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Welcome to Automated Hiring

February 1, 2006
by root
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New technology for finding the right employees by Donna Moore, RN
BY DONNA MOORE, RN Welcome to automated hiring
Web-based screening can make interviews more targeted
Labor shortage. We've heard this phrase over and over, spurring a sense of impending doom that it's just around the corner for our industry. We already know that finding and keeping great frontline employees who have the unique skills to work with families, residents, fellow employees, state surveys, and budgets is a tremendous challenge. But combine this with the Department of Health and Human Services' estimate that the number of long-term care direct care workers will need to increase by more than 200% in the next several years to meet growing demand, and the future looks even bleaker.

Today, it's difficult to find a service industry unscathed by the labor problem. Retailers, grocers, restaurants, indeed all service industries will be or are currently affected to varying degrees. By the end of 2003, the United States had 2.5 million fewer workers than it did in 2000, and predictions indicated there would be a deficit of 800,000 people in the workforce by the end of 2005, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This could be the product of several trends: baby boomers retiring at increasing rates; a slower entry of teens into the workforce; and the increasing scarcity of skilled labor, among them.

With this, the past five years have witnessed a wealth of service-oriented employers putting strategic processes in place to compete for the most safety-conscious and dependable candidates with excellent customer service skills. Many service industries have opted for technology tools consisting of a paperless application process and behavioral-based assessments tailored to their industries. Employers using these tools have seen significant decreases in turnover and increases in employee longevity-for example, after implementing these strategies, one grocer achieved a 41% turnover reduction. A hospitality company saw a 26% drop in its turnover, having to hire 490 fewer people in one year. And one retailer found that this hiring process increased employee tenure from an average of 36 months to 52 months.

Most LTC providers, however, are still evaluating the potential success of job candidates the same way they did 30 years ago, not realizing that the latest developments in recruitment automation may offer them the same benefits that other industries have enjoyed.

The Basics
An automated hiring process involves technology that accepts job applications electronically, whether via a Web site or an on-site application-capture device. These devices are often small enough to sit behind a counter or desk and can send an application to the hiring manager's computer desktop over a telephone or LAN line. Second, the system automates various hiring steps, such as triggering background and reference checks and prepopulating new hire forms such as W-2s. The best systems will also include tools to easily walk hiring managers through each step of the process, including ranking candidates based on their fit for the job. Many companies prefer Web-based solutions that are fully hosted by the service provider, as they require little or no internal IT resources and will not disrupt other software systems already in place.

Behavioral-Based Assessments
One way to learn more about an applicant's propensity to stay and succeed with an organization is through the use of advanced screening tools, such as behavioral assessments. These assessments present candidates with a series of questions such as, "I enjoy taking risks," to predict behaviors related to the requirements for managing and leading effectively in the healthcare environment. Applicants are (or should be) given every assistance in completing applications online, whether through direct coaching or a 24/7 help desk. These assessments are very effective at measuring a candidate's match to desirable traits such as a positive attitude, treating others with respect, following rules, and coping with stress, which are so critical in good frontline LTC employees.

Today, such "behavioral-based selection" can be most consistently and economically applied by combining preemployment behavioral assessments geared to the specific position with behavioral interviewing techniques; i.e., asking candidates for concrete examples of what they have done in specific situations to determine how they will act in similar situations in the future. For instance, "Give me an example of a time when you dealt with an employee who was consistently exhibiting negative behavior. What steps did you take to improve the situation, and what was the outcome?"

For long-term care, the service provider should offer employee dependability, safety, and managerial- and healthcare-specific preemployment assessments. The assessments will differ based on whether the application is for a managerial or frontline position. In any case, the provider should consultatively assess the best point in the application process at which to accomplish the dual goals of increasing the number of qualified applicants who apply and ensuring that the highest quality applicants reach hiring managers.

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