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Behavioral Healthcare Workforce Issues Top Of Mind At NatCon18

Behavioral Healthcare Workforce Issues Be Heard. This was the simple, yet impactful theme which resonated throughout this year’s National Conference 2018 (NatCon18) in Washington D.C. Nearly 5,000 guests were in attendance at the annual conference, hosted by the National Council for Behavioral Health—each up to the challenge to “Be Heard.”

During the opening keynote, president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, Linda Rosenberg, stressed the importance of helping clients and patients “Be Heard” by calling for the standardization of treatment for behavioral health issues; putting an end to the stigma around mental health and addiction treatments; improving care through the introduction of new technologies; and addressing the growing workforce issues that are directly impacting the ability to provide high quality care.

Low unemployment rates have created a wide-open market for job candidates. Rate and wage issues are making it difficult for providers to be competitive. And a lack of qualified candidates has made it difficult to fill the growing number of open positions.

In an industry where turnover rates in the first year of employment can average well above 50%, many of the conversations around workforce issues were centered on how you can take an employee-centered approach to engage staff throughout the entire employee lifecycle.

Here are a few of the tactics behavioral healthcare providers shared throughout the conference:

  1. Let Your Employees Help You Recruit

Finding qualified candidates was a common challenge among behavioral healthcare organizations. One provider shared how they are working to combat this issue through their employee referral program, which offers small bonuses to staff members who recommend a qualified candidate who is hired and stays with the organization for a selected period of time. A referral program like this is an easy way to turn your top employees into your top recruiters.

  1. Feedback Should Be A Two-Way Street

The need for providers to both provide and be willing to receive feedback was another common topic of discussion. In a session focused on how to better serve a multi-generational workforce, panel members stressed the need for organizations to treat performance reviews as living, breathing documents that are updated on a regular basis, not just once a year during the designated performance review period.

One provider noted that their performance reviews are updated in as close to real-time as possible and serve as regular talking points for managers and employees. This has allowed them to recognize high performers in the moment as well as address issues as they occur.

But today’s workforce, particularly millennials, don’t just want to receive feedback, they also want to provide it. One community-based healthcare provider noted how they’ve begun to move away from annual surveys towards more frequent surveys that allow them to better monitor overall staff satisfaction and address concerns as they occur.

  1. Don’t Compete On Wages, Compete On Quality Of Life

Offering high wages is not enough to create employee engagement. That’s because engagement isn’t defined by a monetary value, but instead by how an employee feels about your organization.

When employees feel good about the organization they work for, they’re more likely to stay long term. If behavioral healthcare providers want to remain competitive, they need to compete based on how their organization improves quality of life for their employees.

One provider noted the impact offering more flexible scheduling options has had on overall engagement. Millennials, most notably, place a high value on maintaining work-life balance. Because of this, they are more likely to be engaged with organizations that place an equally high value on helping them achieve this.

It was great to have the opportunity to meet everyone NatCon18. This was both mine and OnShift’s first time attending a National Conference event and while the industry faces a number of challenges, workforce and otherwise, the energy and positive spirit of the attendees was felt throughout the duration of the show. And, it was fun to see people rocking the OnShift shades we were giving away on the expo floor.

This was also the first show OnShift attended as an official DATIS partner. It was wonderful being able to catch up with the team and share with providers how both OnShift and DATIS can help them increase efficiencies, reduce excess labor costs and better engage employees.

We look forward to continuing the many conversations we started with providers during the event and helping them achieve their workforce management goals.


Learn how OnShift helped Graceworks increase employee engagement and scheduling efficiencies in their 40 group homes.

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