CHRO

How one hospital holds onto employees amid burnout in the healthcare industry

Janel Allen says employee well-being, flexibility, and unique benefits are key to retaining talent.
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3 min read

Hospital workers have been under immense pressure since the early days of the pandemic in 2020. Burnout among healthcare workers goes beyond doctors and nurses, impacting nearly everyone in the system, according to a 2023 study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and others. The US Surgeon General has called for hospitals to provide more mental healthcare to hospital workers, among other resources, as many in the industry have left or plan to leave.

Behind the tired medical and support staff, there are hospital HR leaders who are dedicated to everyone’s well-being. HR Brew spoke to Janel Allen, EVP and chief people officer at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, Omaha, on her role, and how the hospital holds onto valuable workers.

Big feelings. Allen’s career spans more than 20 years, working across the academic world and healthcare before finally landing in pediatric healthcare. Allen said that doing HR at a hospital means you must be invested in who you’re serving. “It’s truly about creating a culture that provides the best care for [the] kids and…families we serve,” she said. “We do that through the people that provide the care. So, we’ve been really passionate about [asking], what can we do for our people?”

Not only does Allen oversee all HR functions within the hospital, marketing and communications was incorporated into her role about two years ago. While she believes this cross-functional role is a rarity, she told HR Brew that the CEO made the shift because it allows Allen to focus on everyone the hospital serves—employees, patients, donors, and the community.

Keeping attrition low. While there’s been a lot of conversation about high rates of turnover or healthcare workers leaving the industry altogether, Allen said that hasn’t been the case for Omaha Children’s Hospital. “I’m proud to say our retention has actually increased over the last three years,” she said.

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From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.

She believes a lot of it comes down to having a well-rounded approach to employee well-being, and making sure that leaders across the organization are having consistent check-ins with employees. The HR team also conducts focus groups and engagement surveys to find out where employees need help the most. “It’s [about] focusing on financial, community, physical, social, and emotional,” and supporting the immediate needs of employees.

While healthcare can be a difficult area to provide employees with flexibility, Allen said they offer a lot of internal mobility opportunities. “We don’t want people to leave our organization or the industry altogether,” she said. “Maybe they’ve been a bedside nurse and want to do something more in our clinic environment or IT space.”

Finally, Allen focuses on employee dependents and partners to help provide diverse benefits. In 2022, the hospital introduced a program that provides continuing education not only to employees, but to employee dependents as well. “It’s great because it’s a retention [strategy] for the individual working for our organization, but also great because we hope [the dependents] will come back and work at Children’s,” she said. The program focuses on funding areas of future critical need, and recipients are not required to work for the hospital, but Allen’s hope is that the next generation will want to.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.