BronsonLogo_open-drkgrnHealthcare recruiting can be challenging across the board, but it’s especially difficult when seeking applicants for atypical or entry-level positions in departments with high turnover. Beyond the necessity for large pools of candidates, there’s often not enough time to conduct thorough phone screenings, especially with precious time wasted on “non-viable” applicants. When new hires are unaware of job expectations, it often leads to turnover. Alternative recruitment strategies are a solution that has worked well for Bronson Healthcare Group. This regional, not-for-profit health system in southwest Michigan created three innovative programs to hire Environmental Services staff and temporary trainers as well as certain types of nurses and patient care assistants.

Launching Alternative Recruitment with the Test Drive Program

Bronson Healthcare Group began exploring alternative recruitment strategies after learning about a program in use at Michigan Works! This workforce development organization was collaborating with area industries to provide candidates with a realistic picture of what work was like in different sectors. Bronson Healthcare Group explored methods of implementing a similar program in-house. Since it had a large number of positions and high turnover within Environmental Services (EVS), this department seemed like a good place to start; it was necessary that EVS begin attracting more candidates and reducing the high turnover.

“Our first step was interviewing management and employees to generate buy-in and to understand the characteristics of successful new hires,” said Emily Miley, MPA, Employment Specialist at Bronson Healthcare Group. Common problems in the EVS department included attendance and punctuality, not meeting appearance standards, not understanding the responsibilities of working in a hospital setting, and failing to see how a specific position had a direct impact on the success of the hospital.

In addition, HR challenges were numerous: many candidates lacked an array of work experience or understanding of position requirements while phone interviews were made difficulty by miscommunications and scheduling issues With so many open positions, several managers became interested in the same candidates and ended up competing with each other.

In response, the HR team at Bronson Healthcare Group developed the Test Drive Program. EVS candidates were invited to a two to three-hour on-site informational session and, since candidates were required to RSVP, individuals who failed to RSVP self-excluded themselves. “The focus of the sessions is twofold,” said Miley. “Candidates get more information about careers in healthcare and what EVS jobs are like while managers and recruiters have the opportunity to observe and conduct pre-interviews..”

The Test Drive sessions provided EVS candidates with an overview of the Bronson system and provided insight into job expectations, standards of conduct, attendance and appearance requirements, hours, pay, and benefits. All attendees were given interview and resume tips, then asked to participate in an interactive team project, allowing recruiters and hiring managers to see how candidates collaborated with potential teammates. At the conclusion of the meeting, recruiters debriefed with hiring managers and identified candidates they felt should be invited back for in-depth interviews. “The candidate reactions have been very positive and we’ve gotten higher quality candidates,” noted Miley. “Setting expectations upfront is very important because working in a hospital is very different from cleaning offices or hotels.”

The results have been impressive: EVS turnover, transfers, and candidate screening time have significantly decreased. Turnover in 2007 was 24.5%, but in 2014, it was 8.4%! The estimated cost savings in the first year of the program were $65,900. Bronson Healthcare Group has now expanded the Test Drive program to other departments, including Food Service, Security, Material Management and Patient Transport, Patient Care Assistants, Patient Sitters, Medical Assistants, and Registered Nurses.

Expanding Alternative Recruitment to Atypical Hospital Positions and Nursing

When preparing for the go-live of its Epic system , Bronson Healthcare Group had to hire 40 trainers within a few weeks. These were unique positions for the HR team since they were temporary, six-month assignments and required skills healthcare recruiters don’t usually look for. The ideal applicants needed excellent presentation skills, open availability, and had to complete a six to eight-week training course to be formally credentialed. In response to these requirements, the recruiting team modified the Test Drive program.

“We invited about 20 candidates for each session and then split the attendees into two groups. Each participant had a five-minute, one-on-one interview with three different people. In addition, attendees were given an advance assignment––making a five minute presentation in front of the group,” said Miley. This approach gave candidates detailed and realistic expectations about the job while providing the Bronson team with insight into the candidates’ presentation skills. Once again, individuals who were not interested self-selected out, allowing the organization to hire a large number of committed and invested new employees at the same time. There was very little turnover since new hires knew the position’s expectations.

For nursing positions with high turnover, such as emergency room staff, recruiters at Bronson Healthcare Group realized that they needed a larger candidate pool. They implemented a small group interview process for novice nurses, nurses without acute care experience, graduate nurses, and patient care assistants (PCAs). Hiring managers met with up to four candidates and provided detailed information about their units.

“After implementing the program in 2013, turnover has decreased significantly among both RNs and PCAs,” said Miley. “In 2011, our turnover rate for RNs was 6% and, year to date, in 2014, it’s 3.4%. Similarly, the turnover rate for PCAs in 2011 was 9% and, year to date, it’s 4%.”

Lessons Learned and Recommendations

According to Miley, better candidates and reduced turnover are the biggest benefits associated with alternative recruitment strategies. Time saved by the HR team is another advantage. It’s now possible to screen a large pool of applicants in two to three hours, rather than the 10 hours required to conduct individual phone screens with 20 applicants.

For organizations considering an alternative recruitment program, Miley offered six recommendations:

  1. Get manager buy-in. This is the most important component of a successful alternative recruitment program. Without manager participation, this type of initiative will fail.
  2. Identify the positions best-suited for alternative recruitment. Look at areas with large numbers of regular openings and positions where large applicant pools are necessary.
  3. Determine what information is important for candidates to have upfront. Engage managers and employees working in the departments of interest. Make sure you understand realistic aspects of the job that are important for applicants to know before they accept an offer.
  4. Define the characteristics of an ideal applicant. Work with members of each department to determine qualities to look for in applicants. Choose interview activities that will assess these qualities.
  5. Use recruiting technology to automate and manage the process. Bronson Healthcare Group uses its applicant tracking system to send out meeting invitations. The system is also a central place to store notes about candidates. It’s possible to quickly see if an applicant has attended sessions in the past.
  6. Make the program your own. With alternative recruitment programs, it’s important to continually ask for feedback and be flexible. Be willing to revise, update, and improve processes over time.

Bronson Healthcare Group’s experience shows that alternative recruitment programs can be beneficial for all stakeholders in the hiring process: recruiters save time through more efficient screening and reduced turnover, hiring managers have access to better quality candidates, and applicants have realistic expectations about the job before they accept an offer. At the end of the day, all these factors contribute to the most important and beneficial factor of all: better patient care.

Please note: This post originally appeared in the NAHCR Directions Newsletter. Read the original article here


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Chris Holdcroft

About Chris Holdcroft

In his twelve years with HealthcareSource, Chris has managed Client Services and was the Product Manager for the Position Manager Applicant Tracking product for Versions 5 through 10. He is now a Senior Consultant for Talent Management, helping hundreds of healthcare organizations improve their talent management processes.