The leader of Memorial Regional Hospital South shares strategies for bolstering the workforce.
For Phil Wright, CEO of Memorial Regional Hospital South, attacking labor shortages begins before you even get a potential worker through your doors.
Finding ways to recruit and retain staff is a priority for leaders of hospitals and health systems across the country dealing with workforce challenges. However, one part of recruiting that Wright believes is often overlooked is the hiring process.
“What I know every organization must have is a very efficient process for how you bring people on,” he said on a recent episode of the HealthLeaders Podcast.
Once you’ve found qualified candidates for the position you’re hiring for, drawing out the process for multiple weeks will do more harm than good, according to Wright. Dragging your feet will not only keep you from filling the job sooner, but it may drive away talent.
“Team members and potential staff members will go elsewhere and look for opportunities with other organizations if they feel like they can bring them on faster,” Wright said.
Hiring efficiently doesn’t mean hiring as quickly as possible though. Identifying and seeking out the right traits in potential employers from the start can keep organizations from having to fill the role again sooner than they’d like. For CEOs, that requires creating an environment where culture is prioritized.
“You waste time if you don't hire for fit versus the obvious competency,” Wright said. “We're all guilty sometimes of wanting to just get the position filled, but you end up wasting more time and money if you've got to replace that person after 60 or 90 days because they've were not a good fit or they left the organization. I'm a true believer of hiring for fit first. If you go after culture and fit first, then you have a better chance of retaining that person long-term.”
Cultural fit, of course, goes both ways. People want to choose a place to work based on the values it upholds just as much as the other way around.
That means once you’re brough on talent, you need to foster the relationships with your employees, Wright believes. With work overload and burnout causing many to leave their positions at hospitals, the typical employer-employee dynamic is no longer sufficient for cultivating an environment in which people want to stay.
“You’ve got to find a way to connect with people in a different way than just the traditional supervisor and staff member” Wright said. “What I’ve found is that people are seeking that connection. They want more of a connection with their supervisors and team members that they work with every day and if you can provide that atmosphere for them, especially within that first year, which is so crucial in any organization, any team’s hiring process, you have a better chance of keeping them on.”
Culture also extends to how workers are rewarded beyond just compensation. As hospitals and health systems strive to keep labor costs down, CEOs must get creative with what they can offer employees.
“These days with the competition, especially in some non-clinical type positions where folks have choices to go work for lots of other organizations, especially for the dollars that are being paid, you've got to turn over every single rock day and really make sure you've exhausted all the potential possibilities for bringing people on,” Wright said. “That includes being a little more flexible and things that, especially in the healthcare setting, we haven't traditionally been as flexible about.”
Some perks Wright points to are the ability to work from home and malleable scheduling, which were made more common by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hospitals and health systems are recognizing the importance of investing in their staff. According to a recent survey by Aon, 95% of hospitals offered tuition reimbursement programs, 93% offered flexible work options, 84% offered personal leave, and 80% offered financial wellness/planning, among other benefits.
Wright acknowledges that there’s no “silver bullet” to solving the workforce, but these strategies can go a long way to creating sustainability in an area that is in serious need of it.
Jay Asser is the contributing editor for strategy at HealthLeaders.
Making the hiring process more efficient with timely decisions based on the right fit can quickly improve your staff, Memorial Regional Hospital South CEO Phil Wright tells HealthLeaders.
By creating an environment where culture is at the forefront, CEOs will have an easier time attracting and retaining employees.
That environment must include the personalization of relationships and a willingness to offer perks and benefits outside of standard compensation.