Healthcare Staffing Resources

7 tips for increasing diversity in your healthcare recruiting

Healthcare organizations increasing diversity in its physician recruiting efforts

In a tight healthcare labor market, a focus on diversity and inclusion in hiring may give your organization an edge. According to McKinsey & Company, greater diversity helps companies recruit top talent, improve employee satisfaction, and enhance decision making — and these advantages add up to a stronger financial performance.

On the flipside, failure to address implicit bias in the hiring process makes recruitment that much harder. Russ Peal, director of workforce recruitment & retention for the Veterans Health Administration, recalls a recruiting challenge that was complicated by the hiring manager’s implicit bias. “There had been 16 candidates referred to this particular search, and none of those candidates were considered beyond the initial CV screening,” he says. “It turns out that each of those candidates represent an ethnic group that was not of the hiring manager. I had to have a discussion with the hiring manager because we were expanding resources to actually find qualified candidates.”

It’s clear that focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DE&I) can make a real difference for the overall strength of your organization. Here are seven practical tips to help you become more equitable and diverse in your recruiting efforts.

1. Get buy-in from the top of the organization

An organizational focus on diversity must be embraced and communicated by the C-suite and the V-suite, says Jessica Reynolds, candidate experience manager for ChenMed. “People need to see the representation in the leadership role so they know that there is opportunity there and they know that the diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts are genuine,” she says. “It’s very important for the leaders and the executive teams to have clear messaging, to have champions and people who are really living, breathing, and implementing initiatives that can be actionable and seen across the entire organization.”

2. Learn from your diverse workforce

Taking the pulse of your organization can help identify opportunities for improvement in recruiting, welcoming, and supporting diverse candidates. For example, Bon Secours Mercy Health 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 Dr. Nathan Zeigler, vice president of culture and inclusion at Bon Secours.

3. 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.

A diverse physician workforce

4. Work to eliminate implicit 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 to allow a broader pool of candidates the opportunity to interview and qualify for positions, says Hannah Chadee, physician talent management, Emory Healthcare. It’s important to not only be aware of the composition of the candidate pool, she says, but to understand who makes it to the interview process — and why.

5. Give everyone opportunities to advance

When it comes to fostering a diverse workforce, recruitment is just the first step. “If you’re not applying a similar amount of effort and focus on how you’re retaining, engaging, growing, and ultimately retiring your workforce, you’re going to continually be battling your desires for representation,” explains Christine VanCampen, vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion at CHG Healthcare.

“Make it transparent, make it visible,” says Reynolds. “When we’re recruiting and resourcing candidates, that is going to be a topic of discussion to let them know, ‘We’re invested in your success and your growth within this organization.’”

Top leadership levels can often be the slowest to see a change in representation. That’s because leaders at that level often remain until retirement, leading to fewer opportunities for change — particularly if there is no succession plan. Too often, “we fail to plan,” says Chadee. “When we fail to do that, we fail to plan for diversifying as it pertains to gender and race.”

6. Develop relationships in the community

Recruiting a provider usually means recruiting the entire family. “Research shows 80% of the time it’s the physician spouse who is making the decision on where they will live, because they’re looking for a career and they’re going to be ingrained in the community as well,” Chadee says.

“You want to, as a recruiter, find out what is going on in your community. You need to develop relationships with the Chambers of Commerce, the bankers to help connect the physician spouses who are coming in to interview,” says Chadee. “You need to get to know, is there ballet, theater, sports available? Even the things you might not think about, like, are there programs for children with special needs?”

She adds, “Is there a mosque? Is there a temple? What is available in my community for the diverse population that I’m wanting to attract?”

Another way to develop networks in the community is to volunteer, particularly within local community schools, says Reynolds. “Those things are important for exposure so that we can increase diversity and starting even at a younger age.”

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 are 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.”

Weatherby Healthcare has the locum tenens physicians and advanced practice providers to help you meet your healthcare staffing needs. Give us a call at 954.343.3050 to learn more.

About the author

Heather Stewart

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