How holistic hiring can save money and drive patient satisfaction

Hiring individuals who are not only qualified, but who will support a patient-centric culture is integral to success. 

By using effective, objective, and efficient approaches to hiring, hospitals can improve the candidate experience, reduce turnover, decrease the time it takes to fill a vacant position, and positively impact the organization's bottom line and patient satisfaction scores.

In a Sept. 26 webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Select International, Kurt Stillwagon, director of recruitment and talent acquisition at Lancaster (Pa.) General Health; Tanya Kilts, manager of employee development at Saint Paul, Minn.-based HealthEast Care System; and Laurie Wasko, PhD, manager of healthcare consulting for Select International, discussed the benefits and importance of incorporating evidence-based selection strategies to drive hiring decisions at each job level.

Evidence-based hiring in the transition to patient-centered care

As the healthcare industry shifts to patient-centric care, evidence-based hiring approaches target the behavioral skills that, largely, impact employee success. While clinical and technical skills are the foundation, building a high performance, patient-centric organization requires that staff are service-oriented, adaptable, dependable, innovative, and collaborative and have high levels of emotional intelligence.  These behavioral attributes can be accurately evaluated in the hiring process.  Problems with employee turnover, staff burnout, and poor patient satisfaction plague the industry. While evidence-based hiring may not be able to solve these issues fully, it can help mitigate some of these problems by choosing employees that are more likely to stay and most likely to succeed.

Since Lancaster General Health implemented Select International's evidence-based hiring assessment, time to fill has improved, turnover has declined, and patient satisfaction has climbed. The selection system efficiency makes it easier to focus on candidates most likely to succeed and to stay, contributing to the culture for years to come.  

"Certain areas aren't getting taxed as much, we don't have to go into overtime as often, and we aren't relying on temporary agencies to deliver care. Our overall culture has improved and departments haven't seen a lapse [in patient care] with any vacancy," Mr. Stillwagon said.

"Traditionally we were bringing in people who were technically qualified for the job, but we wanted to move the needle and bring in people who were innovative change agents — knowing that healthcare was transforming and knowing our company culture needed to transform, too," Ms. Kilts said. "It's no longer enough to bring in a nurse or front desk person with a technical skill … we need to look at the soft skills that would make patients choose HealthEast over another healthcare system."

Dr. Wasko added, "In the end, technical skills will be the foundation for hiring in healthcare; however … people have begun to recognize that performance is driven more by behavioral competencies."

Incorporating a selection system into hiring processes

Panelists agreed that recruiters and other individuals involved with hiring need to use a holistic hiring process to build a strong workforce. This holistic process creates a “selection system” with multiple components coordinated in a more comprehensive strategy.   

A deliberate selection system adds objectivity at every step – the application, the resume review, pre-screening, a valid, healthcare specific behavioral assessment built for hiring, and a structured behavioral interview.  This approach equips a hiring manager with rich, objective data on which to make a hiring decision

"The primary goal of a selection system is … to take a large number of applicants and dwindle this down to few quality candidates … this can be done through this process which, in a reliable and validated way, will identify the individuals who will have the greatest likelihood of success at the company," Dr. Wasko said. "[This person] will fit with the culture, employees, and organization as a whole."

How a selection system works

At each hospital, the hiring process is a little different, according to Dr. Wasko, who oversees this transition to selection system hiring processes at some of the top health systems in the country.

At Lancaster General Health, the selection system works by first having recruiters identify qualified candidates from the application pool. Then candidates take one of Select International’s healthcare-specific online behavioral assessments.  The results of the assessment are available to the recruiter and hiring manager and drive the focus on the in-person interview.

"This process allows managers to have a snapshot of a candidate's resume, demographics, and assessment results to make quicker decisions," said Mr. Stillwagon.

The assessment tool provides objective data about prospective employees based on a set of predetermined behavioral competencies desired for each role. It sifts out candidates who would not meet the company's desired behavioral competencies. These assessments are tailored toward specific positions at the hospital to ensure the right person is selected for the right job from frontline staff to executive roles.

Selection system success stories

Both Mr. Stillwagon and Ms. Kilts agreed implementing the assessment tool positively influenced their respective healthcare organizations.

"[LGH's] 90-day turnover decreased by about 13 percent. Our first-year turnover fell from 7.3 percent to 4.6 percent… Those are pretty good results," said Mr. Stillwagon.

Ms. Kilts added the assessment process decreased the time it took to fill a vacant position at HealthEast from 45 days to 33 days. As a result, "[HealthEast] has had better candidates, manager satisfaction is going up, and so is candidate satisfaction," said Ms. Kilts.

A study conducted by Select International looked at 900 nurses across inpatient, clinic, and home health services at a health system. The study found that nurses were two times more likely to be promoted when they passed the Select International assessment. Additionally, "after a year, the health system increased nurse retention by 19 percent — which equates to approximately a savings of $2.5 million," according to Dr. Wasko.

Overall, making objective, data-driven hiring decisions can lead to improvements in an organization. Hiring the right person can lead to a positive financial impact, increases in patient satisfaction, and company growth. 

Listen to the webinar recording here and view the webinar slides here.

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