Healthcare Providers Are Hiring the Wrong People

The new healthcare workforce needs more than biomedical knowledge; it needs empathetic team players at all levels who can support patients holistically.


There has been little focus on hiring healthcare professionals with the traits needed to succeed in this new reality. With few exceptions, most organizations focus their employee training efforts on competencies — from teamwork to cultural sensitivity — once people are already hired and hope the lessons stick. The healthcare industry’s failure to invest in hiring for the full spectrum of required traits has resulted in a workforce that isn’t optimized for the job, and it has contributed to high turnover rates — 20.6 percent according to a recent survey.


Here are four steps that healthcare organizations can take to build a diverse workforce that produces valuable outcomes:


MATCH HIRING TO THE PROBLEMS YOU NEED TO SOLVE: When we began designing the IMPaCT community health worker program at the University of Pennsylvania, we talked to thousands of high-risk patients and made a list of the barriers they face. For each barrier, we brainstormed a potential solution and listed the attributes a worker would need in order to execute these solutions. Attributes like community membership and altruism rose to the top of our wish list for new hires.


KNOW WHERE TO LOOK: Target efforts to the traits your organization is seeking. Once we identified altruism as a key trait for community health workers, we sought out natural helpers by circulating job descriptions through YMCAs, soup kitchens and block-captain associations. This approach yielded many applicants who were suited for success in the role.


USE THE RIGHT ASSESSMENT TOOLS: After eliminating applicants who don’t have the legally required credentials, providers should consider multimodal tests that assess personality traits or aptitudes that predict job performance, keeping in mind the legal, ethical and business implications of psychometric testing in hiring. At IMPaCT, we hold informational “meet and greets” to identify good listeners who make their peers comfortable. The right assessment tools enable organizations to evaluate important traits beyond credentials and technical expertise.


CONSIDER HUMAN RESOURCES A LEADERSHIP FUNCTION: The most effective hiring happens when leaders are deeply involved with the all aspects of the process, because they have a unique sense of the organization’s needs and the culture it aspires to. In our organization, the chief operating officer still sits in on most community health worker job interviews. This approach is resource-intensive. But it is the best way, we’ve found, to create the team we need to deliver the outcomes patients seek. It has the added benefit of dramatically improving retention and organizational stability, which benefits staff, patients and the organization at large.


As healthcare shifts from clinician-dominated, medical-competency work to a team-based practice addressing the needs of whole patients and communities, hiring strategies need to shift as well. By redesigning hiring practices, healthcare leaders can hire high-performing people whose talents may be missed by traditional recruitment and evaluation approaches.


Copyright 2019 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

 

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