News Article
HTM Employee Retention Survey: Amid Brain Drain and the Great Resignation, HTM Must Focus on Value
Author:
  • Heather R. Johnson

Across industries, talented professionals are on the move. Whether for better pay, career advancement or a more flexible schedule, today’s workforce is collectively job-hopping faster than a kid plays hopscotch. A new employee retention survey from AAMI offers insights specific to the healthcare technology management (HTM) field. The report is available for free download.

The HTM field has tremendous growth potential—one market report predicts a compound annual growth rate of 15.5% through 2026—but high turnover and staffing shortages inhibit that growth.

For one, HTM leaders struggle to keep good people from leaving for other opportunities. They also have to say goodbye too often to too many retiring professionals. According to AAMI's HTM retention report, nearly half of HTM’s professionals are over the age of 50 — a statistic that shows up again and again in yearly industry surveys. Third, HTM leaders have too many vacancies to fill because there aren’t enough skilled professionals to fill open positions. And that talent pool is diminishing due to a lack of biomedical technology degree programs and lack of awareness.

“We work behind the scenes at hospitals, so many workers don't know we exist in healthcare,” said Danielle McGeary, vice president of HTM, AAMI. “We don’t have a strong pipeline now, but there are technicians from lateral fields and healthcare professionals with transferable skills who would be good fits for these roles with awareness and training.”

Because HTM retention is crucial for healthcare operations, patient safety, and for the field overall, AAMI’s Healthcare Technology Leadership Committee (HTLC) recently executed a survey to better understand what matters most to HTM professionals when deciding to either stay or leave an employer. The HTLC planned the survey after receiving an overwhelming response from HTM leaders.

“The Healthcare Technology Leadership Committee annually solicits topics that are of interest to members, and then vote, work on, and publish information for the benefit of other leaders in the field,” added Eliezer Kotapuri, Chief Clinical Technology Officer for Mass Technologies and HTLC Chair. “This topic was unanimously voted on by most, if not all, members of the committee from across the country. If this is a topic of interest for HTLC member representatives, we felt it had to be a topic of interest for HTM leaders from most organizations.”

The number of individuals who completed the survey reflects that interest. Over 1,400 HTM professionals responded—the highest number of survey respondents of any survey in AAMI history.

 

Let the Numbers Show


Over Half of HTM Professionals are In the Twilight of Their Careers

The survey results mirrored AAMI’s 2021 HTM Demographic Survey findings and other HTM community surveys, suggesting that more than half of U.S. HTM professionals are in the latter half of their careers. A little over 6% of the respondents were over age 65.

That ratio is significantly higher than the U.S. labor force overall. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the number of individuals aged 55 and over increased from 22.4% of the workforce to a predicted 24.8% by 2026.

Age Distribution HTM Survey59% of survey respondents were aged 45 and up. 41% were aged 18-44.

On the bright side, a significant portion of HTM professionals (40.86%) were under age 44. And in the labor force overall, the number of people working to age 74 is projected to grow by 4.2% annually.


What They Want: More Money & Better Benefits

Across all roles and demographic characteristics, “compensation/benefits” was the number one factor that would motivate professionals to stay or leave their current employer. Among participants overall, 69.12% of respondents ranked pay/benefits as their top priority, while work environment (44.41%) and work/life balance (42.07%) took second and third place, respectively.

Based on these results, McGeary advises that HTM leaders factor salary and benefits into their retention strategies. This may include incentives, adjustments based on geographic location, merit increases, and comprehensive and competitive benefits packages. HTM leaders also should evaluate salaries of current staff to make sure their pay is comparable to new hires.

“It’s important to make sure pay is equitable and within the range for the job and not below,” she said. “And advocate for your internal team. If you promote from within, make sure pay is comparable to what you would pay someone from outside the organization.”

HTMProfessionalPrioritiesOverall

Work/Life Balance: Less of a Priority for Some, But Not By Much

While most respondents ranked “work/life balance” as one of their top three priorities, the women did not. Among women in HTM, work/life balance ranked fourth—below “internal opportunities for advancement and growth” and “confidence in your direct management/organization's leadership.”

The difference, however, was small. About a quarter (26.88%) of the 372 women surveyed ranked opportunities for advancement and/or leadership confidence in their top three, while slightly fewer (25.54%) selected work/life balance as a priority. Flexible work environment ranked even lower, with only about 15% citing it as a reason to stay or leave their job.

The outcome conflicts with reports on the job market overall: a 2022 survey from Indeed and Luminary showed well over half of the 2,000 women surveyed considered work/life balance a deal breaker when planning their next move.

While it’s impossible to speculate on the reasoning behind work/life balance priorities among women in HTM, it’s worth noting that in AAMI’s 2021 HTM Demographic Survey, women comprised only 10% of the HTM workforce, but about 14% worked in management roles or higher. “When you look at those numbers it indicates women want to and are progressing and moving up in the field, but they may sacrifice work-life balance to get a promotion,” McGeary explained.

For purposes of retention and job satisfaction, HTM leaders should take note of this information as it may indicate a risk of burnout among women.

Alan Gresch, vice president of healthcare strategy at Accruent and an HTLC member, created a culture that emphasizes work/life balance for all. “Typically, in field service positions with multi-state responsibilities, the odds of having dinner each night with the family is not very good,” he said. “I provide that by making sure people were available to cover for one another and by putting people on call once a month instead of most nights.”

To create a culture that prioritizes work/life balance, Angela Bennett, CHTM, senior area general manager of Sodexo and HTLC member, believes managers must lead by example as well as encourage employees to enjoy their time off. “Leaders should emphasize healthy boundaries,” she said. “Ask them not to pick up the phone after hours unless they’re on call. If they’re out-of-office, they’re unreachable. People need a break to refresh.”

Variations Among Ethnicities and Age Groups

The top priorities varied slightly among different ethnicities compared to HTM respondents overall. “Internal opportunities for advancement and growth” appeared in the top three only for the women, Asian or Pacific Islander, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, and Multi/Biracial groups.

Of those groups Black/African Americans and Asian/Pacific Islanders ranked “internal opportunities for advancement and growth” higher than the other groups. Black/African Americans were also the only individuals who ranked “training and development opportunities” in the top 4 priorities, where it tied for third.

The results indicate these groups prioritize opportunities to learn and grow within their companies, noted Gresch. “Everyone should have an equal opportunity to succeed,” he said. “How do you do that? Develop a policy with specific criteria for what it takes to achieve the next level.”

Priorities of African American and Black HTM ProfessionalsMost (70%) Black/African American respondents cited internal opportunities for growth and advancement as a top priority.

He references the AAMI HTM Succession Planning Guide as a valuable tool for developing succession plans for every HTM career level. The plan allows leaders and managers to clearly define and explain a path for growth. If a professional isn’t ready to move to the next level, the manager can determine whether the professional needs more training in a certain area so they can move up.

“If someone retires, you’re not scrambling to find a replacement,” Gresch explained. “You let the dominoes fall the way you planned them to fall based on what people have earned. This incentive plays a huge role in retention.”

 

Lack of Diversity Continues in HTM

Although diversity in the workplace ranked low on the criteria among HTM professionals, the industry’s lack of diversity may have affected that result. Women comprised a little over 17% of the total survey participants—still low compared to the U.S. workforce overall, but an improvement from roughly 10% in 2021. For the first time this year, a small percentage (1.35% = 19) identified as non-binary.

HTM also lacks ethnic diversity. About 63% of respondents identified as White, 7.4% identified as Hispanic, about 5% identified as Asian/Pacific Islander, and about 5.7% identified as Black/African American. About 14% of respondents chose not to disclose race. This breakdown aligns with results of AAMI’s 2021 HTM Demographic survey, which found that 8.5% of HTM professionals were black or African American and 7.7% were Hispanic/Latinx.

Gresch notes that professionals should be hired and promoted based on their capabilities and what they bring to the position. “Employees must demonstrate they have what it takes to succeed to get a promotion,” he said. “Promotions shouldn’t be based on longevity alone. If you promote them and they can’t do the job, you’re setting that person up for failure.”

 

The Secret to HTM Retention: Every Person Matters

While the 1,412 individuals surveyed may not accurately reflect the entire U.S. HTM population at large, the results indicate where leaders should focus their retention and recruitment efforts.

Dr. Kotapuri suggests that HTM leaders design their retention strategies by focusing on two key areas: retention within their department and retention within the HTM field. “While the survey gives leaders sufficient information to work with, getting to know their own staff and their needs will help even further,” he said.

A biomedical engineering technician sets up a medical device in a hospital room.
When evaluating responses in totality, the takeaway among HTLC members: Show people they are valued.

“People want to see their employers are investing in them,” said McGeary. “They want to see a fair career ladder that’s executed consistently across the entire staff. Invest in your staff and they will invest in you by remaining loyal.”

For a recent keynote speech, Gresch discussed in detail how to keep people motivated and happy in their work. “To encourage people to reach their full potential you have to know them and care about what’s important to them,” he said, summarizing his talk. “You have to understand their goals and show them how they fit into the company’s mission. You have to inspire, energize, and empower them, and reward them when they hit performance benchmarks.”

“Take a step back and reassess your departments to see if you need to make corrective changes based on what matters to different demographic and age groups,” McGeary added.

And for the young professionals just entering HTM, Bennett advises, “learn everything you can from your employer and the people around you,” she said. “It’s a professional atmosphere, and you’ll have many opportunities to learn something valuable.”

Survey Methodology

An HTLC subcommittee developed a seven-question survey using SurveyMonkey in December 2021. Responses were 100% anonymous. Anyone in the field could participate in the survey regardless of AAMI membership.

From January 16 to February 20, 2022, AAMI promoted the survey in AAMI News, on all social media channels, and via email. HTLC members distributed the survey to their connections via social medial and other channels. McGeary also emailed colleagues at Independent Service Organizations (ISOs), AAMI’s Technology Management Council (TMC), regional HTM Associations, and the American College of Clinical Engineering, as well as editors at HTM trade publications 24x7 and TechNation. All contacts agreed to distribute the survey.

AAMI collected the responses and analyzed the results in early March 2022.

 

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