Healthcare Europa: Interview – Jill Schwieters, President, Cielo Healthcare

President of Cielo Healthcare, Jill Schwieters, was featured recently on Healthcare Europa, a subscription-based, online newsletter and website covering the European healthcare industry. The article, Interview – Jill Schwieters, President, Cielo Healthcare, is an exclusive discussion in which Jill discusses why, as “people remain the main cost and the main asset” for European healthcare organizations, recruitment, training and retention need to improve.

The full interview:

Healthcare Europa (HCE): What exactly [does Cielo Healthcare provide]?

Jill Schwieters (JS): Our core business is serving as an extension of our clients' HR departments and managing their recruitment function. That means we present as the company, understand their needs and carry out the entire recruitment process for them. You want 300 new nurses and 30 medics a year? We provide them. And we also measure their quality carefully. We get paid a monthly retainer, but 70-80 percent of our income is tied to performance targets, such as time-to-fill vacancies and retention at 90 days. These can be extended to include quality measures tying our performance to clinical outcomes. We want to recruit the highest quality staff, people with honour and vocation, as well as ability and, if we get that right, then clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction improve. So, it is very different from a standard recruitment agency which takes a large commission for filling a vacancy and has no interest in what happens next.

HCE: How big is the practice and who do you work for?

JS: Cielo has over 1,000 people around the world of whom 400 are in the healthcare practice, which I lead. In healthcare, about 70 percent are in the U.S., but we have a London office and are active in the Middle East, APAC and Singapore. In Europe, we work for Bupa, Smiths Medical and others. In the Middle East, we are involved in several projects to recruit staff for new hospitals. Of course, this involves a lot of international recruitment.

HCE: Is this approach is cheaper than a traditional HR department?

JS: Yes. Companies are not good at measuring the cost of poor recruitment, but [the costs] are huge. Vacancies and poor hires have huge costs. We can measure all this and, if you include these metrics, we on average reduce cost-per-vacancy by 30 percent from traditional recruitment approaches.

HCE: What do you see when you look at traditional HR departments in healthcare companies?

JS: There are some very good ones out there, but most HR departments in healthcare operators are generalists with many competing priorities of which recruitment is just one. With so many demands, there is a tendency to concentrate on other priorities and to not focus hard on recruiting.

We view recruitment as a profession and strive to give our clients the right resources to be successful at it. If there are passionate recruiters in the HR department, we can offer them a role and the training to excel.

HCE: What does HR get wrong?

JS: Much depends on whether the CEO is heavily involved and passionate about talent. Typically, we find that the approach tends to be very traditional. HR finds it hard to innovate and to use technology, often due to limited resources.

They don’t necessarily use social media well. This needs to be adapted to individuals. You need to know which generation or group wants text messages and which prefers email, for instance. And social media has its limits. Sometimes you can't beat picking up the phone. Often measurements of HR and recruitment success are not fully in place. Do they know their 90-day retention rate, for instance? Our clients are at 96 percent.

Nor have they streamlined processes such as applying for a job. Often this is much harder than it needs to be. Take the Veterans Administration in the U.S. It has literally thousands of vacancies. Yet, applying is extremely difficult and cumbersome. You want to make it as simple as possible for applicants. Streamline the process and then streamline your ability to select the best.

HCE: Are you getting involved in a deeper level?

JS: Yes, the world faces huge shortages of qualified healthcare labour. In order to deal with this and still provide great patient care, companies are going to have to restructure how they work.

They will have to re-engineer internal processes. For example, could nurses take over certain tasks from doctors that truly don’t need a doctor’s level of skills? If someone is not seriously ill but needs care, it is cheaper and better to employ a sitter next to the bed to provide care that doesn’t need to be a qualified nurse.

Telehealth is starting to pay dividends. I think behavioural healthcare, where you use telehealth to change people’s behaviour has huge potential. Early studies are also showing higher compliance rates for patients.

HCE: How far can the Cielo model travel? Can you bring U.S.-based work practices and cultures to, say, Germany?

JS: Well, we are already international and working in many different cultures. The essential problem remains the same the world over - access to the right healthcare talent needed today. We have flexibility in our solutions that will meet local practices. Yes, there are cultural issues, but you always find this. You may find this hard to believe, but even hospitals in Northern California are very different from those in Southern California. The key is tailoring the right solution for each client and their culture, wherever in the world they are.

Published with permission from Healthcare Europa