‘We Are Hiring Better and Faster’: How a Healthcare Org Is Tackling a Talent Shortage

As the nursing shortage persistently plagues health care, Houston Methodist is closing the talent gap by leveraging technology more successfully to connect with candidates.

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Apr 20, 2023
This article is part of a series called ERE Recruiting Conference Spring 2023.

It’s well-known that attracting and hiring nurses to meet demands is a persistent challenge for most healthcare organizations. At Houston Methodist, however, we are closing the talent gap by leveraging technology more successfully to connect with candidates.

At the ERE Recruiting Conference, happening May 22-24, in San Diego (and online), I’ll be talking about how my company has been using conversational AI to meet nurses and other job seekers when they are most likely to engage with the company. In the meantime, here’s a preview to explain how we’ve been able to attract more quality candidates and reduce the time to fill.

A Persistent Struggle

With over 30,000 employees, we have over 50 recruiters across the organization. Additionally, we have over 3,000 openings, about 30% are nursing-based. In 2022, we averaged about 7,500 external hires — again, a high percentage based in nursing.

To connect with candidates, especially night-shift nurses, requires approaches that transcend traditional recruiting. Nurses work all sorts of shifts, which means they are going to work and coming off their shifts at all different times — all of which means that engaging with candidates between the standard 8 to 5 time frame no longer makes sense.

Plus, you’ve got some nurses working 36+ hours a week, not including weekends or overtime. Upon completion of a shift (early morning or late evening) can be a prime time for a nurse to research new opportunities.

So it’s important to think about how to connect with candidates about new roles when they are most likely to want to be interested in those roles. Again, these are times when recruiters are typically not yet in an office or working.

In other words, it’s critical that we are able to connect with talent at all hours of the day. This is where we’ve really had to leverage tech innovation.

Connecting With Candidates

As we were considering how to use technology best, our goal, first and foremost, was to supplement our current process. We wanted to use conversational AI to expedite the time it took for candidates to connect with a recruiter or sourcer.

After all, this is what candidates most desire in the hiring process. They want to connect with someone in the org as quickly and efficiently as possible. Deploying an effective AI-driven chatbot helps make that possible more quickly. Our research has shown that over half of candidates are communicating with our chatbot outside of regular business hours.

The goal is to connect candidates with our sourcing or recruitment team faster.

Additionally, even though candidates know they are communicating with a chatbot, we nonetheless wanted to give the chatbot an identity. The tech we deployed was Paradox’s Olivia, but rather than stick with that name, we instead came up with the name “Mia,” which stands for Methodist Interactive Assistant. We gave Mia prime real estate on our careers site and numerous landing pages. And when we message candidates, there’s a call to action to connect with us any time of day and get auto-scheduled.

As a result, we’ve been able to convert about 30% of candidates through Mia to a phone interview, and then 20% of those are converted to hires. Overall since inception, Mia has helped our organization hire over 1,600 hires, including over 80% experienced registered nurse hires.

Personalization Through Flexibility

One of the criticisms of conversational AI is that it depersonalizes the candidate experience, that it removes the human touch. In some cases, that’s a valid concern. But we are using the technology in this case not to eliminate human contact but to facilitate it.

One popular story we like to tell is how we had our first hire within 17 days of launching Mia. The person connected after completing a night shift. The person told us how much they appreciated the flexibility of the hiring process and how easy it was to apply and get on the phone with someone from the company quickly to discuss the job.

That story highlights how the flexibility that Mia provides both recruiters and candidates actually creates more personalization. We are leaving the lights on for candidates. It’s all based on a mindset of connecting recruiters to candidates in better ways.

This article is based on an interview, with answers as told to ERE editor Vadim Liberman.

Interested in learning more about what Carlos Fernandez and Houston Methodist are doing to elevate talent acquisition? Register for the ERE Recruiting Conference, May 22-24, in San Diego (and online).

This article is part of a series called ERE Recruiting Conference Spring 2023.
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