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Compensation trends spotlight: Health Care Industry

COVID-19 significantly impacted how people work, where they work and what they value. 

Beyond Data

By Kara Koss | December 28, 2020

All industries felt the impact, especially the Health Care industry which has seen unprecedented disruption and change globally.

COVID-19 significantly impacted how people work, where they work and what they value. All industries felt the impact, especially the health care industry which has seen unprecedented disruption and change globally. The pandemic has caused a rapid acceleration of digital transformation in the industry and it’s changing the way health care is delivered. In the United States, a sharp reduction in elective care has led to employee furloughs and other cost-containment measures at a time when frontline staff is needed most and personal protective equipment (PPE) is costly and scarce. As we look towards the “next normal” post-COVID, health care organizations will need to shore up their financial positions and invest in technology and talent with critical digital skills to support telehealth and virtual medicine. Supporting frontline workers is also critical, through monetary (spot bonuses, overtime or extra vacation days) and non-monetary (on-site childcare, flexible schedules for employees who do not need to work on-site, etc.) benefits.

Based on our 2020 compensation surveys and industry research, we observed a few key trends in 2020 for the health care Industry.

Digital transformation in health care is on the rise, and organizations need to invest in technology solutions and staff with critical skills to ensure they can meet the needs of their patients and staff in the future

Organizations need to prioritize employee well-being and explore creative ways to increase engagement and avoid burnout

Financial pressures caused by the pandemic will be felt in the industry for a long time. Compensation data and insights are more necessary than ever to streamline HR budgets and retain critical talent

Key trends in the health care industry

Digital transformation in health care

While other industries have utilized virtual work for years, health care organizations are late adopters, likely due to the volume of patient-centered work that must be done at a hospital or health care facility. In 2020, however, many employees have had to shift to remote work, whether due to caregiving responsibilities at home or to reduce the risk of disease spread. As noted in Figure 1, health care organizations have shifted as many employees as possible to remote work, but the numbers still lag well behind other industries. And while only 12% of health care employees worked remotely in 2019, organizations predict that nearly one-third of employees will remain working remotely in 2021 and beyond.

This sort of shift to remote work requires significant health information management resources, especially considering country-specific patient information privacy laws (such as HIPAA in the United States). Telehealth and telemedicine – clinicians providing assessments and treatment in a virtual environment – have seen tremendous growth in 2020 and are being utilized by all organizations across all industries.

Unsurprisingly, health care organizations are leading the way in providing virtual health management services to their employees. As noted in Figure 2, 87% of health care organizations promote telemedicine to their employees as a primary treatment for acute illness (instead of going to urgent care or the emergency department), and 71% offer virtual primary care for routine checkups.

Industry hot jobs

The 2020 US Willis Towers Watson Health Care Compensation Survey data shows a greater than average increase in market demand for jobs clustered in the following main functions: radiology, IT development, strategic planning and corporate development, IT administration, and data science and business intelligence.

Figure 3 shows the median base salary of the highest paid roles within each function for a mid-career professional in 2020.

Figure 3 - Highest paid jobs by Function, P3 level (US data only
Function Discipline Median Base Salary
Radiology Radiation Physicist $194.6
Radiation Therapy Technology $103.3
Nuclear Medicine Technology $85.6
IT Development IT Architecture (Systems Design) $114.8
Network Architecture Design $112.4
IS and Cyber Security Development $108.7
Strategic Planning and Corporate Development Strategic Planning $90.3
Corporate Development $81.8
IT Administration Database Administration $106.7
IS and Cyber Security $99.2
Network Control/ Administration $98.6
Data Science and Business Intelligence Data Engineering $107.5
Clinical Business Informatics Project Management $102.2
Predictive Analytics/Business Intelligence $100.6

Salary Increases

Health care organizations have been seeing increased financial pressure in recent years, even prior to the pandemic. According to our recent Health Care Policies and Practices Survey, just over half (55.7%) of responding organizations granted salary increases in 2019, down from 92.7% of organizations in 2018. Of those granting increases, the average planned increase was 2.9% of salary for eligible employees, down from 3% in 2019. Responding organizations indicated they were projecting an average salary increase budget of 2.8% for 2021, but the actual budgeted amounts may be lower due to the continued impact of COVID-19.

According to our North American Compensation Planning Pulse Survey fielded in September, approximately half of responding health care organizations are projecting lower salary increase budgets due to the financial impacts of COVID-19 (see Figure 4). This is not surprising, given that one of the key performance measures for bonus and incentive pay programs is the organization’s financial performance across all levels of staff (Figure 5).

Non-monetary rewards and employee engagement programs

Due to financial pressures brought about by COVID-19, health care organizations are developing creative ways to reward and engage their employees and avoid staff burnout. While the physical safety of frontline staff remains the top priority for health care organizations, supporting employee wellbeing is also critical. Figure 6 outlines some of the priority actions organizations have taken to support their employees, including communications encouraging employees to take advantage of resources provided by employee assistance programs (EAP) and enhancing mental health services. This outreach is not limited to frontline clinical staff; organizations are providing wellbeing services to non-clinical, remote and even furloughed staff.

Supporting employees working remotely due to caregiving responsibilities is also a major priority. This may include offering flexible work hours, support navigating available community resources, and providing backup care services for children or elderly family members. Health care organizations are also more likely to offer flexibility to at-risk employees than organizations in other industries (Figure 7).

Figure 6 – Priority actions taken to support employees
Figure 6 – Priority actions taken to support employees
Health care organizations are communicating on benefits and wellbeing programs that might be important to employees at this time. In April, 63% or organizations responded that they were doing this action, and by June, it went up to 67%. The number of organizations enhancing mental health services and stress/resilience management also went up to 56% in June from 52% in April. 37% of organizations are addressing benefits for employees not at work in April then it went down to 14% in June.

Resilience and creativity have been two of the most critical tools for organizations navigating the business impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Human Resources staff, especially at health care organizations, have had to guide employees through intense working conditions, swift changes in how work gets done, and provide continued support to keep employees safe and healthy – all while dealing with serious financial uncertainty. In these unprecedented times, you need as much high-quality data and insights as possible to make informed decisions and ensure your workforce feels safe, healthy, supported and productive. Our health care compensation surveys, policies and practices surveys and critical consulting insights will give you the information your organization needs to identify the best ways to utilize your resources without sacrificing employee satisfaction. Join us.

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