Healthcare organizations are experiencing tremendous pressure to restructure, cut costs and elevate quality of care as they shift their focus from volume to value. Meanwhile, the market for healthcare talent grows exceedingly difficult: reports abound of hospital staffing ratio concerns linked to patient deaths, as hospitals face shortages of critical staff.

The American Medical Association predicts a shortage of 130,000 physicians across all specialties by 2025. Other recent reports point to current shortages of IT staff and an estimated one-third of the nursing workforce hitting retirement over the next 10 to 15 years. HR professionals and talent acquisition specialists face intense pressures in this challenging environment to maintain adequate staffing ratios – and employ high-quality talent – while being diligent about cutting costs.

As the landscape shifts, best-in-class healthcare organizations are looking outside of the industry to identify more efficient and effective ways to work. Of particular interest to HR leaders are solutions for developing a robust pool of qualified talent that will deliver higher quality care at lower costs. More organizations are turning to recruitment partners to help them adopt “next practices” – preparing them for expected global talent shortages.

Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) is at the heart of this change. 43% of healthcare organizations are investing in some form of external recruitment support to meet their talent pool needs, according to a 2012 report by the Aberdeen Group. The report also notes that organizations investing in RPOs are able to improve overall time-to-fill positions, decrease cost-per-hire and increase customer retention.

Unlike traditional technical and professional staffing and recruiting firms, RPO providers manage and transform the Total Talent Acquisition process. Management at this level helps to better meet organizational objectives. This was accomplished by focusing on a recruitment process outsourcing model that centers around five key processes: sourcing, screening, hiring, onboarding and strategic workforce planning. The “three Ss” – Sourcing, Screening and Strategic workforce planning – are where RPOs can provide a distinct advantage.

Proving Success Through the "Three Ss": Integrated Talent Strategies

Recently, Tim Rice, CEO at Cone Health System in Greensboro, NC, challenged his organization to elevate how quality care was delivered to the community. To achieve this objective, Rice decided to implement a new organizational vision, and recruit and develop a workforce that could drive its patient-focused initiatives.

“To meet our goals around patient care, we had to be more stringent about who we hire and how we attract and retain talent,” said Rice. “We needed an outside partner to reassess and refocus our talent acquisition strategies. Most importantly, we needed a partner that understood our patient-centric focus and could find talent that would fit and succeed within our culture.”

Strategic workforce planning is one of the top three areas of talent management impacting organizational performance, according to Aberdeen Group’s report. RPOs can integrate human capital and broader organizational strategic planning to ensure healthcare organizations have the skills, roles and people needed to improve operational efficiencies, patient satisfaction and business results.

Cone reframed its organizational vision, created initiatives and tactics to spread its patient-centric message across the health system. Cone also worked with Cielo to develop high-level talent acquisition strategies that sourced patient-focused candidates. The result? Cone moved its employee satisfaction across 8,400 employees into the 80th percentile. Next, patient satisfaction scores followed suit.

Evaluating the Best Recruitment Strategy for Your Organization

RPO partnerships warrant careful analysis. The first step is to evaluate the current hiring model by performing a situational analysis. This lens helps examine time-to-fill statistics, turnover rates, hiring manager satisfaction, and total recruitment costs.

Another client, Debbie Walkenhorst, Regional Vice President of Human Resources at SSM Health Care – St. Louis, knew it was time for a change. Walkenhorst noticed she became too consumed with talent acquisition to focus on other strategic initiatives. At the time, SSM Health Care – St. Louis had a dedicated internal recruitment team.

However, key positions were not being filled, and SSM Health Care – St. Louis did not have the capital to invest in new tools and technologies to help the internal team enhance its talent acquisition processes. “We weren’t finding the talent we needed to elevate care,” said Walkenhorst.

“We needed access to new technologies to drive efficiencies and source quality talent. However, it’s hard to justify investments in new recruitment tools when excess capital should go to new hospital equipment and technologies for patients.”

Healthcare organizations that aren’t up-to-date on new and future sourcing strategies won’t be able to build a strong candidate pipeline. Developing this talent pipeline is critical to the recruitment process. The right healthcare RPO partner provides immediate access to experienced talent acquisition professionals who know recruitment “next practices” that many Human Resource departments do not have the resources or technology to achieve.

For Walkenhorst, the decision to partner with an RPO was threefold: recruitment expertise, cutting-edge tools and technologies, and internal capacity to focus on other strategic initiatives. “All of our energy and focus was spent toward recruitment,” she said. “We needed to take this off our shoulders and focus on our broader goals of improving patient care and quality outcomes.”

If you are unsure whether an outside partner is right for your organization, or if Total Talent Acquisition can provide solutions to meet your goals, consider these questions:

  • Are you unable to fill key positions or find high-quality talent?
  • Do you need to hire a large quantity of potential candidates quickly?
  • Are you too consumed with talent acquisition to focus on other strategic organizational initiatives?
  • Are you proactive in your talent acquisition strategy or caught in the vicious cycle of reactive recruiting?
  • Do you need resources or technology to take your talent acquisition to the next level?
  • Are you unsure of the level at which your recruitment team is performing as compared to your competitors?

These questions provide a framework for determining staffing and consulting services to clients. If the answer is “yes” to even a few of these questions, it may be time to reassess your current talent model.

The impact of finding a trusted partner

Once SSM Health Care – St. Louis found the right RPO partner, they worked together to develop the SSM Talent Acquisition Recruitment Partnership (STAR). The goal of the program was to make SSM Health Care – St. Louis the market leader, achieve a best place to work ranking, increase patient satisfaction and enhance candidate experience. In addition, the program was designed to raise the perception of the internal HR team, positioning them as strategic consultants.

The STAR team developed a multi-pronged strategy that included:

  • Implementing new technologies
  • Enhancing processes for improved compliance
  • Developing consistent
  • Organization-wide metrics to make improved decisions
  • Elevating the candidate experience for both external and internal applicants

Five years later, SSM Health Care – St. Louis celebrated its third consecutive Best Places to Work ranking and saw patient and physician satisfaction scores continue to increase year-over-year. In addition, the STAR team:

  • Decreased cost-per-hire by 66%
  • Increased retention rates by 5 percentage points to 97%
  • Increased hiring manager satisfaction by more than 20 percentage points to 95%
  • Increased candidate satisfaction by 17 percentage points to 95%

“The talent acquisition process was our base,” said Walkenhorst. “Once we fixed our talent acquisition model, everything else fell into place. We were able to achieve our patient satisfaction goals, elevate care and become a higher-performing organization.”

To identify the right partner for your organization, consider the following criteria:

1. Deep Domain Expertise: An RPO partner must really know healthcare. Ask to see the prospective partner’s list of clients. Or you can speak with the head of healthcare to determine how well they understand the industry, workforce needs and culture.

2. Metric Capabilities: Look at metric capabilities and access to quantifiable data to measure the effectiveness of your recruitment efforts and inform future strategies.

3. Scalability: Ask how processes are designed to scale up or down to meet the demands of your long-term and short-term hiring needs.

4. Tools and Technologies: Examine how access to new tools and technologies will increase the efficacy of your talent acquisition processes.

5. Culture Fit: Explore whether you want a transactional or transformative model and talk to a variety of potential partners to find a firm who understands your organization, team and culture.

RPO partnerships can provide a cost-effective way to build a more targeted talent community to fill your organization’s fluctuating hiring needs. The future success of healthcare organizations will demand a solid foundation of talent who can drive quality and patient-focused strategic initiatives forward.