Workforce Issues for Behavioral Health in 2022

February 23, 2022 Maggie Labarta

There is no doubt that COVID has changed the world of work. Or that the changes will linger for years to come. For nonprofit human service and health care organizations, recruitment and retention have always been a challenge because of the typically lower public or charitable funding that often makes offering competitive salaries difficult, if not impossible. Already facing those challenges, nonprofit human service and health care organizations are confronting the effects of the rapid and profound changes in how we work and who is working that were brought on and accelerated by COVID.

COVID disrupted the workforce in numerous ways. As of 2019, 85% of employees had never worked from home, fewer than 3% worked at home one or two days per week1. That changed almost overnight. Women, who comprise 80% of the healthcare workforce2, suddenly found themselves needing to care for children who could not attend school or day care. Older workers evaluated their retirement options, with many boomers deciding to leave the workforce early in the pandemic. And as restrictions have eased, the “great resignation” of this summer has significantly impacted the workforce, as employees who had put off job changes spent time re- evaluating their work-life balance and career options became highly sought after in a very competitive market. Pay increases offered by some in the desperate search for staff for employees and, in some states, by changes in minimum wage increased competition for this smaller workforce.

What's Driving These Resignations?

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review3 examined the drivers of the resignation wave currently affecting employment, at a time when there are a record-breaking almost 11 million job openings. Their review across 4,000 companies indicated that the highest portion of resignations were among mid- career employees – those 30-45. The writers conclude that this group is in high demand and is being enticed away from their prior jobs. Health care and tech are the industries most affected, according to HBR, with health care resignations increasing by 3.6% over the previous year.

The majority of those resigning, according to payroll service provider Gusto, are women. In August, 5.5% of women left their jobs, compared to 4.4% of men. This loss of employees in health care (in which, as noted earlier, most employees are women) occurs at a time when service demand is quite high and exacerbates shortages that preceded COVID for physicians, nurses, and mental health professionals. The Gusto data was recently quoted by CBS whose reporters cited the impact of caregiving demands as key to women’s exodus. Anecdotally, every nonprofit service provider I’ve spoken to, has significant vacancy rates at a time when those seeking services is rising and American Recovery Act funded programs require additional staff.

View the whitepaper above to learn step-by-step strategies for improving staff retention and redefining the workplace.

About the Author

Maggie Labarta

Maggie Labarta is Founder and Consultant at Impact Non-profit Consulting, having previously retired as CEO of Meridian Behavioral Healthcare. Labarta holds a Ph.D. in Clinical and Community Psychology and has extensive experience in both administration and clinical practice. She also has particular expertise in strategic planning, data and analytics as management tools, and organizational development. She provides consultative services for numerous community organizations.

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