Healthcare worker putting on  gloves.

Healthcare staffing has been a rollercoaster for hiring managers and healthcare systems alike over the last year, with some hospitals and non-emergent care providers hemorrhaging jobs at the start of the pandemic. In June, the need for frontline healthcare workers once again spiked, with providers adding new roles and open positions to recover from the over 100,000 jobs previously lost. One thing remains constant, however: the need for continued in-depth training for new and current employees. As the world continues to navigate the pandemic while preparing to provide millions of vaccinations across the country, skilled frontline healthcare workers are more vital than ever. To ensure your staff is ready and able to handle the high demand of new patients, reliance on telehealth, and the first waves of vaccinations, you first need a clear picture of what skills your employees are missing.

Start with a skills gap analysis. This process will help you spot opportunities for upskilling and development. Look for the answers to these four questions:

  1. What skills do employees need to do their jobs?
  2. What competencies do you anticipate employees will need in the future?
  3. Do your employees have everything identified by the first two questions?
  4. How can you fill the gaps?

Besides the changes that have been wrought by COVID-19 to date, technology is evolving all the time. Businesses that want to succeed must upgrade or be left behind. This is especially true in the healthcare industry. The introduction of automation and digitization means that employees need more technical skills than ever before. Meanwhile, as people become more comfortable with technology, we’ve seen a weakening in soft skills like communication, problem solving, and time management that are essential to success in business. Even if you are meeting most of your goals most of the time, a skills gap analysis can help you improve efficiency and identify weaknesses before they become detrimental.

Identify the skills – or lack thereof – your employees currently possess

Don’t assume you know what skills are needed to fill a particular role, especially if you’re responsible for managing talent acquisition for a variety of departments and specialties. Instead, do your research and identify the skills that are essential for each role. While there are numerous methods to gather your data, a mix of the following can produce the most on-point results.

  • Talk to management - Managers have a first-hand understanding of what it takes to do the job and what skills their employees may need to improve. Interview them one-on-one or provide a fill in the blank style survey.
  • Survey employees - Go straight to the people who do the job and ask them what skills they feel are most essential. You may be surprised by their answers.
  • Review business objectives - Look at the overall goals for your business or a specific department. What skills do employees need to help reach these goals?

For each role, write a clear description of the duties necessary. Then break those duties down into the skills essential to do the job. For example, does a particular role demand a high level of contact with patients? Communication and customer service skills are vital for those hired to fill these positions.

After assessing what skills are needed, prioritize them by determining which are essential to success in the role immediately versus those that can be developed over time.

Inventory existing skillsets in employees

Once you have a list of skills to work from, you can start investigating whether your employees have these skills and at what level. You might be tempted to take shortcuts here. It’s easy to assume that the person with a nursing certificate has essential problem-solving skills or that the Pharmacy Technician with 10 years of experience has expert level knowledge of their job. Those assumptions can cost you.

Both education and experience can help employees build essential skills, but a certificate or a decade of experience doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the employee built the specific skills you need them to have. Don’t assume, but rather take steps to inventory what skills workers possess and what they’re currently lacking. The following can provide useful data that can be leveraged when discussing training initiatives with leadership.

  • Administer a skills test - The most straightforward way to assess skills is with a practical test. Make sure the test is focused on only essential skills and you have a clear scoring system in place. An outside consultant might be useful here.
  • Review performance results - Look at how employee performance measures up to expectations. You can often draw conclusions about missing skills based on where employees are not meeting performance goals.
  • Ask employees - Many employees know where their weaknesses are. Ask them outright what skills they feel they could improve or where they would like to see more training.
  • Project future needs - As your business evolves into the future, its skills needs may change. Take into account the skills employees will need to do their job in the next few years, to make sure that your skills gap analysis remains accurate into the near future.

Compare the results of your assessment with the skills you identified in step one. Do your employees have all the skills they need to do their jobs? Do they have the skills they’ll need in the future?

Create a strategy to identify and address skills gaps in current and incumbent employees

With the gaps identified, you can develop a strategy for closing them. That strategy can be based on training, tuition assistance, credentialing, or some combination of the three. Degree programs can have an impact, but a more-focused approach may have faster results. As the demand for frontline healthcare workers continues to grow, filling open positions quickly is a must. That’s where focused, in-depth training like that provided by Penn Foster’s Healthcare Careers Institute can help.

Through career pathway programs and certificates, you can prepare new employees to successfully tackle job tasks in a shorter period of time, ensuring your team is ready to handle an influx of patients. With programs that can be completed in as little as six months online, you can provide training and upskilling that form the foundation of a strong, successful healthcare team.

From training for newly in-demand roles like contacting tracing to providing certification preparation for pharmacy technicians, the Healthcare Careers Institute can help. Contact a training expert today to get started.