September 17, 2014
Health IT (HIT) consultants are riding a wave of high demand and increased prestige thanks to federal mandates that have driven hospital spending on information technology projects to record levels.
But full-time IT employees in healthcare say they aren’t quite as happy or engaged as the consultants that they often work with. The relative dissatisfaction of full-time equivalents (FTEs) has many of them considering a job change, according to our recent survey measuring workforce engagement in health IT.
Our firm, Healthcare IT Leaders, asked hundreds consultants and FTEs how they felt about their jobs, their pay and other workforce trends. We found significant contrast between the two groups on how they view their work and their levels of satisfaction.
Most telling: 43 percent of HIT consultants told us they were “very satisfied” with their current role, compared to only 19 percent of full-time employees. As a benchmark, a recent LinkedIn survey of fully-employed workers in 26 countries found that 27 percent were “very satisfied.”
Consultants, more than FTEs, reported that their jobs were challenging and meaningful, which correlated to their overall satisfaction. Pay differentials between consultants and FTEs were also evident in the survey. Forty percent of consultants said they were “very satisfied” with their current pay while only 18 percent of FTEs said the same.
A 2013 Towers-Watson survey suggests that nearly half of IT employees at a hospital would like to work for their current employer until retirement. But the reality of today’s job market is one of greater volatility, with most HIT workers open to new opportunities under certain circumstances.
In our survey only 12 percent of FTEs said they were completely satisfied with their present job and would not currently consider a new one. Twenty-four percent said they were actively looking for a new job, 32 percent said they were occasionally looking, and 32 percent said they were not looking but were open to a new job.
5 Reasons HIT Employees Will Leave
What would make an HIT employee switch jobs? Hiring managers may not want to hear this, but the most common answer is “more money.” Our respondents’ top five reasons for considering a job switch are below:
- Better compensation (74 percent)
- Opportunities for advancement (56 percent)
- Improved work/life balance (44 percent)
- More learning opportunities (36 percent)
- Better benefits (35 percent)
The attraction of higher pay may lure some employees into consulting careers. We asked FTEs if they were considering a switch to become a consultant within the next year, and 13 percent said it was very likely that they would switch to consulting while 22 percent said it was somewhat likely.
Implications for Employers
For managers charged with recruitment and retention, it’s important to appreciate the focus that HIT employees have on practical requirements, such as compensation and advancement opportunities.
Healthcare employers with misconceptions about what their employees value will find it harder to hire and retain critical IT talent.
Employers should also understand that their best employees are at risk to leave. In fact, 58 percent of FTEs said they had looked at a job listing at another company in the past month.
Bosses should keep their teams engaged and well-compensated and also strive to understand the personal motivators of the individuals they hope to retain.
Alex Gramling is the chief marketing officer at Healthcare IT Leaders, a North American healthcare IT consultancy and recruitment firm matching HIT professionals to employers at leading hospitals and health systems.