Healthcare Facilities

7 tips for increasing diversity in your healthcare recruiting

Healthcare organizations increasing diversity in its physician recruiting efforts

One of the many seismic shifts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is a greater recognition of health outcome disparities for groups that are underrepresented in healthcare. More awareness of these disparities is one more reason many healthcare organizations are working to increase diversity within their workforces. Recruiting for diversity can positively impact patients, the healthcare workforce, and the overall health of an organization. Here are seven practical tips for helping your organization become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive in your recruiting efforts.

1. Learn from your diverse workforce

“If we’re looking to diversify our physicians and to ensure representation, we have to say, ‘How are we standing on inclusive principles? How are we showing our commitment, and how are we backing that up through action?’” says Dr. Nathan Zeigler, vice president of culture and inclusion at Bon Secours Mercy Health.

To find those answers, Bon Secours surveyed its employees of color about their experiences and compared those responses to white associates. “That was really meaningful data because we were really able to pull apart things that were happening at the frontline, things that were happening in leadership that could be more proactive and intentional. It gave us really deep insights, more than just a typical culture survey. And that has really informed our strategy,” says Zeigler.

2. Acknowledge your own biases

Understanding your own biases is crucial, says Hannah Chadee, director of physician talent management at Emory Healthcare. “Just understanding who you are, your biases, and working through that process — and then understanding a person for who they are.”

Frankly assessing your own biases can help foster candid conversations with other leaders and team members. Opening a discussion about hiring for diversity requires “starting with yourself and showing humility and grace in the process,” Zeigler says. “As a trainer, as a leader, we can demonstrate what it means to be vulnerable, to share our experiences — and mistakes are your best friend in this area.”

3. Have the tough conversations

Make diversity, equity, and inclusion a natural, frequent topic of conversation. Chadee says monthly leadership meetings could include discussions about “where we are as leaders, our backgrounds, and where we come from in order to have a better understanding of each other and to remove some of the implicit bias that might exist.”

Chadee recalls a conversation she had with the CEO of another company. “The board lacked diversity,” she says. “I spoke to him about the board’s lack of diverse representation and how it did not mirror the employees or patients served. Over the next year, steps were taken to implement real change, and over time, the board became more diverse.”

It’s one thing to care about diversity, says Chadee, “but in order to realize change, action is required. So, as an individual it’s important to speak up in order to make an impact.”

Asian female physician

4. Invest in ongoing training

Bon Secours implemented bias and anti-racism training for all director-level and above leaders, as well as all talent acquisition staff.  “Then we put up a racial justice and equity resource center because we realize that this is deep work — one training isn’t going to do the trick. We need to have a place where people can continually learn and reflect and engage with the material,” says Zeigler.

5. Work to eliminate bias from the hiring process

Organizations should examine each step of the hiring process to identify areas where hiring managers and recruiters may be showing unconscious bias toward candidates. Sometimes small things like interview questions and job descriptions can unintentionally filter out diverse candidates.

“We’ve implemented an equity lens in the talent process to ensure that we are removing our bias at each stage of that recruitment cycle, that we’re not being biased about a person’s name, a person’s perceived age, location, perceived gender, race, what have you — that we’re looking at qualifications,” Zeigler says.  

Implicit bias about these things can needlessly shrink your candidate pool. Look deeper, says Chadee, and allow a broader pool of candidates the opportunity to interview and qualify for positions. Being cognizant of the composition of the pool and who makes it to the interview process is significant,” she says.

6. Enlist the support of physicians

Collaborating with current providers regarding the recruitment strategy is crucial, “since you’re recruiting a future colleague,” Chadee says. “When they’re on board they’re going to push it through. They’re going to say, ‘This is the colleague I want to work with. You’re presenting us with the people who we could pick from, and this is who we want to work with.’”

7. Measure KPIs to track your progress

You’ll never know if your organization is making progress in recruiting for diversity if you don’t establish baseline metrics and track the key performance indicators (KPIs). Bon Secours established a KPI for diversity among executive-level hires. It also tied 24 human resources metrics to diversity and inclusion outcomes, says Zeigler, including pay equity, culture, manager behaviors, and representation. “Each of our HR chiefs actually is responsible for diversity and inclusion outcomes and we track and monitor our performance,” he says.

One KPI that Zeigler considers particularly important is the first-year turnover rate. “We also want to look at what that turnover rate looks like for our associates of color, our clinicians of color, and what is happening in their experience that is causing them to leave at a higher rate.”

As your organization focuses on recruiting for diversity, keep in mind that progress may feel slow and hard-won. “This is ongoing. It’s a journey, and it’s not an end game,” Zeigler says. “We’re not racing to the finish; we’re really trying to build that muscle, and we need to practice over and over.”

What is your organization doing to increase diversity in your recruiting efforts? Share your tip in the comments below.

About the author

Heather Stewart

Heather Stewart is a journalist who frequently covers issues and trends in the healthcare industry.

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