Health

Officials in charge of hiring and retention at three major health care companies headquartered in Louisville are figuring out how to deal with anticipated major growth in health care jobs, both skilled and unskilled.

A panel convened Wednesday in front of hundreds of health care employers in Louisville organized by Health Enterprises Network, a project from Greater Louisville Inc.

Beth Davisson, executive director of the Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center, said out of around 1,000 Kentucky employers surveyed in 2017, 84 percent projected their businesses would grow within the next five years.

“That same amount of businesses cannot find the talent they need today to fill the jobs they have available,” Davisson said. “So you have to wonder, how are we going to fill those jobs if we don’t yet have the talent we need today?”

According to the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics, more than 50,000 new positions will be created in the health care industry in Kentucky by 2022, mainly because of an aging population that will need more services.

But hiring for these jobs may not be an easy task. Only 59.2 percent of Kentuckians are actively working or looking for a job, which means there’s an untapped population of people who could fill those roles. Bringing that percentage up to the national labor participation rate would mean 120,000 people would have to get jobs, according to the report from the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics.

But for employers, hiring comes down to the skills needed to fulfill a job.

Steve Cunanan, chief people and administrative officer at Kindred, said there are efforts in Kentucky to train young people. One such program is through Jefferson County Public Schools, which partners with employers to train their students in needed skills like technology, Spanish for health care settings and math for manufacturing.

“How do we engage that population of folks that are currently not participating in the work force and how do we train them?” questioned Cunanan. “[Kindred is a] big supporter of some things that are going on at JCPS to create employable people as they exit the high schools.”

Cunanan and other panelists noted that they all use internal data to drive how they find new employees. For instance, an internal report from Kindred found that employees who lived within walking distance to public transportation had a higher retention rate. So the company created a job ad campaign around bus stops in Louisville. Kindred also bought digital job ads in geographic areas surrounding those bus stops.

“It was a geographic recruiting strategy,” Cunanan said. “We did bus stop ads, and we did targeted IP addresses in areas surrounding those locations.”

Roger Cude, enterprise vice president of talent at Humana, said in addition to hiring, retaining employees is important so that there’s not such a strong need for hiring. He used the example of home health aide, which is traditionally a lower paying and less skilled job.

“There is inherent stress in caring for someone who is sick. As companies, we tend to make systems hard, make schedules hard, we tend to add all of these things,” Cude said. “So then when you stack that up you start to see double digits turnover numbers. If you can reduce the amount of what I call ‘induced stress,’ that we induce on our home health workers, than you’ve got a fighting chance to retain and you’ve got a much more stable workforce.”

Steven Rudolf, vice president of human resources operations at Baptist Health, also talked about retaining employees as part of growing business.

“We were doing a bang-up job on hiring. Our problem was keeping them once we hired them,” he said. “We literally shifted our focus. It became a retention problem.”