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Miss-hires, bad hires, and fraudulent hires cost hospitals millions upon millions of dollars each year.  In the healthcare provider segment which will see a decade or more of significant downward pressure on costs, hiring the wrong people, for whatever reason, is a cost we can ill afford.

Talent acquisition is one of the most challenging and inexact things we do in healthcare.  It is hard to hire the right person even when all of the recruiting and screening systems are working.  However, healthcare providers who reduce their hiring mistakes –as well as the high turnover rates that plague so many hospitals –will be surprised with the improvements in quality of care, patient safety and customer satisfaction metrics, not to mention the financial impact on the profit-loss statement.  It is huge.  Actually, that is a fact most CEOs already know but it is often easier to ignore the connection than to solve the underlying problems.  One Midwest health system (not a JGSA client) with a 17-18 percent annual turnover in nursing – and one of the most siloed leadership structures in healthcare – will sacrifice at least $6 million off the bottom line because of a poor hiring system,  turnover and a leader who will not lead.  No hospital can afford this level of financial leakage,  especially not in the new healthcare economy.

These kinds of numbers, along with the negative reimbursement consequences related to poor quality and low patient satisfaction, a common thread among hospitals which do not hire the right people and which have excessive turnover, are driving hospital CEOs to focus on the problem to find a solution.  There are no easy answers to talent acquisition so beware of consultants selling certainty.

However, that is exactly what some hospitals want, and there are any number of snake oil salesmen working the crowd.  The market is filled with an assortment of psychologists and a mixed bag of behavioral and values consulting companies that would have you believe that hiring using their system is a science. Do not believe the pitch.  They are offering the worst kind of elixir. One recruiting executive bragged that he did not even need to see the candidates before recommending the right choice; he could rely on a candidate’s “test” profile.  Another argued that employers should not interview candidates who did not “pass” the profile “test” – “because you will just end up liking the wrong person.”   

When these consultants start using words like “test”, “pass” or “fail” to describe the results, clients should run, not walk, to the nearest exit. 

Behavior and values assessments along with psychological profiles are but one tool in the candidate selection process.  They are not the be-all end-all that some promoters in the hiring- is-science crowd would have you believe.  When used with a comprehensive interviewing process like Topgrading© or CandidateInsightTM , in-depth background checks and extensive referencing using (candidate provided) primary references and (research cultivated) secondary references, the margin for error can be significantly reduced.   However, no recruiter is perfect and no screening process is perfect because people are not perfect.

Another piece of the talent acquisition puzzle is to create an employment culture that emphasizes hiring the right person, not filling a job order.  Hold your team accountable, including your external search consultants, by tying their internal compensation incentives or a portion of the professional fee to the outcome.  Do not allow yourself to be seduced into looking for an easier, more cost effective silver bullet solution, especially those with impressive graphs, charts and claims of data to support a recommendation. When those snake oil salesmen try to tell you otherwise, remember one of my recent experiences.  A client’s profiling company, with “rock-solid data,” recommended including a particular candidate when others were “failing” to qualify.  We had to eliminate him.  He did not tell the truth.

© 2010 John Gregory Self