Ready or Not? Innovation in Talent Acquisition is Coming for Healthcare Staffing Agencies

Recently I read an article examining a survey of staffing buyers (clients). In the article, the author touched on the topic of quality and how important the quality of candidates being supplied by staffing agencies is to their buying decision.

The author concluded that healthcare staffing agencies would benefit from increased focus on the processes responsible for talent acquisition. As I read the article it occurred to me that our industry is ripe for innovation when it comes to the acquisition of traveling healthcare professionals.

A survey of agency requirements healthcare professionals must meet in order to travel reveals there is opportunity for many, if not all, agencies. In general, the hiring process consists of having a candidate complete an application, skills checklist, and provide a couple of references. Candidates are required to have recent experience in the specialty area in which they are seeking employment. Additionally, an agency also verifies employment, education, and licensure status, and completes a background check. Some agencies require area-specific testing. However, it’s not a clear standard among the companies we surveyed. Usually this type of testing is reserved only for those travelers applying for positions where the client requires such testing.

Beyond this initial application process all other measures to assess the overall quality of the candidate is left up to the individual recruiter. This is troubling, in particular, in a highly competitive industry where recruiters are often pressured to meet monthly headcount goals which increase based on the needs of the employer. Simply put, recruiters are motivated to get placements because that is how their success is measured. Perhaps more importantly, their compensation is based on headcount (volume).  Clearly, the deck is somewhat stacked against quality.

Here are four fresh ideas we’ve put together for improving the overall quality of the talent a healthcare staffing agency can provide to a client:

Layered screening process: Although this step will require many agencies to develop internal procedures for conducting a layered applicant screening process, we believe it would have a dramatic impact on the quality of staff an agency offers to clients. Many staffing agencies employ similar processes when hiring internal staff already.

Quality metrics and tracking: Companies may benefit from establishing mechanisms to track things such as; early terminations, back outs, missed shifts, tardiness, poor performance evaluations, perfect evaluations, etc. Some agencies have tools in place for acknowledging these items but only a few have a system for tracking them over the duration of an individual traveler’s employment. For example, development of an average quality rating for a traveler over an extended period of time would provide agencies and client facilities with a more stable performance indicator.

Development of external (travel) staff: Beyond talent acquisition is talent development. Traveling healthcare professionals must possess a unique set of skills due to the unique challenges they face. A systematic approach for providing actionable feedback to traveling professionals that is based on; performance evaluations, attendance/punctuality, communication with employer (recruiter & agency personnel) and also with hospital staff, etc. would allow agencies to develop personnel in areas where improvements are necessary. Many agency recruiters would likely need additional training in order to become effective coaches/managers. An investment by an agency in this area may pay for itself if it leads to fewer back-outs, cancellations, or future terminations.

Invest in quality: Recruiters are compensated based on the number of travelers they have working and the profit generated by each deal. Since providing quality professionals is a top priority of every agency it may be beneficial for agencies to reward it. Companies aren’t necessarily required to change their entire commission structure, but by acknowledging the importance of quality—through some form of compensation—they may capture the focus of the sales recruitment team. This type of investment by an employer would undoubtedly proclaim to the healthcare staffing community and prospective clients that a company is truly “all-in” when it comes to providing the best available staff in the industry.

Every healthcare staffing agency strives to provide the best talent to their clients. Innovation in the processes responsible for talent acquisition will drive the buying decision of current and future clients.  How will healthcare staffing agencies improve the quality of the talent they deliver to clients?  One thing is for certain, the company that executes best in this area will have a considerable advantage over the competition!

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