Blog Post
Photo of community health worker attending to a patient's arm implant in a school gymnasium.

Strategies for Recruiting and Nurturing a Thriving Health Workforce

November 9, 2023

By the California Improvement Network Team at Healthforce Center

Recruiting, nurturing, and retaining staff is an increasingly greater challenge for providers of community health and social services. In an era of persistent labor shortages, insufficient resources, and soaring costs, organizations must adapt with greater flexibility, new approaches, and humility to sustain the workforce required.

While this may be easier said than done, knowledgeable resources are available to provide guidance. Recently the California Improvement Network (CIN) hosted a conversation with Lisa Countryman-Quiroz, chief executive officer of Jewish Vocational Service (JVS), for CIN partner organizations to hear current insights and novel strategies for how they might adapt to ensure an optimal workforce for their organizations. JVS is a leading nonprofit organization creating pathways to high-quality, high-paying jobs with a focus on health care, technology, and skilled trades.

In this conversation, Countryman-Quiroz outlined three key takeaways for organizations that are seeking to revamp staff recruitment and retention efforts.

1. Understand and respond to evolving workforce priorities.

  • Compensation isn’t everything. For some workers, particularly younger ones, workplace flexibility and work-life balance are a top priority. Employers that provide remote and hybrid work options, flexible schedules, and other benefits that recognize and support the full lives of employees will have a leg up.
  • Values matter. Workers desire values alignment and want to know that their efforts have a community positive impact. Organizations can tap into this by helping their employees understand and connect to the social mission of the organization and make apparent the linkages between day-to-day tasks and societal benefits.
  • Transparency is required. Workers value transparency from leadership around decision-making and resource utilization. Employees want to know how decisions are made and see that their input is considered, especially for decisions that will affect them directly. Transparency is necessary to cultivate trust in leadership, emphasized Countryman-Quiroz.

2. Strategize and implement new career pathways for staff.

  • Carve out time for employees to receive on-the-job training. People today expect on-the-job professional development that supports their career growth. Investing in staff skills develops staff and satisfies their inherent desire for growth, while also diminishing turnover. In the long run, this will cost the organization less than losing the employee due to a lack of growth opportunities and having to spend additional resources to hire someone to fill the role.
  • Provide career pathways that result in high-quality, high-paying jobs. If organizations have the bandwidth and funds to offer more traditional career pathways and lattices to their employees, they should build programs that are high wage and offer opportunities for advancement. JVS’s evidence-based programs pair classroom-based training with paid work-based training such as their EXCEL Medical Administrative Assistant training program and their Medical Assistant Certificate program.

3. Cultivate a culture of humility, support, and care in the workplace.

  • Recognize all the demands that employees have on their time and energy. Countryman-Quiroz emphasized that workplaces need to take seriously how cared for people feel at work in order to retain top talent. Whether it be childcare responsibilities, elder care, or self-care, employees are more likely to thrive at their jobs when they feel well supported by their workplace.
  • Create connection and trust through vulnerability. Many people have lost faith in management, so leaders need to be thinking about how to build a culture of trust and communities of care. Countryman-Quiroz shared that one way she cultivates a supportive workplace is by writing a weekly message to staff on professional decisions as well as personal updates that impact how she shows up to work.
  • Model the behavior to build culture. In offering greater visibility and transparency into her role and life, Countryman-Quiroz models the behavior that she wants to imbue in the workplace – that is, support for a healthy culture. When leadership prioritize work-life balance, take a step back when they need to, and rely on their colleagues to support them in tough moments, it shows other staff that they can do the same.

To hear more insights on how employers can successfully recruit and retain the workforce their organization needs, watch the full conversation with Lisa Countryman-Quiroz in the video below.



The event on which this article is based was hosted by the California Improvement Network, which is a project of the California Health Care Foundation and managed by Healthforce Center at UCSF.