Guide to getting impact with leadership
By Allison McCarthy, Principal, Barlow/McCarthy, Plymouth, MA
Market knowledge is key in order to capture senior leaders’ attention for physician recruitment. Everyone agrees that leadership involvement is necessary for supporting well-defined search priorities, medical staff buy-in, adequate financial resources and market-attractive practice opportunities; however, the challenge is to capture their interest in just the right way to have an impact on recruitment outcomes.
Whether your leader is an administrator, physician, or a combination of the two, their world consists of numbers. Every decision they make, every action they take is based on operational, financial and/or market data. If our goal is to gain their involvement and participation, our approach must be to translate activities and processes into senior management “speak,” or numbers.
Research conducted by Barlow/McCarthy earlier this year validated this premise. Those senior leaders who were interviewed expressed a strong desire for prospect and candidate feedback to help them strengthen their recruitment approach and construct differentiating practice opportunities (the full research report is available at http://www.barlowmccarthy.com/resources/index). So how do we make this happen? What specific type of information will produce the greatest impact?
Every interaction with a physician prospect provides an opportunity to learn more about the recruitment marketplace. It often requires a proactive method of asking specific questions while tracking and trending responses. When prospects ask questions, we can do much more than just provide an answer. Follow-up questions such as “Why do you ask?” or “How important is that to you?” can provide additional insights on their needs and interests. To be even more useful, we can track the physicians’ responses to identify trends and themes. By sharing this summarized information with senior leadership, they are directed to change the right elements to enhance a practice market position. Beyond that, the recruitment team will know the specific messages needed in promotional pieces, practice opportunity descriptions, email communications and call scripts to stand apart from the masses.
As physician recruitment competitiveness intensifies, one common decision-making factor used by physicians is the organization’s demonstrated interest in their candidacy. While delays in internal responses often have legitimacy, a physician prospect’s perceptions — whether true or not — are that interest is absent. Knowing this, many hospitals and group practices are establishing “black belt” interview processes to create market differentiation. According to a 2007 Health Care Advisory Board study, many organizations have streamlined the physician recruitment process to as little as 13 weeks. How do they accomplish this major shift in the “way they do business?”
A simple spreadsheet can track the time it takes to advance individual candidates through each stage of the discussion and interview schedule. Individual markers can be summarized as average benchmarks overall, by specialty, by practice or other appropriate criteria. That way, areas for improvement can be identified and addressed quickly.
As the marketing or sourcing plan is implemented, tracking a few additional benchmarks can also provide an evaluation of the plan’s effectiveness. For example, following the release of a direct mail campaign, capture data beyond the total number of responses, including the total number of applicable candidates generated by the effort. If the campaign successfully created market interest, but very few prospects met the job criteria, there is opportunity to share this information internally — not only to assess the effectiveness of the campaign but also to assess whether the search criteria are realistic.
Beyond the actual response rates, the organization can benefit from prospect profiling. By compiling data that assimilate the common characteristics of physicians expressing initial interest in the opportunity, the sourcing or marketing plan can be refined with additional segmentation and/or a shift in tactical approaches. If all of the responding prospects are mid-career clinicians, then narrowing the target age parameters and shifting away from the resident population might be more effective. Or if a sizeable number of prospects are from a disconnected geographic area, it might make sense to expand list parameters accordingly.
While those on the front line of physician recruitment efforts are embroiled daily in details and process, senior leaders focus on the big picture. We need a certain level of their involvement to be successful. Engaging them requires that we communicate in their language — with “outcomes” structured messages. When we have those few precious minutes to share knowledge and information, we must be careful not to “get into the weeds” but rather summarize findings and provide corresponding recommendations. This means more focus on defining the market, assessing how practice opportunities fit with target prospect requirements, and evaluating organizational performance in an increasingly competitive environment. A concerted effort to internally communicate, report and exchange information and ideas based on the perspective of the recipient rather than the messenger, is also vital.