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VIEWPOINT: Get Creative in Three Areas to Win the Battle for Talent

By Kimberly Townsend

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The Federal Reserve’s March edition of the “Beige Book” provided a summary of an economy that is improving in many ways but continues to present challenges. Unemployment rates continue to fall, creating unprecedented, widespread workforce shortages. Inflation remains high, creating additional financial burdens and upward wage pressures as employees struggle to pay more for everything. The Fed’s specific reference to the challenge of “finding workers with desired skills or experience” is not news to those of us who find ourselves leading organizations through the “battle for talent.” 

Fortunately, in addition to sharing these challenges, we can also share ideas for success. To be successful in the battle for talent, all businesses (including, but not limited to, health care) need to get creative in three key areas:

• Create your own training program to educate current and future employees (partnerships welcome).

LinkedIn’s “2023 Workplace Learning Report” shows that two of the top five factors people consider when pursuing a new job are opportunities to learn new skills and grow in their careers. To attract and retain talent, businesses must invest in training programs tied to career and wage growth.

We all have different skills and experience we’re looking for in employees —  as a business leader, you know the needs of your business best, so why not create a custom on-the-job training program? If you aren’t sure you have the resources to do it alone, look for organizations like your local community college or economic-development agencies to help identify partners that can team up with you to create training programs for new and current employees.

For example, at Loretto, we do both. We partner with organizations in Central New York to support health-care training programs, and we’ve launched our own training programs. Why? Because there is a need for training programs that will attract people not just to Loretto but to the health-care industry as a whole. Could you do something similar to impact your business and your industry?

• Diversify funding sources so you can increase wages and offer bonuses to retain current employees and attract new talent.

How can we cope with inflation while keeping up with market demands for wage increases and sign-on bonuses? Loretto is one of many organizations experiencing a dire lack of funding due to relying on Medicaid reimbursement. However, we are not alone in facing financial challenges. Organizations confronting funding challenges should actively think outside the box about finding new revenue streams to support their primary business. 

Begin brainstorming ideas without boundaries or limitations. Think broadly, freely and creatively — “in an ideal world free of rules” — and then apply the rules and constraints after going through that process. Free your mind to think in ways that may or may not lead anywhere. Capture all thoughts and believe there is no such thing as a bad idea. How you capture the ideas depends on your learning style. As a visual learner, I enjoy mind mapping with an old-school pen and paper — writing my problem in the middle and then visually connecting my thoughts and ideas. A recorded brainstorming session with your right-hand person might work better if you're an auditory learner. The method is flexible, but freeing your mind is not — it’s been the key to many of my team’s best ideas for solving complex problems like funding.

• Create an innovative environment where people want to work.

Businesses spend plenty of time thinking about creating the most innovative products, services, and experiences to retain current customers and generate new leads — and understandably so; we do the same for our residents at Loretto. However, it’s essential to consider how your efforts in offering the best and most innovative products and services impact your employees and your talent pool. We’ve learned that people at Loretto get excited about working in our newest, most innovative spaces, like our memory special care units. Innovative workspaces look different for every industry. If some (or all) of your team works remotely or on a hybrid schedule, an innovative environment may translate to revisiting the technologies they use to work independently and collaboratively.

What is it about an innovative environment? We can all agree that we enjoy working in a space with the latest tools and technology and a purposeful design. Beyond the physical space, we see a business that has demonstrated a commitment to innovation. Deloitte’s “Innovation Study 2021: Beyond the buzzword” discovered that “organizations with a strong executive-level commitment to, and understanding of, innovation are more likely to report recent revenue growth.” In other words, there is a correlation between business innovation and success.

Yes, employee recognition and pizza parties are part of creating an environment where people want to work, but being truly innovative in your industry will also make your organization a place where people want to stay. In fact, Loretto is celebrating our employees’ benchmark anniversaries, and we have 40 people who have been with Loretto for 25 years or more — including a few 40-year and 45-year anniversaries.       


Kimberly Townsend, Ph.D. is president and CEO of Loretto and author of “Lifecircle Leadership” and “Lessons in Lifecircle Leadership.” For more information about Townsend, visit: DrKimberlyTownsend.com and LorettoCNY.org.