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The science of talent selection

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   By Frederick P. Morgeson, Ph.D., April 2012

H03_Recruitment_HealthcareSource_Frederick_Morgeson_90x130The key is hiring people who are highly skilled and fit the organizational culture.

Healthcare organizations face numerous challenges today, ranging from improving patient satisfaction and safety to keeping costs down and running lean. When hospitals and healthcare facilities can rely on highly qualified employees, it becomes easier to accomplish all these goals.

One of the biggest levers that healthcare organizations possess for improving the quality of hires is selection science. Behavioral assessment techniques refined through decades of research in academia are now practiced nationwide in the healthcare sector. Leading hospitals and healthcare facilities have adopted the science of selection to identify, source, qualify and hire individual employees that will be a good long-term fit for their organization. To deliver greater customer satisfaction and higher-quality care, organizations should consider implementing the following four selection science best practices:

1. Use behavioral-based interviewing
In the healthcare environment, there is a direct relationship between quality of care and employee behaviors. Behavioral assessment techniques, such as pre-hire behavior-based interview questions, are an ideal way to identify potential new hires that will be most likely to conduct themselves in the right ways and demonstrate the right competencies.

Behavior-based interview questions are important because they explore how applicants exhibited key job-related behaviors in past work and academic situations. These questions are most effective when the interviewer obtains specific details about past behavior. For example, a hiring manager might ask an applicant to describe a time when he or she went “beyond the call of duty” to help someone else. Follow-up questions could include asking exactly what the individual did in this situation, what motivated their actions and what the outcome was.

2. Create hiring teams
One of the primary problems associated with conventional selection processes is making high-quality hiring decisions in a fair, consistent way. Traditional interviews follow a format where one person (e.g., the hiring manager) interviews an applicant. This can be an issue because the hiring manager may have his or her own preferences about the skills and personality traits that are desired for an open position. This can introduce bias into the hiring process, which is never desirable.

A good solution that reduces bias is creating an interviewing team consisting of multiple interviewers. This approach works best when the team has between three to five individuals and includes those who are already in the job, as well as supervisors. Bringing peers into the hiring process is a good idea for two reasons. First, it makes employees feel that they have input into the development of the team. Second, new hires are more likely to be supported by their teammates if peers were involved in their selection.

Every member of the interviewing team should be knowledgeable about the position and bring varying perspectives that reflect the diversity of views present in the unit. Although using multiple interviews may be more time consuming and costly than the traditional approach to interviewing, it results in better hiring decisions and greater buy-in from staff members on new employees.

Fotolia_5482717_M_360x3603. Standardize processes to align the team
Creating standardized hiring processes is another way to remove bias from the hiring process. Such standardization is similar to the way that healthcare organizations seek to provide care in a consistent, high-quality way. For example, a hospital would never use a different protocol and testing methodology each time an employee checked a patient’s blood pressure, in part because the readings would be highly variable and the correct result would be hard to identify. The same logic applies to employee evaluation and selection.

A standardized hiring process means measuring the same applicant competencies in the same way every time. This requires a repeatable process that consists of asking the same questions from interview to interview, using higher-quality questions (such as behavior based), and evaluating the answers in a standard way. Adrienne Cozart, vice president of human resources at UMC Health System (Lubbock, Texas), recommends the following practices, “Consider posting your interview guide to your intranet along with policies, procedures and sample questions.” This is a great way to make sure everyone on the hiring team is well informed and the documents serve as a reference point that prevents miscommunication throughout the hiring process.

4. Leverage technologies
Software that supports behavioral assessments, structured interviewing and the ability to archive and share input from multiple interviewers can help build organizational consensus and identify more qualified candidates. Experience has shown that hospitals and healthcare facilities that implement these technologies make better hiring decisions and enjoy a higher-quality workforce. Lisa Brock, vice president of human resources at Overlake Hospital Medical Center (Bellevue, Wash.), notes, “We provide our managers with a tool to assess behavioral responses during interviews. As a result, they’re better able to measure a candidate’s work ethic and customer service orientation – and we were able to reduce our employee turnover.”

Another benefit of behavioral assessment software is that it can remove bias from the interviewing process. If organizations do not use a standardized hiring process, managers may discriminate against candidates or ask them illegal questions. This exposes healthcare organizations to potential legal risk.

For technology to positively affect the hiring process, it must be deployed broadly. Often, employees are reluctant to adopt new technologies. This can be overcome by communicating about the need for behavioral assessment software, involving employees in the selection and implementation of tools and processes, and cultivating influential thought leaders and early adopters in the organization who will promote and socialize the use of new technologies among their peers. In addition, employees must be trained to use new hiring technologies. Using a software tool may not come naturally to hiring teams, so training is essential to increase comfort levels.

The key to meeting healthcare challenges is hiring people who are highly skilled and fit the organizational culture. Using selection science to identify and hire the right kinds of employees enables hospitals and healthcare facilities to attain higher Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores, better customer satisfaction ratings and improved team morale and productivity. Excellence is reflected throughout the organization from all levels, and delivering on the mission of quality healthcare becomes a reality, rather than a struggle.

About the author
Frederick P. Morgeson, Ph.D. is professor of management and Valade research scholar at The Eli Broad Graduate School of Management of Michigan State University. Dr. Morgeson is also scientific advisor to HealthcareSource, provider of talent management software for healthcare organizations. For more on HealthcareSource solutions, click here.


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