2010 Salary Survey Results

Want to keep employees happy? Offer flexible schedules, concierges to run errands

The healthcare providers that will be successful are those that have flexibility to minimize work/family conflicts of their employees, experts predict. This flexibility is especial important in healthcare, where 80% of the workforce is female. This statistic is reflected in responses to the 2010 Same-Day Surgery Salary Survey, which showed 86.4% of the respondents are female. (For other demographics, including age, title, and highest degree, see graphics, below.)

"Because the industry is disproportionately reliant on women, allocating flexible work arrangements, to avoid work and family responsibility conflicts, will be absolutely critical to attracting and retaining the very best talent," said Stephen Sweet, PhD, co-principal investigator of the Talent Management Study and lead author of the paper "Responsive Action Steps for the Health Care and Social Assistance Sector," published by the Sloan Center on Aging at Boston College in Newton, MA, where he is a visiting scholar. Sweet is also an Ithaca (NY) College sociologist.

The SDS Salary Survey was mailed in September 2010 to 412 readers. There were 63 responses, for a 15.3% return rate.

Sweet and others make these suggestions:

• Address employees who are too tired to take care of household responsibilities.

According to Sweet's report, one in two people working in the healthcare sector reported being too tired to take care of their household responsibilities several times a month when they came home.

Karen Mathews, director of work life services at WellStar Health System in Marietta, GA, says, "Flexibility is one arena, taking on a whole life of its own across country, as part of way to become best practice organization and address employees needs from a professional and personal frame of reference." WellStar was named one of the top 10 best places to work in the country in the October 2010 issue of Working Mother magazine,

WellStar offers a concierge service for all employees, patients, and physicians, Mathews says. In its first year, it focused primarily on helping employees reduce stress. Mathews says, "Mentally, they may be in a million places, wondering 'how will I get things done when I get off work?'"

The employees use the concierge service for errands, such as picking up dry cleaning, wrapping gifts, and servicing their cars. The only charge for employees is the actual charge of an outside service, such as dry cleaning, plus 50 cents a mile if the concierge is using his or her own car. Employees are not allowed to tip. Employees, doctors, or physicians simply call about a day in advance to schedule the service with the concierge.

Other family-friendly benefits offered by the health system are coverage for in-vitro fertilization, lactation rooms, job-guaranteed maternity leave of 36 weeks, and an increase in adoption aid $4,000 to $5,000. Another popular benefit is coverage for business-trip backup care of $2 to $4 per hour, up to 80 hours per year. That benefit can be used for child care, elder care, or self care anywhere in the country. Employees, for example, can provide care for an elderly parent discharged from a hospital in another city or for themselves if they are discharged after hospitalization and need assistance with meals.

WellStar also offers merit increases ranging from 2% to 5%, and pays bonuses for extremely high performers. According to the 2010 SDS Salary Survey responses, 41.3% of readers received a 1-3% pay increase, and 11.1% received a 4-6% increase. (See graphic on salary changes, and gross income, below. Also see graphic on facility locations, below.)

• Offer flexible work arrangements.

Sweet's report suggests alternate arrangements to minimize family tensions, including flexible schedules and flexible career paths that offer off-ramps and on-ramps. Because healthcare employers are experiencing greater skill shortages than other labor sectors, they need to be more aggressive in advancing flexible work arrangements, according to Sweet's report.

Providers who offer hands-on care want "to be able to control when they come to work and how long they are to work, throughout the life course," Sweet says.

South Broward Endoscopy in Cooper City, FL, named no. 51 on Modern Healthcare's 2010 list of Best Places to Work in Healthcare, has created a weekly schedule that allows some staff to work only during peak hours. Others work four days per week, says Shelly Daduk, MHSA, manager of operations. "We will always try to accommodate staff's needs when it comes to time off, particularly if the time is needed to attend their child's school function," Daduk says.

At WellStar, nurses work 4- to 12-hour shifts. Outpatient surgery "has some nurses who need to work six-hour shifts so they can be home when their children get home from school," Mathews says. Many have compressed workweeks, she says.

Also, the hospital has started using a self-scheduling online tool from Kronos (www.kornos.com) that allows nurses to select shifts, Mathews says. "The manager will always see how everyone is plugged into the schedule and may shift and adjust, but everyone has the ability to plan in advance," Mathews says. "They can look at their children's schedules and decide, this is best schedule for me to work."

The system is also looking at flexible career paths, she says. "We are having discussions with several high performers that we don't want to lose," Mathews says, including some mothers who want to stay home for a few years to care for young children. In comparison, older workers often are looking for reduction in number of work hours, but they still want to maintain a relationship with their employer and job, Sweet says.

• Address baby boomers retiring/transferring knowledge.

A low percentage of health care organizations (29%) have assessed to a moderate/great extent the age of their workforces, according to Sweet's study.

He suggests that you look at staff members who are critical to your operation and ask yourself, can I really expect this person to be here for the foreseeable future?

"While we can't predict behavior of individuals, we can anticipate older workers having a higher likelihood to exit the workplace and want alternative work arrangements," Sweet says.

Think about how you're going to transfer the knowledge those employees have to a multigenerational workforce, he advises. Talk to those employees to find out what might interest them in staying attached to their jobs, he suggests. You can redesign the job definition before the employee announces his or her retirement. For example, you can reduce work hours or contract with staff members after they formally retire, Sweet says.

At WellStar, 32% of the employees are over age 50. Looking at older nurses, "We want to use their organizational, cultural knowledge and expertise for educating," Mathews says. Thus, the older nurses are spending a lot of hours in education/recertification prep roles with other nurses, she says.

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