How healthcare organizations leverage behavioral assessments to recruit top talent and reduce employee turnover

Employee turnover is a costly reality in any industry and retaining top talent in healthcare is particularly challenging and oftentimes problematic. Employee turnover not only has a significant impact on patient satisfaction and treatment outcomes; it also comes at a high price.

It is estimated that every percentage point increase in nurse turnover costs an average hospital about $300,000 annually.

With the number of healthcare jobs growing exponentially, employee retention is expected to remain a top organizational priority for the foreseeable future. In response, healthcare organizations are reexamining current talent management processes to ensure they're recruiting the right people for the right roles, and to hire those who are likely to stay long-term.
The first step to improving talent management processes to reduce turnover starts by working with HR on talent acquisition process improvements. It's important to ensure that recruiters and hiring managers are not just looking for someone to fill a job, but rather evaluating applicants for cultural fit by assessing the competencies needed for the particular role. Hiring those who don't fit-in culturally and lack alignment with the organization's mission, vision, and values can have a negative impact on employee engagement and morale, patient satisfaction and safety, and quality measures such as HCAHPS — impacting reimbursement rates and ultimately the organization's bottom line.
When it comes to evaluating candidates, it's common for organizations to only take professional experience and technical competence into consideration. This approach, however, often overlooks the importance of someone's inherent behavioral competencies, such as attitude, compassion, and customer service orientation, which may be more predictive of retention and crucial to on-the-job success.
Increasingly, healthcare organizations are looking to behavioral assessments to help identify candidates with the right set of soft skills and behavioral competencies. Scientifically validated behavioral assessments help talent acquisition professionals transform their hiring processes — uncovering an applicant's strengths and weaknesses effectively and objectively by comparing their assessment results to industry norms.

Behavioral assessments help guide interviews and create alignment between organizational expectations and candidate capabilities. They help focus interviews on core values and possible areas of concern. By providing more structure and consistency, behavioral assessments can boost interviewers' confidence and assist them in identifying the most qualified candidates who best fit the organization and their specific role. In addition to establishing a more rigorous and thorough hiring process, assessments provide HR professionals greater peace of mind.

These tools harness the power of behavioral science to identify and measure key healthcare-specific competencies such as compassion, willingness to learn, and customer orientation. In many cases, using a behavioral-based approach in recruitment has reduced new hire turnover by 20 to 60 percent. It also helps identify and develop service-oriented individuals, whose efforts can result in improved patient satisfaction, as well as identifying potential leaders pre-hire during the interview and post-hire during performance evaluations.

Healthcare organizations that effectively factor behavioral competencies into the hiring process are more likely to see reduced turnover, improved recruiting effectiveness, and increased employee engagement.

Meadville Medical Center (MMC) is a community hospital serving the 75,000 area residents of Crawford County, Pennsylvania. Every one of the facility's 1,300 employees signs a "Customer Service Standards of Performance" agreement, pledging their commitment to behaviors that all employees, volunteers, contracted services and vendors are expected to practice while on duty. According to Greg Maras, Vice President of Human Resources at MMC, beyond first-rate facilities and new technologies, "the quality of our employees is the single-most significant contributor toward quality of care. "
With MMC's employee turnover averaging only 10% a year, Maras says, "finding and retaining employees who are a strong cultural fit is especially important." "Whether it's screening the 115-120 new employees we hire each year, or evaluating employees for internal transfers or promotions, it's essential that we put the right person in the right job."
Penn Medicine, a highly regarded academic medical center with 15,000 employees, has always been committed to safe and effective clinical care, but when Courtney Brown was hired in 2007 as the Director of Talent Acquisition, she found the organization was struggling to measure the quality of its hires.
Brown spearheaded an initiative to integrate best practices in interviewing and hiring top talent. As a result of integrating assessments that evaluated critical HCAHPS competencies such as service excellence, compassion, and teamwork, Penn reduced turnover in the first 6 months by nearly 50%. Brown believes behavior-based assessments played a significant role in improving the quality of new hires and reducing turnover.
Assessment results not only assist managers with the hiring process, they can also help prepare employees to participate in peer reviews. Peer interviews are a commonly used part of the interview process at Samaritan Health Services of Oregon, and they were a concern for Human Resources. Employees often didn't know what to listen for in an interview or were not be aware of what they legally can and cannot ask during an interview.
High employee turnover doesn't have to be the norm in healthcare. Behavioral assessments are a proven tool that talent management teams and hiring managers can leverage to find candidates who meet the needs of the job and whose personal values align with the unique culture of the healthcare organization.

Frederick P. Morgeson, Ph.D. is the Eli Broad Professor of Management in the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University and Scientific Advisor to HealthcareSource, the leading provider of talent management software for the healthcare industry.

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