Over three years, Baystate Medical Center has reduced time-to-fill rates for certain nursing positions to just two hours by drawing some inspiration from an unlikely source: fast food chain Chick-fil-A. Becker's Hospital Review's Alia Paavola sat down with Tejas Gandhi, COO of Baystate, and Shannon Levesque, VP of talent acquisition and workforce planning at Baystate, to find out how they did it.
The big, 'stolen' idea
In 2016, executives at Baystate, a 716 bed hospital, recognized that they had to address staffing levels and vacancies—especially in certain nursing positions.
As the health system sized up the issue, Gandhi and Levesque realized that the problem lied in their hiring practices. Given the number of career options top nurses have today, Levesque said the Baystate executives realized they had to "explore alternative ways to differentiate [themselves] as an employer of choice for nurses."
As Baystate started thinking about how to address the issue, Gandhi recalled hearing about employee satisfaction and job candidate satisfaction at a seemingly dissimilar organization: fast food chain Chick-fil-A. The fast-food chain's recruitment process included open house recruitment sessions
Gandhi thought the health center could "steal" the idea: "In passing ... I said 'Hey, listen. If Chick-fil-A can do it, maybe we should try it too,'" Gandhi said. So he challenged his team to "execute this in a health care environment."
Baystate's new open house events
Drawing inspiration from Chick-fil-A's open house sessions, the executives planned Baystate Health Open House Recruitment events that would streamline the application and interviewing process and ultimately "take the hassle factor out of … recruitment and ... hiring," Gandhi said.
For the events, people who are interested in a nursing career at Baystate can drop in every Thursday at a set time for four hours, according to Levesque. Applicants who come to the walk-in interviews do not have to fill out applications online or wait for an invitation from recruiters to interview.
"Those who walk in are guaranteed an interview with a recruiter. From there, if they are qualified, they are guaranteed an interview with a hiring manager in the unit they are interested in," Levesque said. Once the one- to two-hour interview process is complete, qualified candidates can leave the event with a conditional offer, according to Levesque.
"The idea was to make it as easy as possible for qualified nurses to meet our senior leaders and talent acquisition consultants—and have a fast-tracked or expedited—selection and interview process," Gandhi said.
Since the hiring events have been so well-received, Baystate now holds walk-in interviews for other positions. "We recently started 'Walk-in Wednesdays' for technical and nursing support positions," Levesque said. Baystate also hosts for interviewing people on second shift.
"Essentially, the success of [the walk-in interview] program has allowed us to try new, spin-off events to improve the hiring process," Levesque said.
The success of the walk-in-interview
Since implementing the walk-in interviews, Baystate's average time-to-fill for certain positions has dropped from 45 to 50 days to a few weeks. For nursing in particular, Levesque said, "We were able to cut the interview portion of that metric down to two hours when typically it can be as long as three weeks."
Overall, Baystate has interviewed over 160 people and made 40 hires since the new process went into effect.
The walk-in interviews also improved satisfaction among candidates, according to Levesque. "You hear a lot of candidates talk about how their resume seems to be lost in a massive database and no one reaches out," Levesque explained. "These walk-in hours prevent that."
Gandhi added that, as a recruiter, the walk-in interviews are "a lot more gratifying because you are able to speak to a larger number of candidates and ... bring closure to that candidate quickly."
How you can replicate it
While Chick-fil-A served as the inspiration for the idea, Gandhi and Levesque said they had to adapt the walk-in-interview process to fit a health care environment. "In health care ... there is much more intensity surrounding who you hire—the credentials are key," Gandhi said.
One challenge to hosting the walk-in-interviews was making sure the medical center had on-call hiring managers available to interview potential candidates every Thursday, Levesque said. "When starting these events, you can't predict how many people will show up," Levesque said. "For this, we had to create a rolling calendar, so it is not always one person managing it weekly. We also had to have a back-up or escalation plan in case a hiring manager was called into some emergency," she said.
While the new approach might have seemed risky, Gandhi and Levesque agreed that the success of the walk-in interviews was worth the risk of taking a more innovative approach to hiring.
"Our health care system is a little risk-adverse toward some of this innovation," Gandhi said. "We don't allow the process to evolve." Gandhi also noted health systems need to recognize that it's "better to fail instead of not giving an innovative idea a chance." He added, "You will always get better from it."
For hospitals considering a similar approach Levesque said her most important advice is to "[j]ust start." She said, "It doesn't have to be perfect ... you can refine and optimize as you go" (Paavola, Becker's Hospital Review, 1/29).
Advisory Board's take
Micha'le Simmons, Senior Consultant, HR Advancement Center
At the core of Baystate Medical Center's success is a principle strongly reflected in our research: For hospitals to improve their recruiting process, they need to remove as many barriers as possible for candidates to apply and interview.
“Hospitals need to remove as many barriers as possible for candidates.”
Adopting an approach like Baystate—committing to walk-in interviews which condense the entire hiring process from weeks into a few hours—may seem like a stretch. Yet, with national bedside nurse time-to-fill hovering at a median of 54 days (almost two months), it's worth making some changes to the interviewing process to benefit candidates and the organization. In the end, making these changes will also help you use hiring managers' time more efficiently.
As Baystate's leadership team realized, your prospective employees want convenience just as much as your patients do. We have to apply some of those same principles from consumerism to the application process.
If you want to take steps to speed the time it takes for qualified candidates to apply and be offered a job, you need to address a few things:
- Provide your managers with clear evaluation criteria for the interviews: In order for hiring managers to make faster hiring decisions, they'll need to quickly assess whether someone is a good fit or not. More often than not, hiring managers aren't using consistent criteria to evaluate a staff member for any given role. Check out our BBI interview template builder to give your managers questions they can ask to evaluate key competencies and guidance on what constitutes a good (or bad) response.
- Swap ad hoc interviews for dedicated interviewing blocks on managers' calendars: You'll need your managers to hold consistent times where they can be on-deck for an interview. The good news for them: No more random interview scheduling on their calendar.
- Leverage your own social media—and your employees'—to market your events: Most importantly, you need people to show up to hiring events. Don't overlook tapping your own employees to share about these hiring events on their Facebook or LinkedIn. There's no better brand ambassador for your organization than your own employees. Check out our social media audit (tool #10) to learn how some tips to better leverage social media in recruiting.
If you're interested in more on making your recruiting more candidate-centric, be sure to download our research report on how to Win Talent in a Candidate-Centric Market.
Then, be sure to look at our page devoted to resources for expanding and improving your candidate pool to get leading organization's tools for how to make job posting clear, pitch to candidates at live events, and prepare managers to uncover candidates' 'hot button' issues to sell them on the job.