Aaron Miri, Chief Digital and Information Officer for Baptist Health, says that investing in professional development has helped with staff retention.

May 24 2023
Digital Workspace

How to Attract Healthcare IT Talent and Keep It

Three healthcare organizations share strategies and best practices for hiring and retaining IT employees.

Aaron Miri knows he needs to do more than offer competitive salaries and benefits to attract and keep IT employees at Baptist Health.

The Jacksonville, Fla.-based health system’s chief digital and information officer also delivers perks, such as professional development opportunities and flexible work arrangements for staff whose jobs don’t require them to be onsite. He also has built a culture that values employees and gives them a voice.

“Just don’t be a jerk. It’s not difficult to treat people fairly and as humans. That’s what resonates with folks,” says Miri, one of HealthTech's 2023 Health IT Influencers Worth a Follow. “I also empower my leadership team to make decisions. I give people latitude and the freedom to fail. If they feel passionate that a technology choice is the right route, I’ll support them. I don’t micromanage.”

Healthcare organizations across the U.S. face staffing shortages not only on the clinical side but also in IT. They must go above and beyond to recruit and keep the best and brightest IT workers, offering benefits that improve their experience, such as remote work, professional training and access to modern technology to do their jobs more effectively, says Seth Robinson, CompTIA’s vice president of industry research.

“People aren’t just going for the highest dollar amount. They are considering other things that fall under employee experience,” Robinson says.

Computerworld’s 2023 Best Places to Work in IT survey highlights many healthcare organizations, including Baptist Health, Corewell Health in Michigan and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, which excel in support for hybrid work options, career development opportunities and employee engagement. 

Click the banner to explore the full list of HealthTech's 2023 Health IT Influencer Worth a Follow.

Baptist Health Improves IT Staff Retention

Since joining Baptist Health nearly two years ago, Miri has reduced monthly IT employee turnover from percentages in the 20s to single digits. “We were losing about 1 out every 5 IT employees. Now, it’s about 1 in 10 or 1 in 12,” he says.

Miri is retaining more staff because of the initiatives he has launched, including professional development training. He and his management team have built a positive, supportive work environment and receive regular feedback through employee satisfaction surveys.

“People stay because they feel valued,” he says. “A paycheck is important, but they stay because they like who they work for, they like where they work and they find what they do meaningful.”

Baptist Health, which has standardized on Dell Azure Stack hyperconverged infrastructure equipment, Pure Storage hardware and Arista networking equipment, recently consolidated multiple electronic health records into a single Epic implementation and built a mobile app to better engage patients.

The IT team also is pursuing artificial intelligence and automation projects, upgrades to its enterprise resource planning system, and a redesigned bedside processes to optimize operations and improve patient care. 

“Working in healthcare gives people purpose. You wouldn’t be in this business unless you wanted to make a difference,” Miri says.

READ MORE: Healthcare IT leaders discuss diversity, equity and inclusion in the workforce.

Baptist Health Offers Career Growth Opportunities

Working closely with the Baptist HR department, Miri launched a career advancement and professional development program in late 2022. So far, about 50 percent of the 500-person IT staff has signed up for training to develop their skills.

He partnered with several technical certification programs, allowing employees who want to grow their careers to take online courses on their own time. Doing so enables Baptist Health to meet future needs from its own internal talent pool, he says. 

“I’m offering you a buffet table, saying, ‘Choose what you want to learn, whether it’s Python, data analytics or ChatGPT, and I will pay for it because I’m banking on the fact that if I continue to invest in you, you’re going to invest in Baptist,” Miri says.

IT staff who want to pursue new positions, such as entry-level desktop support analysts who want to become software designers, can shadow their colleagues to learn the ropes, Miri says.

Aaron Miri
I’m banking on the fact that if I continue to invest in you, you’re going to invest in Baptist.”

Aaron Miri Chief Digital and Information Officer, Baptist Health

In Michigan, Corewell Health also offers training and supports attendance to conferences when it’s beneficial to employees’ jobs. IT managers meet with employees to come up with a career development plan so they can progress and reach their goals, says Corewell Health Chief Digital and Information Officer Jason Joseph.

“We have purposeful discussions on what their aspirations are, and what they would need to do to achieve their goals,” he says.

Corewell Health — formerly Beaumont Health and Spectrum Health — also holds an annual two-day digital services summit, where the 1,700-person IT staff can network, attend career development sessions and learn from each other, Joseph says.

“We have sessions where staff teach staff, and we bring in clinicians to talk about the importance of digital technology in their world,” he says.

EXPLORE: What’s next for the digital workplace?

Flexible Work Options at Healthcare Organizations

Most IT employees also want the flexibility to work from home. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, only small pockets of Corewell Health’s IT staff were allowed to telecommute. Now, the digital services department has made hybrid work a permanent option for employees who can do their jobs remotely, Joseph says.

Corewell Health does ask employees to come into the office on occasion so they can have face time with their colleagues. Important conversations and collaboration happen differently when team members are together. He asks teams to hold occasional meetings for what he calls “gathering with a purpose.” The focus is on mental health, wellness and sustaining culture, and less about performance and productivity, he adds.

Similarly, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta allows hybrid work for appropriate job roles, but it asks remote workers to come into the office for important meetings. “If there’s a large meeting with business partners, we ask them to show that flexibility back and come into the office,” says Children’s CISO Stoddard Manikin.

Employees can work seamlessly from home thanks to technology. Corewell Health has standardized on Microsoft Teams for communication and collaboration, while Children’s uses Cisco Webex with softphones and Microsoft 365.

Baptist Health staffers use a mix of Dell, HP and Lenovo laptops and a combination of Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop, Citrix and VMware software to access applications and data remotely. They also use Microsoft 365 and Zoom for communication and collaboration, and key security tools that include CrowdStrike and TauSight, Miri says.

92.7 percent

The retention rate of IT employees at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in 2022

Source: Stoddard Manikin

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Engages Its Employees

Employee engagement also is critical in attracting and retaining staff. Children’s, which has 436 IT employees, conducts employee satisfaction surveys every year and sometimes twice a year.

Seven years ago, the IT department received feedback from a staff survey that the employees were not given enough training opportunities. IT leadership immediately enhanced its training program, Manikin says. 

Because the IT team works in different locations, the department holds an offsite all-hands meeting at least once a year. Staffers review accomplishments, talk about upcoming focus areas and strategies, and celebrate employment anniversaries.

“It helps everybody to connect face-to-face, be reminded of our shared mission and have a break from the day-to-day routine,” he says.

Manikin holds regular security leadership meetings and allocates time for managers and team leaders to bring him concerns. The IT department also has launched the IT Shared Leadership program, where IT staffers not in management volunteer to talk about workplace issues and provide advice to leadership, he adds.

“Staff has found it to be empowering,” Manikin says. “It’s an opportunity for them to share their advice and give feedback in an open way.”

UP NEXT: Find out how digital transformation is changing CIO and nursing roles.

Photography By Ryan Wendler
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