In the midst of organizations and consumers driving a focus on improving the quality of patient care, there’s a nationwide nursing shortage in the US, making it difficult to recruit and retain qualified nurses as well as clinicians. Competition is extremely high for experienced healthcare workers. The recruiters employed at most hospitals and healthcare systems simply cannot manage the volume of activity associated with sourcing the number of qualified candidates they need.
Many hospitals react to the staffing crisis by turning to temporary staffing agencies–an extremely costly and very temporary remedy. Others turn to expert Recruiting Process Outsourcing (RPO) firms with specialized knowledge of the healthcare vertical.
However, healthcare organizations historically have been slow to outsource any of their business functions. Kim Davis, President of TalentTrack, a Toledo, Ohio-headquartered RPO firm, comments that there is a natural fear of outsourcing for many reasons. “The employment process is critical to any business; after all, people are an organization’s number-one asset. Many fear giving up control over how people enter the organization,” he says.
With outsourcing, it feels like it’s all or nothing right out of the gate, Davis adds. But TalentTrack has two key components to its recruiting solutions that reduce healthcare organizations’ reservations toward committing to outsourcing: short-term pilots and performance-based fees that essentially guarantee results.
Winning the Competitive War for Talent
“There’s a ton of RPO firms out there, saying they’ll help you in filling your staffing needs,” says Dan Staifer, Director of Employee Relations and Recruitment for Shands Jacksonville, a member of the Florida-headquartered Shands Health System that is affiliated with a medical center and aligned with the University of Florida. “What I liked about TalentTrack is that they put their money where their mouth is. If they don’t meet the contractual agreement, they refund money. Most companies won’t do that.”
“We guarantee results for everything we do, believing that’s the only way we can demonstrate to the buyer a return on their investment,” explains Davis.
Shands Jacksonville, a level-one trauma center for all the traumas in southeastern Georgia and northeastern Florida, has one of the busiest emergency rooms in the country. “This is not a community hospital. We’re going 100 miles an hour here, taking care of very, very sick patients; and it requires highly qualified nurses,” says Staifer.
Shands Jacksonville decided to take advantage of TalentTrack’s pilot offer for a small project in August 2005. “We wanted to test their program,” says Staifer. The test–to find 20 qualified critical-care nurses in a three-month period–was successful and resulted in 23 new hires.
Shands Jacksonville has two full-time nurse recruiters. According to Staifer, they have no problem getting graduate nurses because it’s a level-one trauma center and one of the premier hospitals in northeastern Florida. “My recruiters do a great job, but with the nursing shortage and a finite market, we wanted to use any means necessary to try to find qualified, experienced nurses for our organization. And that included outsourcing this project,” explains Staifer.
The pilot project then evolved to an addendum to the agreement, for TalentTrack to do cold calls in certain cherry-picked markets for one quarter. That evolved into the next component of TalentTrack’s work for Shands Jacksonville: a campaign to hire 100 experienced registered nurses in 100 days (by the end of August, 2006). The hospital needs the 100 nurses because it’s expanding some of its units in September2006.
“A pilot program reduces the length of the up-front commitment, so it removes some of the fear of outsourcing,” explains Davis at TalentTrack. “Everyone likes ‘the story’–the benefits that we can achieve for them. But outsourcing is a relationship business, and they usually have no first-hand experience with TalentTrack. A pilot allows them to “taste before they buy.”
“They’ve been driving a lot of candidates to us from cold calls,” says Staifer. “At this point, we’re one-fourth of the way to reaching the goal, and we haven’t even started the media blitz yet. We’ve had hundreds of candidates in our funnel that have shown interest, and we squeeze out the hires at the bottom after we do our assessments of the candidates. We may even get more than 100 nurses,” says Staifer.
Process Changes Required
As Davis points out, “We know that increasing our clients’ candidate traffic is part of the answer, but it’s not the total answer. The client has to be in a position to digest the increased candidate traffic. Given our methodology, we’ll generate lots of new candidate traffic–with interest in changing jobs–but if the client’s internal recruiting processes don’t change to digest the increased candidate flow, the outcome will be the same as the client has always had.”
Whether TalentTrack takes over a recruiting process, end-to-end, or whether it takes over only certain functions within the process, the firm always consults with clients on what needs to change in their internal processes. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t engage with them because we wouldn’t be able to achieve the desired outcome,” states Davis.
The shelf-life of a candidate in a tight, competitive market is very short. TalentTrack coaches the client on making sure that the hiring managers are available for the interviews and that they bring things to timely closure. Another coaching effort is spent making sure the client’s employment process conveys an employer-of-choice branding message and that the employment process is a favorable experience for the candidate.
“We go in and get renewed commitments throughout the organization, regardless of how much we’re delivering versus how much the client is handling/delivering,” states Davis. “We also make sure it’s a top-down-driven approach and that senior management is committed to this because that’s the only way to drive change, especially on a timely basis. Taking steps on the front end assures success on the back end.”
Manuela Vicente, Corporate Director of Recruitment at Baptist Health South Florida, says the up-front steps were key to her organization’s success with its initial pilot project with TalentTrack. “The project worked really well because we had a lot of support from our senior management, so we had the resources for the project. It went very smoothly, and I’m personally very happy with the results. I can’t think of anything we’d do differently,” says Vicente.
She continues: “At the beginning, we set up specific goals and timelines for responses for both TalentTrack and Baptist Health management and recruiters. We specifically said: ‘When we get a candidate, our goal is that we have X number of days’ turnaround time on getting a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response or ‘we’re not interested in this candidate.’ TalentTrack was very specific about our doing this.”
Baptist Health South Florida has five hospitals as well as urgent-care centers. Seven full-time, in-house recruiters are very successful in hiring nurse graduates, says Vicente. The pilot with TalentTrack, starting January 2006, was to find 100 experienced nurses in 100 business days–and not looking beyond 30 miles from the hospitals for the candidates.
June 2 was the 100th day, and TalentTrack exceeded the goal. “We hired 125 RNs and have a number of people in the pipeline that are still involved in the interview process, so there may be other hires coming later. They did an awesome job because they were very dedicated to our project,” says Vicente.
The hospital allayed potential fears of outsourcing by only outsourcing certain functions of the recruiting process to TalentTrack; the health system group’s internal recruiters were still integral to the overall effort. Initial contacts (both cold calls and responses to advertising) went to TalentTrack for pre-screening; a qualified candidate’s information was then forwarded to the recruiter at one of the hospitals. “Our recruiters did the onsite interviews and also referred candidates to their hiring managers and then worked with the hiring managers to make hiring decisions,” explains Vicente.
Advice from the Front Line
Staifer at Shands Jacksonville has advice for other organizations considering outsourcing their recruiting process. “Make sure you’re comfortable with the ethics of the company that you’re dealing with. I feel TalentTrack and their people are very ethical. I also think they are looking out for our best interests, and I appreciate that.”
Vicente at Baptist Health South Florida also has advice. “Make sure your managers–internal clients–are educated,” she states. When we first started our project, TalentTrack had a lot of meetings with our key leaders, chief nursing officers, and our hiring managers to explain to them what the process would be and what the expectations were. That communication at the beginning ensures everyone knows at every point of the way what is expected of each individual and what their role is throughout the project. Our project worked well because everybody who needed to know was fully informed and on board.”
Lessons from Outsourcing Journal:
- Healthcare organizations are often reluctant to outsource their recruiting process because of fear of long-term commitments and losing control over how people enter the organization. Look for an outsourcing service provider that offers such programs as short-term pilots for initial engagements or performance-based fees to help allay the fear of outsourcing.
- Increasing candidate traffic is not the total solution. The client has to be in a position to digest the increased candidate traffic; this involves process change. If not outsourcing the end-to-end recruiting process, look for an outsourcer that will consult with the client on how to change the process to ensure the desired outcome.
- Up-front communication to all stakeholders regarding the process changes, roles and responsibilities, and expectations is critical to success.