long list of people needed. And healthcare organizations often have to compete against for-profit companies in other sectors for these non-medical workers. As a result, healthcare employers need to examine their benefits lineup and determine whether their offering is
competitive against all types of organizations vying for the same talent.

Benefits Trends
Not surprisingly, Glassdoor data show that the most important benefits across all industries are: health insurance; vacation and paid time off; and retirement and/or pension plan. An attractive combination of these benefits will get healthcare organizations in the game for top talent, but how can they construct a benefit lineup to help them attract and retain the candidates they need, especially when competing against for-profit companies?

That answer may come directly from an organization’s current workforce as well as from other companies competing for the same talent. Tracking usage of current benefits can help organizations understand the importance of certain programs. Conducting internal focus groups or surveys, researching industry and non-industry benefit trends, brainstorming free or lower-cost perks such as gym discounts or volunteer time off and checking online reviews are all ways to find out what workers value most. Additionally, market intelligence can help you discover what other organizations are offering their employees and how the benefit lineup improves employee morale and loyalty.

Some healthcare organizations have an advantage because many of their existing services can be woven into a benefit lineup at little additional cost to the employer. Discounted or free pre-natal care and other health screenings, mentoring or teaching programs, nutrition consultations, gym memberships and other perks can complement the solid health and wealth benefit lineup—and may make the difference in a candidate’s decision.

BDO Insight
In an era of record low unemployment, candidates are quietly calling the shots when it comes to benefits. Healthcare organizations that have trouble attracting talent should look at their benefit structure to determine whether a more relevant offering will help draw more interest from potential employees. In doing so, they need to listen to their employees and pay attention to what other employers—even those outside the healthcare sector—are offering. Your BDO representative can help evaluate your existing benefit structure and answer questions about how to gain an edge in the job market.

Patrick Pilch is the managing director and national leader of the BDO Center for Healthcare Excellence and Innovation. Beth Garner is an assurance partner and national practice leader for employee benefit plan audits at BDO.

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