Jim Gibson

“Thank goodness I have a job.”

A sentiment often felt when a recession hits. As belts are tightened, budgets slashed, and colleagues laid off, many take solace in knowing they've been spared. Issues like job satisfaction, personal fulfillment, equitable work schedules, and — yes — even pay, take a back seat to gratitude for simply remaining employed.

But that was a year ago. It's starting to feel different now. Now, we're reading about all the new jobs that will be created by the ARRA. First there was David Blumenthal's prediction of 50,000 new jobs. Last week the stage one “meaningful use” criteria were released. Their release makes the expected growth seem more real. As if proof, the CEO of an EMR company was in the trade press this week discussing plans to hire hundreds of new employees in 2010. And that's just one company

It's widely accepted that economic recoveries are fueled by confidence. While the rest of the world is becoming cautiously optimistic, it's hard to ignore the growing confidence within healthcare IT. Something special is about to happen.

Yet, as recessions abate and confidence sets in, so does one inevitable dynamic that's seldom noticed — until it affects productivity. That is employee turnover. It happens at the end of every recession, and it affects hospitals, health plans, physician practices, and most other places of employment.

When a recession hits, people are happy just to keep their jobs. But then as a recovery appears, people begin to feel more confident. They abandon the “hunker down” mentality and raise their standards for job satisfaction. They begin to think about career options.

The polls bear this out. For the past several weeks, job satisfaction is reported to be down significantly. This is across industries and up and down the food chain. No sector or level seems to be immune.

As job satisfaction falls, it can lead to morale issues and turnover…or it can be a wake-up call.

Right now is probably a good time to pay closer attention to your troops and their outlook and expectations. Start the new year with a one-on-one with all direct reports. Thank them sincerely for hanging in there through these tough several months. Many took on more work as a result of reduced staffs and budgets. Jointly evaluate plans and expectations, both yours and theirs. Share your vision. It's a special time to be in healthcare IT. Let them feel that they're part of it and that their contributions do matter. Make employee morale one of your top priorities for 2010.

Jim Gibson has been in healthcare for 25 years. In 2002 he founded Gibson Consultants after several years in healthcare IT and group health insurance. Gibson Consultants is a national search firm specializing in healthcare IT companies. Like Jim, the other professionals of Gibson Consultants enjoyed successful healthcare careers before turning to executive search. (203) 431-1536 or jim@gibson-consultants.com. www.gibson-consultants.com/