As one of the largest hospital chains in the country, Tenet Healthcare needed a cure for its hiring ailment. Standardizing and centralizing recruitment through RPO should go a long way in ensuring a healthy pipeline.
As an HR professional, you’re well aware of the heated competition for talent these days. And in no sector is the jostling more frenzied than in healthcare, especially for qualified doctors. It’s a problem that Carol Maxwell, assistant vice president of executive search at Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, knows first-hand.
When the operator of 52 hospitals undertook a restructuring of the company four years ago, it knew that attracting top physician talent was a priority. After all, efforts to improve care and customer satisfaction and to expand lines of business hinged on having the necessary staff in place. Not being able to meet patients’ needs because of a shortage in doctors was the last scenario that Tenet—which had been rocked by fraud scandals as recently as the past year—wanted to encounter in its rebuilding plans.
For Maxwell, ensuring the company’s human capital needs was no small task. Attracting physicians in areas such as California or Texas—each with a large pool of qualified practitioners—was not as much of a challenge as taking on the same task in other areas where Tenet operated facilities, including Louisiana, Missouri, and Alabama. Furthermore, it needed to brand the chain as a desirable employer to heighten its appeal among doctors. And when an applicant expressed an interest in a career at Tenet, Maxwell said the company needed to make sure it could act quickly.
“You can’t let a good candidate sit in an inbox. The competition is too great,” said Maxwell, who noted that the company until recently had a very decentralized approach to recruiting and hiring doctors—not unlike many other healthcare chains.
But for Maxwell and lots of other HR professionals, the era of HRO had brought a cornucopia of options. The company recently entered into a contract to outsource to RPO provider TalentTrack of Toledo, OH, to develop and run a centralized physician recruitment system. The contract also called for building an internal candidate database, as well as providing documentation and tracking all recruitment activities to improve existing processes and raise productivity.
The two-year contract followed a previous pilot project to help the company improve nursing staffing at six Tenet hospitals, which Maxwell said resulted in numerous hires but also some employee backlash. Despite the initial difficulties, the company nevertheless saw the potential value that RPO services could add to its recruitment efforts and expanded the engagement to cover physician hiring for all of its facilities.
Like many organizations that have undertaken outsourcing programs, Tenet discovered that the rewards didn’t come easily. Although the pilot program led to many hires, Maxwell acknowledged that the organization underestimated its own role in ensuring that the engagement occurred smoothly.
“What we learned was that we probably didn’t do the change management we needed to,” she recalled. “We should have focused more on helping our internal recruiters recognize that this was not a threat to their role.”
To ensure the current outsourcing program wins more internal support, Maxwell and her team recognized areas that needed to improve. The company is taking its time with implementation to minimize problems and resistance along the way. Although the expanded contract was signed in February, Tenet is still evaluating its physician needs at various facilities, although Maxwell estimated that the company needs a “substantial number” of hires.
Even as Tenet figures out its role in the RPO deal, TalentTrack’s mission is clear—bring in a standardized process of hiring, use the chain’s existing applicant tracking system to ensure all candidates are entered into the system, manage third-party vendors such as temp and contingency firms, and help each facility to meet its physician hiring needs. The provider estimates that the chain might need between 350 and 400 physicians a year, but the exact number is still unclear. In addition, TalentTrack is charged with reducing the number of contingency firms from 18 to about a dozen.
A key challenge for TalentTrack will be to change the very decentralized approach that the company had adopted in the past. In recognition of that fact, even though its RPO service is end-to-end—from sourcing to screening to onboarding—some functions will continue to be performed internally, such as drafting offer letters.
Maxwell added that Tenet will also try to harness more internal resources to help recruit new physicians. For instance, it has five academically affiliated facilities, and reaching out to residents at those hospitals could sharply boost placements there or at other facilities.
But having an RPO provider shore up its own internal efforts will improve the hospital chain’s push to grow. Pointing out the reason for choosing TalentTrack, she added: “They are very diligent and have a good sense of urgency.”