HR is hiring at record levels, to make sure we have the staff we need, for COVID-19 and beyond.
In the last three months, CoxHealth has had the highest number of applications and the highest number of external hires ever. We crossed the 300 hires threshold in June and passed 410 in August.
“Our numbers have been incredible,” says Celeste Cramer, system director of Recruitment and Retention. “We are doing everything in our power to attract candidates and retain them, while also growing as a system.”
Cramer says that effort reflects who we are as an organization.
“From day one, the priority is our workforce. We are taking care of our people and making sure that when we come out of this, we have everyone we need,” she says. “This crisis has illustrated that CoxHealth is here for our people.”
Supporting you, with aggressive hiring
Cramer says HR and the recruitment team have been “in a sprint” since March.
Now more than ever, recruiting and maintaining staff are keys to satisfaction and our success.
“We know that when departments are short-handed, it causes extreme stress,” Cramer says. “With no end in sight for COVID-19 and flu season approaching, Incident Command has made taking care of the workforce our number one priority.”
HR has been especially aggressive about keeping CoxHealth staffed through the pandemic and beyond.
“Our goal from the beginning has been to keep everyone employed. We knew we would need everyone we have and more,” Cramer says.
Nursing administration has sought out traveling nurses in anticipation of high volumes.
This fall, HR is rolling out local and national marketing for recruitment. Recruiters are offering referral bonuses for a variety of positions, and doubling bonuses for areas like ICU, respiratory therapy and patient transport.
Cramer says those bonuses help us use our best cultural resources: our team members.
“Our employees are our best advertisement. We would rather use our budget to pay them for referrals rather than more advertising,” Cramer says.
HR has also expanded its “VIP hiring” approach, offering a customized experience for candidates in high-demand areas like nursing, respiratory therapy and surgical techs.
If nurses, for example, reach out to apply, they don’t have to do the traditional application before they talk to a recruiter. Instead, a recruiter meets with them virtually and assesses their experience and interest.
The recruiter takes that information and works to match a candidate with an open position, or a position that may open soon.
“We really try to find what would be a fit for them. We make it as easy and comfortable as possible.”
Hiring in a pandemic has required HR to master a key skill: transitioning traditional HR efforts to a virtual format.
“All of our usual bag of tricks – tours, fairs, interviews – we can’t do right now,” Cramer says. “Just bringing people on site is a huge part of the recruitment process. Showing people what CoxHealth is like. Being unable to do that is not ideal.”
In a normal fall, recruitment would be on college campuses. Now, recruiters are walking candidates through the process via video.
“We have had to pivot in every way.”
Recruiters had experimented with virtual interviews and career fairs, but COVID-19 made them a priority.
Early in the pandemic, recruitment transitioned to online interviews in a matter of days. They had been on the fence about virtual career fairs, but COVID-19 made the decision for them.
“This made us improve quickly,” Cramer says. “We like the in-person presence, but there is a place for virtual career fairs as well.”
A virtual career fair in September had so many people logging in that it stressed the vendor’s system.
Cramer says the virtual option offers its own advantages. Candidates from outlying areas who wouldn’t have driven in were able to join.
“Different people prefer different platforms. In-person events can be intimidating. And, what if you’re trying to fit this in between dropping your kids off and a doctor’s appointment?”
Cramer says that even after COVID-19, HR will use a hybrid approach, with both in-person and virtual events.
“In the long run, we will have a greater reach by doing both.”
Sharing staff, offering flexible shifts
When some services shut down this spring, HR worked to match displaced staff members with areas that needed staff. The temporary reassignments were a huge success.
Now, we are looking at ways to make it easier for departments to share staff, filling scheduling gaps and helping employees pick up shifts during times of low census.
It’s another example of COVID-19 driving innovation that will help us beyond the pandemic.
HR is implementing software that will allow departments to post shifts that need to be filled, and for employees to sign up. The system will go live first for frontline positions like entrance screeners, where there is the most opportunity to share staff.
By the first of the year, Cramer hopes to pilot the system to other departments, beyond frontline and temporary positions.
“There is a lot of opportunity for HR to support our leaders. With software that lets people pick up extra shifts, we can manage our workforce better, and give staff opportunities when there is low census.”
A strong employer brand
Cramer says that the last few months have shown how CoxHealth’s commitment to being a best place to work pays off in a crisis.
“We came into this with a strong employer brand and we are emerging with an even stronger employer brand,” she says. “We recruit based on our culture.”
A culture of commitment to staff is a valuable recruiting tool.
Cramer says you can see that commitment in one of CoxHealth’s most innovative creations: the school care program.
HR is keenly aware that, away from work, employees face the same COVID-19 challenges as anyone. Managing child care is one of those challenges.
“It’s a testament to how focused we are on taking care of our people."
Taking care of our own is also reflected in the ways we work to protect and develop our staff.
Efforts to reassign displaced employees in the spring illustrated our commitment to staff, and coverage of the effort has used in external recruiting efforts since.
By the end of the year, Cramer hopes to complete a project that was in the works before the pandemic: developing career pathways for staff at a variety of levels.
The new program will engage staff members with ways to build a long-term career at CoxHealth.
You can see the beginnings of the project in the employee portal under “advance your career.” The site currently has links to tuition assistance, loan forgiveness and other opportunities.
Soon resources will include training for emerging leaders and several “career pathways” that show the steps an entry level staff member can take to work their way into their dream job.
Ongoing development hits an HR sweet spot: serving as a recruiting tool, as well as helping us retain talent in the long term.
“It is a delicate balance for us,” Cramer says. “Our goal has been to take care of everyone as much as we can while still doing everything we can to attract new talent to the organization. We will take care of our workforce and it is more critical than ever to bring new people into the system.”