Rebounding from Healthcare Security’s “Great Resignation”

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Media has reported frequently on the exodus of medical professionals burnt out from the pandemic, but what has been largely overlooked is that highly experienced, front line healthcare security professionals also left the industry in high numbers. 

The U.S. Department of Labor began reporting on the number of U.S. workers who quit their jobs beginning in December 2020 and dubbed the phenomena  “The Great Resignation.”   According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over the last year, the rate of job resignations in the United States reached highs not seen since the start of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey program in December 2000.”

As the spike in COVID-19 infections hit hospitals nationwide, healthcare security officers were faced with a rush of patients, changes in policies including no visitors, COVID-19 screening throughout the buildings, an increase in theft and a critical lack of resources. Even PPE donations became a logistical challenge as storage and delivery were challenged by the pandemic.

The pandemic was a catalyst for multiple demographic sectors working in healthcare security – ranging from Generation Z, and Millennials to Baby Boomers - to reassess their lives and make changes to their day-to-day working lives. 

Why Different Demographics Left Healthcare Security

Many Generation Z workers – those born between 1997 and 2012 decided to stop working entirely, move back home with their parents and extend their education.

Millennials – those born between 1981 and 1996 – are more likely to be raising families, so they saw the advent of the new wave of Zoom-inspired jobs with work from home options as a viable option to secure an enhanced work-life balance.

Many Baby Boomers born between 1946-1962 and working in healthcare security, had retired from their first career but looked to healthcare security as a challenging second career to remain busy and productive while securing additional income. These Boomers, the youngest who are only 60 years old, often have saved and invested well, and because of that, they opted to take Social Security benefits early and fully retire. 

Overcoming Healthcare Security Labor Crunch

The ‘Great Resignation’ is not an isolated issue as economies around the world are feeling these pressures.  Unfortunately, this does not appear to be changing anytime soon, so employers need to ensure that they consider the following:

  • Competitive Wages are Crucial:  Ensuring wages are at, or preferably above, industry standards are important to recruit high quality healthcare security professionals.  Competitive wages are moving sharply and hiring managers do not want to find themselves in a less than competitive situation. Valuable assessment tools in planning competitive compensation can be found from the Economic Research Institute and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Consider hiring a more experienced and skilled individual in place of two less experienced individuals.  While this individual will require a higher compensation, they very well may be more productive and provide better value when you factor in benefits and overall headcount. 
  • Flexible Schedules:  Flexible schedules are nothing new to the world of healthcare security, but the pandemic has taught everyone that flexible schedules are possible across sectors.  
  • Comprehensive, Well-Funded Benefits:   Now is not the time to skimp on benefits.  Paid time-off, employer-paid healthcare, 401K retirement savings plans and employee discounts to perk programs are recommended. 
  • Invest in Onboarding and Ongoing Training:  A leading reason for job dissatisfaction is employees who are uncomfortable about their job knowledge, may be fearful of making mistakes and failing.  Make sure that all new employees’ have a positive and comprehensive onboarding experience.  Once onboarded, it is vitally important to commit to ongoing training to ensure employees are confident and competent in their roles. 
  • Alternatives to Labor:  Identifying occupational tasks that are necessary but that may not require human engagement should be considered. Humans are best at decision-making and situational analysis. When it comes to security, technology can excel at monotonous, computationally complex, and sometimes hazardous work.  Security robots and technology can create a force-multiplying deterrence to criminal activities and unwanted behaviors. The use of remote video monitoring in place of on-site personnel and the installation of a modern visitor management system that all staff members can access can speed up the credentialling and verification of visitors and sub-contractors while reducing the labor headcount and improving the overall visitor experience.
  • Healthcare Security Assessments:  Often, when we look at the security measures of a healthcare environment, the deployment of personnel and use of technology is based on historical risks and practices that may no longer be relevant.  Conducting a thorough review of a hospital’s security risks, mitigation plans, deployment of security professionals, and use of technology should be evaluated on a regular basis.  Doing so will not only help identify new or emerging risks but also provide an opportunity to evaluate the security programs overall efficacy.  In many cases, this review will identify ways to optimize the use of manpower and integration of technology for a more efficient program. When evaluating healthcare security, healthcare leaders should consider the following points:
    • What is the location of the facility – rural or urban?
    • What is the size of the hospital?
    • What are the unique demands?
    • What is the local crime rate?
    • What is the hospital culture?
    • What security technology is implemented?
    • What are your expectations of your security staff?
    • Is your current program contributing to patient satisfaction?
    • What training has been provided to security and hospital staff?

Finally, and maybe most important, the need for strong and competent healthcare leadership has possibly never been greater.  Managers should display care, mentorship, and emotional intelligence with their direct reports to increase job satisfaction and performance.  Slow things down and take time to show a genuine interest in the employee’s wellbeing.  This will have a significant impact on building employee loyalty, reducing turnover, and making for a much more pleasant work environment.

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About the Author:
Thomas Walton is Senior Vice President, Vertical Markets at Allied Universal, a leading security and facility services company with 800,000 employees and revenues of approximately $20 billion. He can be reached at: thomas.walton@aus.com.