Curing Healthcare’s Hiring Woes

Few sectors exemplify the scope of the challenges facing today’s recruiters better than healthcare.

As iCIMS Chief Economist Josh Wright pointed out during a breakout session titled “Approaching Intensified Competition for Talent in Changing Times” at this week’s Recruiting Trends and Talent Tech event, employers in healthcare continue to struggle in their quest to find and attract the talent that’s needed.

Healthcare, he said, continued to grow even during the most recent economic downturn. “The reason is pretty intuitive,” he explained. “People don’t stop getting sick just because the economy slows down.”

Wright noted that healthcare is becoming a much larger part of the economy and predicted that that trend most likely will continue. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, he said, projects average growth will be 6.5 percent between 2014 and 2024 for all [healthcare] occupations. Technical and support jobs, he added, are positioned to grow the fastest because of today’s aging population (16.4 percent and 23 percent, respectively).

He said that wages are rising, though only modestly. “Most economists are scratching their heads as to why, with unemployment is so low, wages aren’t moving up more aggressively,” he said.

These economic and labor realities, Wright said, are forcing healthcare institutions to revisit and rethink their hiring priorities and practices.

During the breakout session, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Director of Talent Acquisition Kyla Nemitz shared her institution’s story, which includes a major expansion.

Nemitz said that each of new MSK site requires hiring 250 to 300 people. In 2019, she said, the organization plans to open a new center financed by the Koch Brothers that will require the hiring of up to 1,500 people.

Market data shows that patients are at risk if the patient-to-nurse ratio is 4:1 or less, she said. “We have to hire those nurses,” she explained. “They have to be there … .”

To address its staffing challenges, MSK’s talent-acquisition group realized in 2011 that it needed to develop a formal workforce plan. “We knew that we were going to open all these sites and needed a strategic roadmap,” she said.

Nemitz said TA worked closely with finance and strategy planning to make that happen.

MSK has also been able to successfully use market data to drive recruiting efforts, she said, noting that the company uses LinkedIn data to identify what’s happening the market.

In addition, the center has begun to use employee-survey data to help drive its TA strategy, reviewing the data to determine what motivated workers.

In the case of service workers, Nemitz said, respect was a key driver. Based on that insight, she said, MSK began to incorporate that insight into the messaging aimed at those workers, who include security guards and janitors.

Nemitz said that sometimes the best solution can be found internally.

“We were looking at our internal data, as well as the market data, and realized that lab technologists are an aging field,” she said. “The market data showed us that people were not going into these programs and we had a ton of openings.”

So what MSK did, Nemitz said, was spearhead a program of its own called the Lab Scholars Program. “We partnered with a school in the area, sending five to eight of our employees to an 18-month lab technology program,” she said. (The program is now in its third year.)

Roughly 20 lab technologists either have graduated from the program or will be graduating, she said. In order to participate, workers were required to sign a “commitment letter” that requires them to stay with MSK for three to five years.

Through that program, she said, MSK is finally “making a dent” in filling those positions.


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