Talent assessment health check: Prescribing a better process to combat attrition

The diagnosis isn’t positive news: The turnover of hospital staff continues to be above average. And, this isn’t just for nurses or at a specific level but across all levels and all roles.

The lack of continuity of staff is bad for hospitals — and bad for patients who expect a continuity of care. What can be done to treat this? A recent survey report from Leaders For Today (LFT), a hospital staffing firm,* not only shared alarming statistics around this but also suggested that one takeaway could be “The hospital hiring process needs a tune-up.”

While most efforts at addressing retention issues focus on what happens after the hire, at Willis Towers Watson we believe it makes sense to start before the hire is made — ensuring the people who are being considered have the necessary aptitude and cultural fit to be successful for the long term. Here are a few approaches we are finding that are effective at treating this attrition issue:

  • Encourage self-selection — With hospitals losing critical employees faster than they can replace them and needing to replace nearly half of their staffs every five years, there is certainly no shortage of job openings. Generally, there is also no shortage of applicants; the problem is retaining them once they become employees. Encouraging candidates to consider whether this is the role for them before they apply can be of great benefit to both the applicant and the employer. A popular method for this is conducting Realistic Job Previews (RJPs) and Realistic Culture Previews (RCPs). With RJPs and RCPs, candidates can answer a short series of questions before commencing their application to see how suited they are to the role and environment/culture of the organization to which they are applying. Candidates can even be advised on how well matched they are to a culture and/or job. This can be extremely effective in improving the caliber of candidates progressing in the short term and the likelihood of remaining in the role in the long term.
  • Streamline selection — According to the report, hospitals are frequently losing candidates who more quickly land job opportunities elsewhere. A quicker, more transparent process would definitely help in the competitive war for hospital talent. Alternatives to time-consuming application forms or resume screening at the first stage of the process could be considered to identify stronger applicants more quickly. One example of these alternatives would be utilizing a selection assessment that measures the skills and behaviors needed to be successful in the job. Successful assessment methodologies include behavioral screeners, aptitude tests and Situational Judgement Tests (SJTs). All options can be integrated with an Applicant Tracking System making the process efficient for both candidates and recruiters with scores being passed back upon completion, thus allowing real-time decisions to be made. Candidates also listed transparency as a frustration. Whatever the process entails, simple solutions such as outlining the stages to applicants and providing timelines for decisions at the beginning of the process can help ease potential frustrations and keep candidates engaged.
  • Map your talent — The report also highlights an aging workforce being a concern in the health care industry, giving hospitals significantly reduced pools of experienced talent to fill retiree positions. In addition to considering the hiring process, practices can be put in place for existing talent too. Assessing your current workforce against your current and future needs can highlight individuals with the potential to be developed into more senior roles likely to be difficult to fill, while at the same time building stronger talent pipelines.

Let’s not forget the post-hire experience for the new employee and how that affects the overall effectiveness of the talent acquisition process. The latter can only be measured if two conditions have been met:

  • The time to full productivity of the new hire is reduced to the minimum (measuring time to hire really isn’t enough).
  • New hires remain onboard past multiple anniversaries of their date of hire.

Addressing these factors requires a thorough onboarding and assimilation process that includes having “buddies” or other informal mentors to help the new hire get acclimated fast, a career development program that supports the ambitious and an employee value proposition that resonates with the new employee’s motivations and priorities. Providing access to all available employment information through a user-friendly “consumer grade” employee portal is also valuable so they don’t spend their valuable time (or that of their HR department) chasing down the information necessary to be effective in their new roles. A technology-enabled integrated onboarding and assimilation process can really make a difference here.

In all, trends indicate that the health care industry is, on average, five years behind other industries in HR processes, tools and priorities. The above recommendations are a starting point for health care organizations to consider when looking at how to reduce turnover of talented personnel within their organizations. The improvement process doesn’t stop here, though; for a conversation on additional ways to impact your selection and talent retention issues, please contact us at info@savilleassessment.com.

*The Other Elephant in the Hospital Room, LFT Survey: Hospital Staff Hiring & Turnover, May 2017

Dr. Tiffany Green-Shortridge is the North America Assessment Lead at Willis Towers Watson.
Bill MacKenzie is a Managing Director in the Talent Management and Organization Alignment practice at Willis Towers Watson.

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