Human resource management in healthcare is a growing field based on the changes affecting the overall working conditions of healthcare professionals. HR management in the healthcare sector is a difficult function to manage because the industry has autonomous professionals who are regulated by trade associations (McHugh, Johnston, & McClelland, 2007). Their practicing licenses come from the associations and not HR departments. The functional roles of HR departments include the hiring of new employees, managing compensation packages, and talent management (BCG, 2010).
The primary duty of HR departments is hiring new employees. In fact, even organizations without substantive HR departments still find ways of executing this role. Recruitment of new employees in the healthcare sector has become critical because of the increasing rate of employee turnover (Gómez-Mejía, Balkin, & Cardy, 2010). The role of HR departments in the healthcare sector is to ensure healthcare facilities have the best professionals needed to deliver services. A major recruitment challenge in healthcare is that it is difficult to base the hiring of new workers on talent. For example, once physicians acquire their practicing licenses, it is difficult to distinguish talented physicians from the rest. This also applies to nurses, pharmacists, and consultants working in the healthcare sector.
The second role of the HR department is the management of remuneration packages in an organization. Remuneration packages include all the benefits that an organization offers its employees to keep them motivated, in addition to basic pay. Remuneration is a key factor in employee retention. Regardless of an organization’s overall working conditions, remuneration often determines its ability to retain top talent (BCG, 2010). This does not mean that high pay is sufficient to retain employees; it means that decent pay is one of the factors needed to retain high performing employees. Many industries link remuneration to performance. If an engineer delivers a product within time and on budget, the engineer receives a bonus. In the healthcare sector, it is difficult to base such bonuses on the performance of a physician. This situation arises from the difficulty associated with indentifying relevant performance measurement metrics. For example, should HR managers recommend bonuses for physicians who have worked for the most hours, or those who have seen the highest number of patients? Quality of care looks like a better measure, yet how does the HR department measure the quality of care provided by each physician to find out the best physician? These questions illustrate the challenge of performance evaluation in the healthcare sector because output is not easy to measure.
The third role of HR departments is talent management. Talent management is a qualitative aspect of the HR function. It comprises all the efforts the organization makes to ensure that it gets value from its talent pool (McHugh, Johnston, & McClelland, 2007). Talent managers look at employees as appreciable assets of the organization. The thrust of talent management is to unlock the productivity potential of the organization by ensuring that all employees have the skills and the tools needed to deliver high quality results. Talent management requires measures that can allow the organization to quantify the output of employees (Gómez-Mejía, Balkin, & Cardy, 2010). It also includes the use of performance appraisals to measure past performance, and goal setting exercises aimed at meeting the overall targets of the organization. The issue of talent management is very vital in the healthcare sector. Just like many service-oriented businesses, the reputation of healthcare facilities depend on the quality of services offered to patients. When clients are happy, they refer more clients to the facility. This means that HR departments have the very important duty of managing talent in healthcare facilities.
BCG. (2010). Creating People Advantage in 2010: How Companies can Adapt their HR Practices for Volatile Times. Boston, MA: The Boston Consulting Group.
Gómez-Mejía, L., Balkin, D., & Cardy, R. (2010). Managing Human Resources. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
McHugh, M., Johnston, K., & McClelland, D. (2007). HRM and the Management of Clinicians within the NHS. The International Journal of Public Sector Management , 20 (4), 314-322.