There's So Much Happening, I Don't Know Where to Start!

February 15

The Internet turns 40 this year. There are now 400 million people interacting on Facebook and the unemployment rate surprised everyone by dropping from 10% to 9.7% in January. And, let's not forget that Healthcare Reform in this country might be on the ropes, but it is such a serious problem that every large healthcare system in America is having closed door discussions about what they'll do if Medicare and Medicaid is extended as a way of covering the uninsured. And in the conference room next door, more meetings are being held about how medical records will be digitalized by 2015. All of this impacts how we attract, recruit and retain the talent we need to keep delivering healthcare in the United States.

I mostly enjoy Facebook—hooking up with folks I haven't heard from in 30 years and sharing photos, but I feel great pressure to do more with it professionally. The Generation Xers and Ys tell me that is where "real" recruiting is taking place. I know. I know, but who has the time? My clients are so busy recruiting that they don't have any time (or funds) to make the considerable change to embrace social media as a mainstay for finding the right candidates.

To "go social" would mean reassessing the skill mix of every recruiter on staff, introducing newly created positions such as Social Ambassadors and Sourcers and then convincing every Hiring Manager that not only are newspaper ads a thing of the past, getting candidates via the Internet isn't the silver bullet we sold them on earlier. Sometimes I try to imagine delivering a speech to that effect and what the faces in the audience might be like. I can see the Baby Boomer eyeballs rolling.

What I also know is that my youthful counterparts are right and that we in healthcare will need to embrace the change to social media just as so many other companies around the world have already changed. Everything is about time and money—something in healthcare that is in short supply. It's not that we don't want to be on the cutting edge, it's that we are still not always viewed as a strategic-enough partner in business, absolutely deserving the sharpest tools and enough people to stay ahead of the game. But other changes may force the time and money issue, and consequently the social aspect, as staffing needs continue to rise with critical and hard-to-fill positions.

The unemployment rate is down and I am thrilled. More people working and the economy rebounding, kindles the hope that my retirement fund will become a little more robust, but it also means that the low vacancy rates we have been experiencing may soon see a jump and we'll be flooded with open positions. Healthcare has been the lone bright spot during the Great Recession, creating 658,000 jobs during the period from December 2007 to December 2009 while all other sectors lost almost seven million positions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced it has projected that 600,000 new jobs in healthcare will be created in 2010 alone. When you consider the Obama Administration projects 1,140,000 jobs will be created in 2010, that leaves only 540,000 newly created jobs for all other sectors combined.

Most of these new positions will not be in acute care but will be in long-term, home health, physician offices and urgent care settings. Still the need for pharmacists, physical therapists, registered nurses and imaging professionals will be considerable. We have enjoyed a period of sanity because of the recession, but people are beginning to feel comfortable enough to start looking. Healthcare vacancy rates are hovering around the 3% mark, the lowest rate since records have been maintained, with the promise of rising sometime in the second quarter of 2010.

With the exception of RNs, who are largely Baby Boomers, Caucasian and female, the professional healthcare workers are 25-44 years of age. These are the people we want and the people that take jobs because they find out about them from people they trust—their friends. They are the wired generation, which expects instantaneous return on their investment of letting a Human Resource Department know they might be interested in a job. So it's not just that we need to start reaching out via social platforms to find passive candidates, we also need to respond as quickly as possible (two hours is the gold-standard) to those applying online to get the employees who are best-fit.

It is hard to know how healthcare reform will manifest in our daily lives until it takes more shape, but it is certain if healthcare providers are forced to do more with less because the government is short paying through Medicare and Medicaid, the structure of the entire healthcare industry will change. Facilities will not be able to offer all services, layoffs will be certain and whole job classes will be compromised. RNs will be replaced with technicians and employees will once again be asked to do more with less, making hiring even more difficult. Healthcare employees continue to leave the profession in droves because the work is so demanding.

Healthcare records will be digitalized and there are only about 20% of the needed skilled workers to do the job. If you think we looked hard for IT professionals during the turn of the century, you cannot imagine the rush with a mandate to turn millions of records digital.

So it is a good thing the Internet is going into middle age. Google has announced they are getting into the operations side of information delivery by building broadband networks that will push information 100 times faster. Google is so dominant in search that it has become a verb—"just Google it"—and if they speed everything up, it will mean everyone will need to speed up. I can hardly wait.

A healthcare delivery's website continues to be the most important element of recruitment and there will be no changing that any time soon. Most facilities have stagnant pages of boring content, a few have embedded a couple of videos but almost everyone has a far way to go before even thinking about calling themselves "world-class". Not with companies like L'Oreal conducting games online that assess a player's ability to fit the company's culture or UPS and Enterprise proffering sites which embrace the fact a clear career path is one of the most important retention tools by allowing employees and candidates to dream, plan their career and become excited about the possibilities.

I never thought I'd be a Facebook queen but I am. I never thought I'd be telling clients their recruiters needed to text candidates as opposed to calling them, but I'm working with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to automate that process. I never thought I'd have the time to make so many changes, but I don't have an option. The Internet is 40 years old and I can't imagine my life without it. Soon we won't be able to imagine things without a website that practically butters your toast in the morning and delivers candidates via social platforms while telling hiring managers that's just the way it is.

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