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Core Exchange: Tackling Today’s Recruitment Challenges

Learn how marketing and HR departments within healthcare systems should work together to hire and engage

Hiring for fit helps health systems improve recruitment marketing. Core’s Stephanie Burton and Jean Hitchcock of Hitchcock Marketing Communications discuss.

You can listen to the episode using the player embedded above, or you can read a full transcript below. Be sure to subscribe to Core Exchange on iTunes.

  • Core Exchange | Recruiting in healthcare

Episode Transcript:

Stephanie B: Hello. I'm Stephanie Burton, Director of Health Care Marketing at Core Creative. At Core, we stay current by parsing information directly from those driving change in innovation in their markets. It helps us learn how business is finding new solutions for healthcare consumers, and it helps sharpen our perspective when we serve our clients. This is the Core Exchange with Jean Hitchcock, President of Hitchcock Marketing Communications. Hi Jean.

Jean Hitchcock: Hi Stephanie, how are you?

Stephanie B: I am doing well. We are so excited to have you here today. I introduced you as the president of Hitchcock Marketing Communications, but really your career speaks for itself. You've been all over the country around the healthcare marketing block is what we call it. Tell us a little bit about your background, how you got into healthcare marketing, and where you've been.

Jean Hitchcock: Sure. Well, it started in Michigan with a wonderful, hospital called Butterworth Hospital, which is now part of Spectrum Health, and I went there as the head of communications. And back then, marketing really wasn't something that we did in healthcare. We didn't have to. It was just not even a term that was used in titles or whatever. And from that, as things changed in the marketplace and different competitors came, marketing started coming to the forefront. And so, I started a there at Spectrum Health, moved on to Ohio Health. Then I went to Chicago and worked with the Rynne Marketing Company. Terry Rynne wrote the first book on healthcare marketing, so I really got my MBA from him, which was great. And then I moved to Scripps Health in beautiful San Diego. And then Medstar Health was my last role as CMO, and Medstar is in the Baltimore, Washington DC market.

Stephanie B: Fantastic. So today, we're going to talk about a hot topic in healthcare marketing: Recruitment. It's a tight job market out there, and health systems are being really pressed right now to fill a lot of open positions.

Stephanie B: So, let's talk about why it's such a challenge right now and how we can help health systems overcome that challenge.

Jean Hitchcock: Sure. Well, you're absolutely right. There's different projections as to where we're going to be, but we're going to be significantly understaffed in terms of physicians by 2025, but I think most people do remember when there was an outcry about the shortage of nurses a couple of years ago, as a result, we opened up a lot of new nursing programs, nursing schools, a lot of people took on nursing as a second career later on in life too, which was great for the industry. But what's happening now is with a specialization in technology, it's not just a nurse. They want an OR nurse with orthopedic training. So, the competition is stiff, and it's nationwide, and there's a number of systems that bring nurses in, for example, from Ireland, England, and the Philippines.

Stephanie B: I've seen a lot of different marketing tactics that are out there, and some of them seem to almost conflict a little bit with culture in my opinion. So, we hear these big huge signing bonuses, and we want warm bodies there. What are your opinions on signing bonuses and bringing people in and how we introduce them to the culture so that they're a good fit?

Jean Hitchcock: Well, signing bonuses did have their day in the sun when that was the hot thing, and nurses could literally sit down and compare who gave you the most. What people are finding now is that the cultural fit is what really makes the difference. So, there are some organizations that really take the time to understand that. Is this nurse going to be a good fit or this physician is going to be a good fit for our organization? So, a sign on bonus, when you're talking more about culture, doesn't really speak to that. And so, I think it's a limited tactic. It's going to appeal to some, but once you start getting more specialized, it's going to diminish in value.

Stephanie B: So let's talk about the importance of culture with recruitment. Are people, are nurses and physicians looking for culture at this juncture?

Jean Hitchcock: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, obviously as we all know, we're going through some generational changes. I can tell you right now that 60% of the physicians at Johns Hopkins are millennials. So, you're dealing with a very different cadre, for example, of physicians, and I think it's very important. I think people come to healthcare ... They still come to healthcare because it's a calling. They want to be part of something that's bigger than themselves, but they spend so much of their lives there that the culture is absolutely critical because they really do want to have some kind of balance with their personal lives. So, if you go into an organization that doesn't value that, it's not going to be a good fit. You're going to part ways, and the loss to you, you can identify with, but the loss to the organization is even bigger.

Stephanie B: Yes, absolutely. We couldn't agree more. We've talked about this before, that what seems to be kind of this brick wall between marketing and human resources, sometimes not talking to each other when it comes to efforts of recruitment. Tell us how you advise clients to break down that wall.

Jean Hitchcock: Well, I'll tell you, I learned something critical when I was at Scripps. I actually embedded staff from the Marketing and Communications Department into HR. And the reason we did that was a couple of reasons. First of all, marketing and communication should be the guardian of the brand, and who touches the brand more than human resources, whether it's recruits or current employees. Number two, we also wanted to make sure that everything they put out, and they are a huge producer of communications, is done according to a message platform that supports the brand and the values, that it is grammatically correct, and it's visually attractive, et cetera.

And then when we start to think about how important websites are and how now, most applications are taken on a website, there really needs to be even a closer marriage between marketing communications. Usually marketing has the website. So, what you want to do is make sure that the brand is there, the messaging is there, and I can't begin to tell you how many people have never filled out a job application on their own website. And when they do it and see how horrendous it is, they completely switch out vendors because some people think it's just a plug and play, but what does that say about your organization if you're trying to recruit a high tech specialist, and your website doesn't work, or the application process breaks down three or four times. It's a total disconnect from the message you're trying to communicate around high tech.

Stephanie B: User experience. We need to take a look at it.

Jean Hitchcock: Absolutely.

Stephanie B: What that user experience is, not only for our patients, but also for job applicants.

Jean Hitchcock: You know, a lot of health systems are also doing these 360 videos of the environment in which the nurses or the doctors are going to work because they want to see what the technology is. They want to see how the physical plant is set up to support the practice of medicine, and then they also have live chat, or they have an opportunity to chat with the manager of that floor to get a better sense of what it's like to work there. I think those are all speaking to culture.

Stephanie B: Absolutely. What other tools are health systems using or may we not have heard about yet for recruitment?

Jean Hitchcock: Well, I tell you, LinkedIn is becoming huge for a lot of areas. As I've shared with you before, OR nurses are really hard to find, and it's a national market. And so, LinkedIn is a great way to reach out to them with some targeted messaging. The other thing is the LinkedIn for physicians which can be used, and I know that

Ochsner Health System down in New Orleans has had great success with that.

The other thing you shouldn't forget is that there is an alumni group that you have at your own hospital that you can activate to go back to where they went to school to see if there are colleagues or people that went to nursing school or medical school who might be interested in working with you.

And so, I think you need to tap into the informal social networks as well as using some of the new technologies that are out there to reach people because the market is more national now than it's ever been.

Stephanie B: Absolutely. Who's doing recruiting well?

Jean Hitchcock: As a provider?

Stephanie B: Yes.

Jean Hitchcock: Well I think without pinpointing any one in particular, if your growth strategy, or if you have a strategy of growth, and you need more providers, you're going to have more of an impetus to do that. And I think the people that have really taken a more holistic approach and looking at different tactics versus the usual print ads or posting on job boards are really doing better. I'd have to think about that though before I give you an example.

Stephanie B: Sure. You've talked about the millennial audience. We've got more and more millennials who are nurses, who are physicians. It's certainly a big buzzword that we hear all the time now. How do they want to be reached? What do we know about how they're consuming media, things that are important to them as physicians and nurses?

Jean Hitchcock: Well, there's tremendous data out there now. I recently heard the market research director for Google present on sort of the insight she had of people using their platform. And so, I think for people in marketing, there's a lot of data that they can get to pretty easily about how they want to do that.

An example is online scheduling became very popular about five years ago or so in different markets, and one health system that I was affiliated with, we knew that in the Washington DC market that was going to take off very, very well. Why? Because of the population. We had a high level of millennials. We had singles that might not have a medical home, but they liked the idea that if they needed to get into an urgent care or primary care, they could do it and they could do it online. Took off very, very well.

That might not be the same experience in a different market. But, the other thing is you do have to understand where they get their information, how they like to receive information. Everyone has a phone. They grew up digital. So, anything other than that is alien to them or not as familiar. And so, I think hospitals need to really think through what they're doing. It's hard to give up some things that you've done forever and ever, but printed newsletters, I mean, who does that anymore? And I do know that Geisinger Health just introduced a wonderful texting program. So, the challenge for a lot of health systems is well how do we get in touch with EVS workers or plant ops workers who aren't near their computers? So, they set up this texting program with guardrails, basically saying, "We're only going to text you during working hours, and it's only mission critical stuff." But that's the kind of ways you need to adopt technology in order to reach the modern workforce now.

Stephanie B: Fantastic. How is recruitment for health systems different than recruitment in any other industry?

Jean Hitchcock: Well, in this day and age where every health system is being evaluated on quality and outcomes, this is not filling a spot. This is finding a provider who is consistent with your culture, is going to support your values of quality and safety. That's very, very important. Medical errors is the third leading cause of death in the United States. So, you're really looking for fit, and you're also looking for skill set and expertise. And so, in some cases, people might think hiring is a commodity. I need a body to do this job, et cetera. Healthcare, because it is such a human process, you've got a lot of variables that you need to make sure you recruit for. So, that's why it's important to be able to get more insight into who the recruiters are.

Stephanie B: Great. Why don't people want to be doctors and nurses anymore?

Jean Hitchcock: Well, I might challenge that. I think there's a lot of people who are drawn to it because it's a caring vocation. People are drawn to the fact that you have to be lifetime learners, but it's also hard. You have great responsibility. You're caring for someone's life. And nursing, it's physically demanding, but you have new technologies that come in, and they have to adopt to those. And again, you're focused on the patient and the safety of that patient. For physicians, it's a very long process to get trained, and you come out, and you have a heavy debt that you need to retire as well. So, you really have to be committed when you get into medicine, and you have to be committed to go for the long haul.

Stephanie B: If you had to boil down your advice to health systems who are challenged with recruitment today, what would you say? If you could only say, "You need to do these three things." What would those three things be?

Jean Hitchcock: Well, given our topic today, I would really encourage the recruitment people and the marketing people to work more closely together, because marketing can bring a lot of the tools to the table that will help achieve what HR is trying to do in terms of finding the right people, the right fit for the organization, whether it's CRM, whether it's messaging, whether it's the use of social media. Absolutely do that.

I also think they need to take more of a long-term vision on recruitment in the sense that you want people to stay. So, you look at your turnover rate for year one, and you find out why people are leaving, and then you actively do something to mitigate that.

And then the last piece is the engagement piece to keep people engaged. What does it take to keep people engaged? Don't assume that just because you've put someone in a spot, they're going to stay forever. The longer they stay, the better for the organization. So, think about career paths for people. Think about how they can go from one location doing one thing and grow with an organization. Those would be your most loyal people, and they will produce results that you can't get anywhere else.

Stephanie B: Great. Any questions I didn't think of that I should have?

Jean Hitchcock: No, I just think there's some really great tools out there that people can use that are on the horizon. I know that there are companies that work in big data that can give you a persona of the person who would be most successful for your health system, and the health systems that then adopt that can actually put their recruitment information through those filters and come up with the five best candidates. That's really forward thinking, and I would love to see more people adopt that sort of approach to the recruitment process when they're doing it on a large scale.

Stephanie B: The future is here, and it's now.

Jean Hitchcock: The future's here and now. Absolutely.

Stephanie B: So, exciting times for health systems. It's not all doom and gloom. There is hope. People want to become doctors and nurses, and there are ways to reach these people who want to be reached by us. It's just a matter of building that bridge between human resources and marketing, plugging in the right tools, and then making sure that culture resonates with both the candidate and our organization.

Jean Hitchcock: In a real way. It just can't be puffery. It's has to be real. And I can tell you that having spent my life, you can walk into an organization and sense their culture right away and so can recruits. So, I think it's really important that people pay attention to those cues that give people an idea of what it's like for that culture.

Stephanie B: Great last word. Jean Hitchcock, it's a pleasure to have you today.

Jean Hitchcock: Thank you, Stephanie. It's a pleasure to be here.

Stephanie B: Thank you.


Stephanie Burton, APR is the Director of Healthcare Marketing at Core Health.

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