There is probably not a single healthcare organization that does not struggle with how to attract skilled personnel. This is confirmed by our recent survey among CEOs of healthcare providers in Switzerland.

Those surveyed deem governance and corporate culture to be the topics with the highest potential. Yet, many initiatives today still aim at optimizing recruiting.

Healthcare is still very much a people-driven business – people serving people, even though the use of technology is steadily gaining ground.

From physicians and nurses to medical technicians and therapists who provide services directly to patients on a daily basis, to IT professionals, project leaders and managers, the rising demand for healthcare services is outpacing the availability of skilled professionals, thus increasing the strain on healthcare systems both in a national and international context. 

Shortage of specialists highly obvious – most apparent in the nursing profession

In all organizations surveyed, the shortage in qualified staff is ever present, be it in acute care, psychiatry or rehabilitation: 70% of respondents "completely agree" while 30% "somewhat agree" to the shortage in skilled personnel being obvious in their organizations.

The question regarding the breakdown according to profession paints a very clear picture: The most acute shortage is still in nursing, followed by qualified staff in the medical-technical and medical-therapeutic fields.

Of the professional groups providing services, physicians are only in third place. There also appears to be a particularly great demand for qualified IT staff.

Even though IT professionals hardly ranked first in any of the surveyed organizations, overall, they make up the most sought-after service-providing professional group. Employees in finance & projects, HR and in the remaining support functions such as cleaning, kitchen, etc. are only of secondary importance as they are still more readily available on the labor market. 

Barchart "Which occupational groups are impacted most by the shortage of qualified staff?"

> Click on the image to enlarge it.

Shortage of specialists a source of concern

Healthcare organizations are faced with new challenges stemming from the shortage of skilled personnel. In light of Switzerland's high hospital density by international standards, there has rarely been any issue regarding the availability of hospital beds.

Another story, though, is whether there are enough employees available to operate these hospital beds. For this reason, closing wards due to a lack of skilled staff has become a daily occurrence in many organizations.

Not surprisingly, the survey participants are most concerned about the ability to meet current demand for inpatient and outpatient care.

It also appears that many organizations are not in a position to support employee well-being to the desired degree. Also of concern to respondents is the ability to retain key employees or recruit new talent. 

Barchart "Which specific issues concerning the shortage in qualified staff are the most worrying to you?"

> Click on the image to enlarge it.

A clear call to action for senior management

The lack of qualified personnel has become prevalent, and it is a major burden on healthcare organizations. This raises the issue of responsibilities: which bodies are charged with developing new organizational strategies for addressing the shortage of healthcare professionals?

Almost 80% of the organizations are handling the shortage of skilled employees at the management level. In 13% of the organizations surveyed, strategic HR is dealing with strategies and measures to mitigate the effect of the skills shortage, and around 10% of the survey participants had complaints that responsibilities were not clearly assigned.

Curiously, in none of the organizations surveyed the Board of Directors is taking the lead. As a result, the specialist shortage is still seen more as an operational risk than a strategic one.

However, based on the survey, 85% of organizations are addressing the topic in a systematic and strategic way. Only 15% of the participants believe that their organization addresses the issue of skilled employees in a barely adequate manner or not at all. 

Piechart "Does your organization sufficiently focus on the issue of the lack of qualified staff in a systematic and strategic way?"

> Click on the image to enlarge it.

Facing the future with leadership quality

The lack of skilled personnel is noticeable, causes concern, and in 90% of the organizations surveyed there is a clear mandate to proactively tackle the skills shortage. So which strategic initiatives give hope?

Most of the potential is perceived in the area of "leadership and culture": Around 85% of respondents believe that investing in leadership quality and a cultural realignment are the appropriate measures to respond to the war for talent.

For 70% of respondents, the solution lies in a clear HR strategy. Just around half of the respondents consider the digitalization of treatment and supporting HR processes as a possible approach to reducing the demand for specialists in-house.

Only about 20% of respondents see initiatives to redesign the organizational structure and governance as a promising strategic direction. 

Piecharts "For your organization, which strategic directions hold the greatest potential in your opinion?"

> Click on the image to enlarge it.

Mostly a destructive competition

When considering the specific measures that have so far been taken by healthcare organizations, a wide spectrum of measures emerges. They include measures aimed at sustainability with a view to reducing their own vulnerability: e.g. adapting shift and work schedules to make the profession and the organization more attractive compared to the competitors, or implementing new collaboration models to reduce the need for highly qualified specialists. 

Even though the highest potential is attributed to leadership quality and cultural development, only a few service providers have yet taken any concrete measures. 

In competing for talent, many organizations sometimes rely on "poaching strategies" that are hardly sustainable in the long run, particularly in the national context.

Healthcare has definitely embraced head hunting and partnering with external recruiters, targeted employer branding initiatives, as well as compensation measures. 

Wordcloud "What concrete measures have you already taken in the area of professionals?"

> Click on the image to enlarge it.

Well-being rather than new technologies

At the same time, however, we can also note the following: Investments are being made in employee health and well-being.

With the goal of increasing the attractiveness of healthcare professions and retaining employees in their jobs for longer, outdated working time models are being revised and a range of corporate health management measures are being introduced to strengthen resilience.

Less crucial seem to be measures to increase the degree of digitalization to counter the shortage of skilled staff. 

Even though Switzerland has yet to reach a top position in the digitalization of treatment pathways, its potential from the use of new technologies is considered to be low. As a result, only a few initiatives are currently in place to reduce the need for specialists by increasing the level of automation. 

Leadership and corporate culture – walking the talk

In the future, service providers will need to invest to an even greater extent in the leadership qualities of their managers so that the hospital is perceived as an appreciative, motivating, innovative environment that is conducive to the mental health of its staff.

The survey has clearly shown that the potential has been recognized; what is now needed are tangible measures to improve the promised commitment to employees. After all, happy employees are highly motivated employees.

So, in conclusion, the first and most important step towards a more patient-centered care is a more employee-centered organization. 

The survey was conducted by KPMG among 95 relevant healthcare organizations and generated a 36% response rate. Those surveyed included acute somatic, rehabilitation, and psychiatric institutions in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. The survey took place between July and September 2022.

Download our findings or read more about leading passionately

Contact us to discuss the findings

Did you find an answer to your question or have some more?

We would be happy to share our thoughts on the implications for your organization.