Since the “great resignation” happened in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers in the Lehigh Valley, and nationally, are having a more difficult time recruiting and retaining top talent.
To attract and keep the best employees, it’s not enough to just offer a good job with good pay said Judd Mellinger-Blouch, director pf the Pennsylvania Primary Care Career Center.
“The battle to keep employees is very real,” he said. And, he said leaders in the health care field are discovering that benefits beyond the traditional fee-for service health insurance can come from offering plans that encompass a more comprehensive wellness plan.
“It shows that you care,” he said. “It gives them the knowledge that you give a darn about them.”
Speaking at the 2022 Lehigh Valley Business Health Care Summit, Amanda Marie Greene, director of operations at Lehigh Valley Business Coalition on Healthcare, said the good news is that employers in the Lehigh Valley have a lot of support in providing health and wellness care.
She noted that between Lehigh Valley Health Network, and St. Luke’s University Network there are more hospitals in the Lehigh Valley than there are in some states. In fact, she said, the Lehigh Valley has more hospitals than nine states in the country.
She said employers need, however, to work with these health care and other service providers to develop strategies that not only focus on wages and traditional benefits, but also look into things such as flexibility and emotional and mental health.
The key is finding out what those people you are attempting to attract or retain really want.
“Test different options on benefits to find out what the employees want,” she said.
And what employees want can be very different based on their age and socio-economic status.
Kristin Behler, director of health promotion and wellness at Populytics, said she can’t stress the importance of data enough. She said that’s especially so in lower-income communities where there are factors impacting employee health that the employer might not think of.
She said in some populations transportation issues, access to health food, child care and stress can all impact health.
For example, an employer could offer free gym membership or weight management, but can the employee get to those sites to take advantage of them?
“Who’s going to the gym if there’s no one to take care of the kids?” she said.
Dr. Mark Jacobson, medical director of pharmacy and clinical market services for Highmark, said employers need to look at the population they’re targeting and look at the drivers in the population.
“Medicare patients are very different from Medicaid patients and commercial [health insurance] patients. A younger population is very different than how you would approach an older population,” he said.
Greene said that it’s not just about recruitment and retention but having those employees on the job stay healthy, so they don’t take as many sick days – cutting into productivity.
“Eighty-percent of chronic conditions can be prevented,” she said.
Kevin Davis, senior benefits consultant & senior vice president at Univest Insurance said having a more robust Employee Assistance Program can be a big help, and employers should also make sure they are addressing both mental health issues and emotional well-being.
He gave the example of someone who’s trying to lose weight. A big key to that is why a person eats. Is it stress? He said help from the right wellness coach who understands the dynamic can better help solve food issues.
“So, I’m controlling the food, the food isn’t controlling me,” he said. “We need to connect the dots for people.”
Nick Lukow of Capital BlueCross said the discussion is an important one.
“Education is key. The more you know about the topics the better. It all comes down to spreading the information and data,” he said.