“What we’re doing is not working.”
Hawaii Pacific Health was having trouble filling IT positions, and Carl Hinson and Steve Robertson couldn’t understand why. There certainly wasn’t a shortage of applicants, and yet they couldn’t seem to find individuals with the right qualities.
And then one day, as the two leaders from operations and human resources (Hinson is director of workforce development and Robertson is EVP and CIO, Revenue Management and IT) sat down to discuss the issue, something occurred to them. Perhaps the problem didn’t lie with the workforce, but rather the methods and criteria being used to assess talent.
“We weren’t seeing the types of people we needed to see,” said Hinson, now in his 11th year with the four-hospital system. So they decided to change the lens a bit, and a new program was conceived that has transformed the way Hawaii Pacific Health (HPH) recruits and hires. Rather than relying on traditional methods, they now advertise positions on social media sites, and use the Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test to weed out the cream of the crop.
The aim is that by taking the focus away from standard educational requirements, they can shine a light on people who may not have an advanced degree — or even any specific IT experience — but have the drive and leadership skills to succeed.
“We realized that people don’t have to have strong IT backgrounds to succeed within healthcare IT,” said Robertson, who has been at HPH for 17 years.
One of the best examples is a staff member who was brought in to fill an audiovisual role. Seeing that perhaps her talents weren’t being properly leveraged, Carl’s team offered her a project management position, and she’s become a top performer. “She had the aptitude, the personality, and the overall mentality to really succeed and drive and push herself,” said Robertson. “And so Carl and I agreed that maybe we’re filtering out the wrong people. Maybe it makes more sense just to try to hire smart people regardless of what their degree is in.”
And that wasn’t the only compelling example.
In fact, Robertson had “absolutely no background in healthcare” before landing at HPH. He originally came to Hawaii while under contract with the Department of Defense to do combat tactical development work. After ending his stint with the US Navy, he earned his electrical engineering license while also seeking an MBA in healthcare. But it wasn’t for his wife’s prodding, he never would’ve answered the ad for an applications manager that helped launched his health IT career. Four years later, he was named VP of Information Services.
And then there’s Hinson, who had what he thought was his dream job working as a physician’s assistant with the US Navy — until, that is, he was tasked with recruiting a physician. As it turned out, he enjoyed the process so much that he decided to go into recruiting full-time, and has never looked back.
“I thought being a physician assistant was the greatest thing until I found out I had passion in another area,” he said. “Everybody thinks they’re on the right career path, but if you can show them that there are other opportunities, and if they’ve got the right motivations, there are all kinds of possibilities.”
One way to do that is to showcase those individuals who are thriving in IT roles, which Hawaii Pacific does through Facebook posts. Here are some examples:
What can a career with Hawaii Pacific Health do for you? For Linc, it enabled him to be promoted to his current position as a programmer analyst in about a year’s time. We’re hiring!
“I’ve had both formal and informal training. Through job-shadowing and collaborating with others on various projects, I’ve been able to learn through experience, which is an aspect of my job I truly appreciate. ”— Emiline Buhler. Hawaii Pacific Health is currently hiring for associate business systems analysts in our IT department. We’ve designed a training program for professionals like Emiline who are eager to accelerate their careers in IT.
The campaign has helped attract “a wide cross-section of individuals and backgrounds,” said Hinson. Applicants who catch the eye of the HR team are then asked to undergo the Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test, a screening method designed to assess the aptitude of prospective employees for learning and problem-solving. The test is probably best known for its use in the NFL’s scouting combine, where organizations have leveraged the results to help make drafting decisions.
For Hinson and Robertson, the goal is similar. “If we could find motivated and highly intelligent individuals who would be willing to go through a training program to become business system analysts, we might then have a workforce that would be willing to stay longer, that would be more engaged, and that were looking out for their professional growth — all of the things that you would hope for in a workforce.”
In a sense, they’re looking for people like themselves who had the drive and smarts, but hadn’t found the right opportunity.
Those who are brought on board then have a certain amount of time to complete any necessary certifications. Following the probationary period, new hires undergo training and shadowing. And although competency development focuses on the area in which they are hired — for example, ancillary systems — individuals receive “wide exposure to some of the issues they would face on a day-to-day basis, with the idea being at the six-month mark, they’re able to] independently begin operating on a smaller scale, and then continue to grow in the role, with mentors assigned throughout,” Hinson noted.
And although it’s early, the program has already received a positive response from managers, and has resulted in applications from people who otherwise wouldn’t have been drawn to IT positions. Robertson hopes it will continue to appeal to individuals “who can negotiate, who inspire trust, who can communicate and are able to take criticism, but also have enough of a backbone to push back.”
The challenge now will be to determine whether those who have passed the first rounds are able to grasp their learnings and apply them in everyday practice. “That’s what we really need to keep our eye on and make successful, and I’m confident we can do that,” Robertson said.
In the meantime, Hawaii Pacific Health will forge ahead with the new paradigm, something that wouldn’t have happened if not for the partnership between operations and HR that was able to break down traditional barriers and implement an innovative solution.
“Everybody approached it with an open mind saying, ‘all right, this isn’t how we normally operate, but let’s give it a try,” said Robertson, and the outcome is a program that has “greatly improved the morale and engagement of the IT staff.”