behavioral competencies lead to better hiresIn healthcare, the people you hire could make the difference between an awful and an outstanding patient or resident experience. Scientifically validated behavioral assessments are a strategic way to help you hire based on data-driven results, rather than gut-feel, so you can be sure you’re hiring the absolute best talent for your organization’s needs. They help provide scientific evidence of the behavioral competencies needed for the job.

To learn more about the recent HealthcareSource Staff Assessment update and validation, we sat down with HealthcareSource Scientific Advisor Dr. Frederick Morgeson, Ph.D. As the Eli Broad Professor of Management in the Broad College of Business at Michigan State University, Dr. Morgeson has spent more than 25 years teaching, researching, and working with organizations on how to identify key behavioral competencies and develop and optimize their hiring and talent management systems. He’s worked with dozens of healthcare organizations gathering research about the competencies that make people successful at work.

Here, Dr. Morgeson explains the value and function of using behavioral competencies to hire employees in healthcare.

HealthcareSource: What type of research went into the study that led to adding three new competencies to Staff Assessment?

Dr. Morgeson: We started the research by talking with experts in the healthcare industry. We asked them: What is needed in this current healthcare environment and what will be needed as you go forward? We conducted numerous interviews and focus groups to try to understand the key competencies that are most needed in today’s healthcare organizations. Once we identified a comprehensive set of competencies, we surveyed 300 healthcare experts and asked them to indicate which competencies were most important for providing a positive patient experience. This helped us decide which new competencies to add to the HealthcareSource Staff Assessment.

Once we had identified our set of competencies, we partnered with a diverse set of 11 healthcare organizations across the U.S. and conducted a rigorous, state-of-the-art validation study. We administered the updated Staff Assessment with employees and supervisors across six major job families. We examined the reliability and validity of the assessment as well as developing custom scoring algorithms. The scope and rigor of this effort sets the standard for healthcare hiring because I am not aware of any other assessment vendor that has conducted this depth of research within an exclusively healthcare setting.

HealthcareSource: How and why do behavioral competencies change over time?

Dr. Morgeson: Healthcare organizations exist in a highly dynamic and competitive environment. For example, the shift to patient-centered models of care implies a distinctly unique set of worker competencies, particularly for values-driven organizations that, rightfully, insist upon employee accountability. In addition, the implementation of HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) has had a profound impact, placing a premium on certain kinds of competencies such as communication skills. In total, these changes have emphasized enhancing the patient experience. Although this has always been important, they are particularly relevant today.

In order to provide a positive patient experience, everyone in the organization must be willing and able to engage in the kinds of behaviors needed to deliver such an experience. Thus, when hiring, you must consider and evaluate what it takes to deliver that positive patient experience. Competencies are a way to think about how employees are likely to behave once hired and help provide a structure for hiring managers to use when evaluating applicants. For instance, in a healthcare organization, compassion is something you would want in your employees, and good work ethic has always been important. But as the landscape evolves there are more behaviors that need to be considered when hiring employees so that they will be able to deliver a positive patient or resident experience. For example, HCAHPS places a premium on strong communication from doctors and nurses. This would suggest that, relatively speaking, it is more important now for workers to have good communication skills.

And HCAHPS is just one example of this push toward patient-centered care. Some organizations have become more value-driven, looking for workers that will behave in a way that is consistent with the organization’s values. In addition, the healthcare environment has gotten more complicated — you are literally dealing with life and death issues on a day-to-day basis — so you want people who can tolerate those stressful environments. A competency like emotional evenness is critical in understanding whether someone will be able to function and provide exceptional care under such challenging circumstances.

When we think about new competencies that are important in healthcare hiring today, we see communication, emotional evenness, and accountability as the front-runners. As such, we’ve added these specific behaviors to HealthcareSource Staff Assessment so that organizations can hire employees who can withstand the pressures and requirements of modern healthcare needs.

HealthcareSource: How will these competencies help healthcare organizations hire and manage higher quality talent?

Dr. Morgeson: When you evaluate job applicants, you’re trying to understand what they are going to do when you hire them. You don’t necessarily know a lot about them, but when you hire them you’re making a large commitment to them, particularly in financial terms. Because of this, you want to learn as much about them as you can before you make this commitment.

When you leverage competencies and use a tool like Staff Assessment, you gain a deeper and broader understanding of each job applicant. So what you begin to do through this process is understand how this person will act and behave when they are on the job. When you can gather information about their competency strengths and weaknesses, along with their background and experience, you can use all this information to make more informed hiring decisions. You’re more easily able to deduce which applicant is most likely to act in a way that will provide high-quality patient care and will live by your organizational values.

Development is the other big use of this assessment information. Basically, any developmental process begins by examining various behavioral competencies. In other words, what are the employee’s strengths and weaknesses? The competency results help give you an in-depth understanding of what areas the employee needs to focus on, rather than just guessing. This enables more targeted and focused developmental efforts.

HealthcareSource: Another part of the HealthcareSource Staff Assessment update is the scoring element. Can you tell us how the updated scoring algorithms help hiring managers make better decisions?

A: Staff Assessment is grouped into 12 major competencies and has three major scoring indices. You can use the assessment results to better understand an applicant’s competency strength and weaknesses and then further evaluate said strengths and weaknesses in additional steps in the hiring process (e.g., in the structured interview). For example, if your organization values communication, you will want to identify applicants who are strong in that area. Or your organization might be focused on reducing turnover. If that is the case, you might want to focus on applicant scores on the Retention Index.

Having said that, however, I would never advise an organization to hire based on one single competency or scoring index. It is important to consider multiple factors and multiple pieces of information about an applicant when making hiring decisions. This would include assessment data, interview data, past experience, and technical competence. When this is done, you have a more complete picture of the applicant and can make more informed (and better) hiring decisions.


 Download our eBook, “A New Way to Look at Recruiting: Think Bigger and Broader to learn more about how modernize your healthcare talent acquisition strategy.


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Diana Bishop

About Diana Bishop

Diana Bishop is the Content Marketing Manager at HealthcareSource. In her role, she develops and optimizes content for healthcare talent management professionals. She has been writing and developing marketing strategies for the B2B tech space for much of her career. Before getting into content, she attended Keene State College in New Hampshire where she studied English literature and creative writing. Besides writing, Diana loves art and graphic design and tries to make time for these hobbies in her free time.