TIL Post
Shawna Khouri, TIL

Maintaining Workforce Sustainability Through Economic Cycles

At this year’s Rock Health Summit, two of TIL’s own shared their perspectives on current trends and future opportunities in digital health. The Rock Health Summit is one of the leading digital health conferences in the world that brings together diverse minds from technology, medicine, public health, and beyond. Leading into the conference, Shawna Khouri joined a virtual panel discussing the workforce boom and bust cycle for digital health seen in 2022. The full conversation on “Riding the Talent Rollercoaster: How to Build a Sustainable Workforce in Uncertain Times” features additional expertise on talent wars to belt tightening and riding the waves of tricky market conditions and can be found on Rock Health’s Youtube Channel. It includes insights from Sari Kaganoff (Rock Health), Andre Blackman (Onboard Health), and Lee Shaprio (7 Wire Ventures) along with yours truly (Shawna).

Inclusive workforce development and the future of work is a major focus for Tulsa, so we dug into this topic with a strong eye towards supply-side factors and some unique workforce strategies we’re exploring here in Tulsa with help from Jake Cronin and Patrick Hosford at InTulsa

How can leaders and organizations build their team for the future, but also ensure they don't over-hire?

Leaders of growth stage companies should consider remote workers and talent in areas with a lower cost of living. The pandemic saw a rise in hybrid and remote work as well as the flourishing of programs like Tulsa Remote. Founders and hiring managers should consider resources like InTulsa, that can help source remote tech talent from a market with lower costs of talent, helping stretch your capital farther.

Using Tulsa as an example, the cost of tech talent in Tulsa is cheaper than every other tech hub in the US and well-below the national average, with costs ranging anywhere from 14% to 39% less per hire and could result in $40k to $161k in salary savings over 3 years. On a weighted average, the cost to hire Tech talent in Tulsa is 16% less than the national average, saving over $47,000.00 over 3 years per employee*.

From the talent pool perspective, how do we keep talent developed during an economic boom through a bust cycle? 

This year’s (2022’s) talent wars and subsequent lay-offs by unicorns like Ro, TruePill, and Olive speak further to industry-wide advantages of a distributed workforce. From a talent pool perspective, a more geographically distributed workforce allows workers to stay in the digital health industry with a larger pool of employers to choose from. This can keep them from moving back into legacy industries like fintech or traditional SaaS out of necessity. Increasingly, workers prefer careers with potential for broader human impact, like digital health. In a recent survey of more than 3,500 employees around the world, 65% said the pandemic had made them rethink the role of work in their life. Fifty-six percent said it made them want to contribute more to society.

It is also important to make sure that we continue to bring new talent into the digital health industry, particularly from historically underrepresented groups. Employers should consider hiring from programs with pathways for non-degree holders and folks looking to reskill to enter the tech workforce. In Tulsa, we have novel programs, like Holberton, that takes individuals with a high school diploma or equivalent and trains them with in-demand technical skills. Holberton also helps overcome financial barriers by providing a stipend during the program and defers tuition with an income-share agreement. Recently, Tulsa Community College’s Cyber Skills Center launched to help bridge the much-needed talent gap for cyber security professionals, tuition-free. Both programs serve diverse and inclusive student populations.

Tulsa Birth Equity Initiative is increasing the number of well-trained, caring doulas of and from the communities where high rates of maternal health disparities are most common. Their education supports the needs of Black, Native, teen, and justice-involved parents—such as awareness of attitudes, beliefs and values, effective advocacy and communication, and addressing loss and grief. This program is free to qualified applicants, while also providing a stipend and childcare during in-person class sessions. Programs like this are great resources for growing an inclusive virtual care workforce.

What are the key elements to managing rapid growth well?

From a hiring perspective, streamlining job descriptions and hiring processes is critical for successful rapid hiring growth. You will move more slowly to hire in a competitive labor market if your job descriptions are not aligned with your hiring expectations. Moreover, if salary is not commensurate with required experience, employers lose out on top candidates.

Even with recent layoffs announced, there is still not an excess of talent in digital health. This is especially true when creating first-of-their-kind roles with virtual care delivery – what do you really need for someone to fulfill this job function? Do you really need a PhD for your care advocate role or could someone with years of customer service experience get brought up to speed on your platform and provide exceptional service to your users?

Finally, let’s put this latest market turbulence into a broader historical perspective. 

While the industry has seen a recent dip, the overall trend is still upward. We’ve seen tremendous growth in remote roles for key sectors of digital health. For example, remote roles for behavioral health and mental health counselors increased by 699% throughout the US from June 2019 to June 2022 (from 517 job posts to over 4000). Other clinical specialties are just beginning to explore how they can leverage virtual care. 

A February 2022 report by McKinsey noted that "Sixty-two percent of mental-health patients completed their most recent appointments virtually, but only 20 percent of patients logged in to see their primary-care provider, gynecologist, or pediatrician." This indicates that there is ample opportunity for firms to expand the recent success seen by behavioral health into other clinical specialties, driving industry growth and workforce demands.

In summary, Digital Health and Virtual Care workforce markets have boomed in the last 3 years and, overall, that trend looks like it will continue. In order to avoid the disappointment, heartache, and bad press of layoffs, we hope that Founders consider some of the novel ways we’re looking at talent acquisition here in Tulsa as a precedent for the future of hiring and retaining virtual health talent.

Download file