Coopitition is an Rx for Success for Three HR Suppliers in the Healthcare Arena | Article

StethoscopeFauquier Health, a 97-bed hospital in Warrenton, Virginia, had a hiring challenge. Yvonne Mitchell, program manager, recruitment, says nurses who did well in interviews sometimes didn’t know the clinical basics, something that was impossible to discern in an interview setting.

She needed one tool that could test for behavioral, clinical and situational competence before the hospital put an RN on the payroll. Outsourcing suppliers had tests for one of them but no one had one test for all three.

That’s when Prophecy Healthcare (clinical), PeopleClues (behavioral) and Biddle Consulting Group (situational) joined hands to create exactly what Mitchell needed. “We all have different content and products we could aggregate into the Prophecy system,” explains Bryan Wempen, chief strategy officer, PeopleClues. “We got a powerful testing tool only after we combined all three aspects,” adds Dr. Daniel Biddle, PhD. and president of Biddle Consulting Group.

This is the story of how niche providers can collaborate to offer the marketplace a service that none could do on its own. They created a true synergy where the sum of the parts is greater than each component. Here is how it happened.

Creating the new assessment tool

Prophecy Healthcare is a pre-employment assessment company specializing in healthcare. It created a tool to assess an RN’s clinical knowledge. “After several years of use, we knew our assessment tool worked well. But it didn’t address our clients’ bigger challenge: behavior and personality,” says Ronald Gonzalez, chief executive officer.

Prophecy’s hospital clients asked the supplier to develop a tool for this. “They couldn’t tell if the applicant’s behavior was appropriate for front-facing nursing,” he explains. He says the hospitals’ HR staff told him this kind of tool “could help us more.”

Coopitition is the business model for PeopleClues, Wempen explains. “We view our tool as operating like an Intel chip, working inside a computer.” PeopleClues plugs its tool into other platforms “70 percent of the time,” he notes.

Dr. Biddle says he realized his firm could not develop a holistic tool for the industry by itself. “We put together the best of the best,” he believes.

The three providers commenced their partnership in 2009. By 2011 the assessment was ready to sell, which is Prophecy Healthcare’s responsibility. Currently, 12 hospitals are using the solution and over 500 hospitals are using a portion of it.

The three components

Situational: Biddle Consulting Group’s specialty is making sure employers’ testing practices are unassailable in court. To date the firm has worked on over 200 court discrimination cases. “We typically develop our tests for high stakes positions that could be challenged by civil rights law,” Dr. Biddle explains.

The situational assessment measures the interpersonal skills of the nurses. Biddle Consulting created 21 different videos. The nurses watch the videos and then have to select the best and the worst way to handle the situation from a set list of solutions.

“The videos involve make-or-break situations common in a hospital,” he continues. Each video puts the RN in a precarious situation. A panel of 50 nurses actually determined the correct answers to each vignette.

Dr. Biddle says his team started out with 30 vignettes. They showed them to hiring managers at Saint Francis Medical Center and Frederick Memorial Hospital for feedback.

Behavioral: PeopleClues specializes in predictive behavioral assessments. “Our goal is to help the healthcare hiring manager make better hiring decisions,” Wempen explains. The PeopleClues solution relies on a database it built over the last 10 years.

This assessment has three components: personality, cognitive and attitude. He says it typically takes the nurses 20 minutes to complete all three parts of its assessment online.

Wempen says PeopleClues paired with Prophecy Healthcare because “it is so deep in the RN domain.” He says Gonzalez and his team helped his group tailor its assessment to the healthcare world’s needs.

Clinical: This assessment tests the nurse’s basic medical knowledge.

Mitchell says her RNs need about 3.5 hours to take the entire assessment (with all three test components).

And the assessment is constantly improving. She says Gonzalez encourages her to pick up the phone and tell him how to improve the assessment. “They want to grow with us,” she observes.


Gonzalez says hospitals have seen “an immediate increase in retention of new employees.” That jibes with Mitchell’s experience. She says 18 months after first using the tool, her retention rate for 2011 was 98 percent. “That is unheard of in our industry,” she says.

Fauquier has been able to hire “better nurses.” Each new nurse has to sit through a six-day HR training session and clinical orientation before the hospital will allow them near patients. Before using the Prophecy tool, a few new recruits actually fell asleep during this training. After using the tool, “the results were instantaneous,” she reports. She says HR was amazed that the new class of recruits “was awake! There was a 180-degree change in attitude. They were 100 percent more professional at orientation,” Mitchell says.

The hospital now requires all its nurses (yes, even the incumbents) to take the assessment. The results help the hospital create its educational curriculum. “We are better able to meet the organization’s needs,” she says.

Gonzalez says smaller hospitals typically use the tool as both a pre-employment screening tool and as an incumbent benchmark.

The partners recently completed a study of more than 900 nursing professionals. They discovered a correlation of .67 between test scores and job performance ratings given by nurse supervisors. “This level of correlation is seldom ever found in validation studies and was only possible by putting together three robust tests that each target a distinct part of job performance,” says Dr. Biddle.

Understanding the characteristics that are common to top-performing nurses helps healthcare organizations better identify and hire the right candidates from the start. “The end results can include a highly engaged workforce that delivers the highest quality of patient care, reduced turnover, increased productivity and substantial cost savings,” says Gonzalez.

Patients benefit. Hospitals benefit. All three providers benefit. Coopitition is just what the doctors ordered.

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