Take a Team Approach to Internal Communications, Recruitment

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, March 4, 2009

Although it might not at first seem obvious, the fact is that there are a lot of parallels between the marketing department and the human resources department. What do marketing and HR have in common? Marketing is responsible for communicating to all customers. And employees and prospective employees, both within the purview of HR, are, after all, customers.

Some hospitals get this, taking full advantage of the expertise and talent available in both departments to deliver a strong message to these important customers.

At Hamilton Health Care System in Dalton, GA, for example, marketing and HR work together on recruitment efforts, internal communications, employee satisfaction, service excellence, and more.

I interviewed Jason Hopkins, director of human resources at Hamilton, for a recent article in HealthLeaders magazine (See Your Friends in HR). He says that when HR "goes rogue," it makes the organization look disorganized and undermines the brand image. "It's not a matter of being territorial," he says. "A collaborative effort just seems to make more efficient sense, rather than an adversarial approach."

Keith Jennings, who worked with Hopkins before becoming an independent marketing consultant, says the approach benefits both departments—and the organization as a whole. In particular, he said, it can help with recruitment efforts.

In a follow-up interview, Jennings expanded on that theme. Hospitals should start by asking these questions, he says:

  • Why is there a shortage of healthcare workers?
  • What's driving this shortage?
  • Is this shortage affecting patient care?
  • Why should a nurse or doctor choose your hospital over their other choices?
  • What makes you so special?
  • And once with you, why should they stick around?
  • How do you make a difference in their lives and those they serve?

"These are marketing issues," Jennings says. "What hospitals need to do is honestly and sincerely answer those questions with their staff. Not for them."

And, as always, the message has to come from the top. (Or, in this case, the questions must come from the top.)

"There's something powerful in hearing a CEO say, ‘Sure, we're short staffed. Sure, things could be better. But it doesn't change the fact that what you do for us is important. What you do matters. And we need you to help us earn our customers' trust and confidence. So, how can we do that?'

"Strong hospitals have leaders who connect their staff's capabilities to a meaningful purpose," Jennings says. "Weak hospitals suffer from the confusion of a lack of purpose. That's when you have thousands of staff venting their frustrations at home and in the community."

One of my favorite expressions—which I've repeated to the point that I'm in danger of over-using it—is that your brand walks on two feet. When HR, marketing, the c-suite, and your work force work together, you can put a little extra spring in your hospital's step.

Gienna Shaw is an editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at gshaw@healthleadersmedia.com.

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