Happy Clients Start With Happy Employees
Home health and home care sit at the intersection of customer service and healthcare. In addition to the operational excellence required to maximize reimbursements, your organization will need to excel in customer service in order to gain and maintain a competitive advantage amongst your peers. In this post, we will discuss how to use your people strategy as a competitive advantage in this rapidly growing part of the healthcare industry.
Creative Recruiting Strategies in Healthcare – Mining For Skills That Matter
Identifying Your Ideal Employees
Where are you recruiting your talent pool? Are you using traditional methods like online job boards and employee referrals? Are the candidates you are finding mostly looking for a paycheck? If traditional recruitment channels are failing to provide the candidates you are hoping for, try this exercise. I’ve taken the liberty of mocking some sample answers below.
1. List the characteristics you are seeking in a candidate.
Excellent customer service. Passion for serving.
2. Where do I usually see people with these characteristics?
At my daughter’s school where the parents often volunteer. At my local religious organization. At neighborhood restaurants serving or waiting.
3. Take one of these personas. Imagine a specific person with the characteristics you outlined and the setting that they may go to. What would these people in my target recruitment group hope to develop by working at my organization?
Several of the parents at my daughter’s school are struggling with sending their kids off to school and are wanting to find something meaningful to devote their time to without entering back into the workforce full-time or accepting the stress of corporate America.
This exercise has helped organizations consider their local population’s talent supply and leverage opportunities to find candidates before they have even begun the job search.
Here are a few gems that have been uncovered:
- A local community with an older than average population tapped into their AARP network to offer part-time jobs to able-bodied seniors who could help with cooking and grocery shopping for others who were less-able. Seniors Helping Seniors is an example of this model.
- One organization, who had seemingly exhausted hiring part-time workers ranging from students to those interested in a limited work schedule, amended their strategy. They started targeting recent empty-nesters and staffed them particularly with children with special needs. They found ways to target empty-nesters who weren’t even looking for a job by presenting the opportunity in a way that was meaningful to their target audience. Here’s a hint – it didn’t lead with pay or salary.
- Another organization listed “Quick learner” as a key trait in their staff. Once they identified students of every kind as their target employee, they learned that students were hungry for meaningful resume building work experience. So, the organization revamped their model. They created schedules where people were careers one day a week, phone and scheduling another day, and billing/finance another. Large home health organizations like Bayada have developed more structured Leadership Development Programs, but you don’t need to be a large organization to see the benefit of rotational development programs.
By understanding the desires of potential candidates, these organizations were able to tap into previously untapped talent pools. In fact, with the wider selection of candidates, these organizations were even able to be more “choosy” about who they brought onboard.
Best Places to Recruit Caregivers
Where are you looking for candidates? Where do people with the characteristics that define your brand hang out? You’ll find candidates in some unlikely places. Maybe you are looking for someone interested in serving. Start with reaching out about service opportunities vs. leading with pay.
Hiring for Employee Retention
In hiring for retention, there is an often under-valued skill – purpose-making. “Purpose making” is the ability to connect tasks, both large and small, to a greater purpose/meaning that intrinsically motivates an employee. In Dan Pink’s Drive, he outlines that intrinsic motivation stems from autonomy, mastery, and purpose. For purpose in specific, he outlined that people may become disengaged if they don’t buy in to a bigger picture or feel like they cannot contribute to that bigger picture.
This concept is further supported by Yale Professor Amy Wrzesniewski, whose research explores job-crafting and outlines the ability to find meaning in work. She mentioned in a NPR podcast how hospital cleaning staffs’ interpretation of their work not only affected their output, but also affected their interpretation of the job. Some of the janitors she interviewed saw the entire room as the domain of their job. As a result, they would make sure to keep the ceiling clean, a section that’s easily overlooked by everyone — except the patient, who might naturally be spending a lot of time staring at that ceiling.
How people cognitively frame their job has a direct impact on how much they like their job and find purpose/meaning in it. For example, a CNA cleaning a bed pan might see herself as the first line of care. Now, she’s not just cleaning a bed pan, but rather viewing herself as the first line alert system, checking the bed pan for anything that may need to be escalated to a nurse.
This mindset shift changes not only how the CNA may see herself, it changes her attitude and behavior towards seemingly trivial tasks.
A 1994 Harvard Business Review article called “Putting the Service-Profit Chain to Work” summed up the importance of purpose-making with a beautifully wrapped phrase – “the importance of the mundane.” The article goes on to explore how outstanding service organizations recognize that frontline staff and customers must be a focus of management. In fact, the article concluded that revenue and profit growth in a service business begins with employee satisfaction.
With this in mind, you might see why other home health organizations, like yours, are investing in employee wellness and professional development to keep employees engaged, therefore reducing turnover.
Identifying Top Talent
Once you’ve identified the talent pool, how do you screen them for this “hidden characteristic” of purpose-making? How do you separate the guy who pushes a mop around from the ceiling-cleaning janitor? While there is no hiring crystal ball, using tools like pre-hire assessments can help you target your interview questions to specific candidates in order to use the interview time more effectively.
Conversely, engaging with employees in job-crafting and purpose-making can not only shift individual employee attitude, but also shift organization culture. When you hire and develop people who create meaning and purpose in their work, not only are you investing in the company culture, you are building employees who are brand ambassadors and will help to differentiate your organization from others.
Use Innovative Marketing for a Competitive Advantage
Here are a few innovative marketing strategies that can drive competitive advantage in 4 easy steps:
1. Go to the Point of Pain
At the time that a family is reaching out in need of support or services, they are in the heat of decision-making. Ideally there would be some level of brand recognition of your organization prior to the point of decision-making, but if your organization has not had enough time or resources to engage the community in earlier outreach, it is okay! Understanding the “pain points” of decision makers at this juncture is critical to growing your client base.
2. Understand the Problem
What is the biggest challenge that your prospects are facing? Are they a bit dazed and confused by all the healthcare terminology and the world of prescriptions they can’t pronounce and physical therapy schedules they can’t manage? Is your client base’s biggest problem that they have a full-time job and are now juggling being the primary caretaker of an unexpectedly ill family member? Is everything mostly under control, but it seems emotional needs are not being met and manifesting in less than ideal health outcomes?
Whatever the challenge, developing a sense of what issues your potential client is facing is key. If you can define the key problem characteristics your prospect is facing, you can develop solutions to help solve them.
3. Target and Solve the Acute Pain
At this point you may be on a list of many organizations that can provide a service that the discharge planner may hand a family member. What will you have that differentiates you from other services? The other services can help prepare meals at home or provide transportation. And you do the same thing. So how do you do more than just that? Provide a broader solution. What is your unique value proposition? Do you work with the client on schedule management including leveraging resources to manage what might feel like an overwhelming calendar of physical therapy, medication reminders, and check-ups? Do you package your services differently to target the needs to primary caregivers juggling ever changing schedules? Be clear about what you solve.
4. Leverage “Dark Social”
So yes, there is nothing new about referrals here and getting referrals from other providers is still critical. But as technology has evolved, “tell a friend” and provider to provider referrals are now not the only or main channels for reaching potential clients. In fact, dark social accounts for 84% of outbound sharing in some markets.
So what exactly is dark social and how does it affect your organization? Dark social is when people share content through private channels (e.g. closed Facebook groups, group chats on WhatsApp or GroupMe, or direct emails between two people in private conversation). Imagine that your client has an amazing experience with their mother’s home aide and posts about it on their social channel and someone re-shares it. You are reaching an audience through a trusted source: their friend. Can you envision what that could do for your organization? We thought so. But it doesn’t always happen that organically. More often than not, you’ve got to get involved.
Getting involved is as easy as developing meaningful content for your audience. For example, getting your brand in the community can be about developing a branded checklist of steps for setting up a loved one recovering from surgery at home for the first time or providing tools that help guide consumers who are confused about what exactly will be reimbursed by who and what their out of pocket will be. These are resources often shared in closed private networks. In fact, most of what gets shared in these networks is shared because it is useful. Build things that are meant to be shared that introduce your brand in a positive way.
A Place for Mom, a senior services referral agency, uses this content marketing strategy particularly well. In fact, their website includes tools like a State Guide to Assisted Living Records & Reports, a Caregiver Toolkit, and Financial Guides.
Another way to leverage “dark social” is through using your champions in the closed group forums. If there is a forum about “Taking Care of Mom,” but the discussion is centered around working women in the “sandwich generation.” Find someone who is an advocate of your service who has been in that position, and encourage them to share their story. Dark social is powerful because it is less filtered and glossy. It is no longer the polished “case study” but rather the lived experience. Can your advocates easily articulate how you helped them? Is it clear how to access your services and how they can be paid for? These sort of conversations are happening “behind closed doors” in ever growing numbers. Tapping into these unfiltered conversations will become more and more critical in marketing efforts.