“How do we get our employees more engaged?” Many answers exist, and it all begins with great hiring. There are hundreds of different ways to attract candidates and fill positions, but at KLAS, we look to hire character first. This cannot be done without a meaningful focus on mission and culture, and the discipline to keep trying even if it becomes difficult.
Let’s face it: some company mission statements hang lifelessly on a wall and rarely resonate beyond the board room. Ours might do the same if we weren’t consistently tying it into everything we do. This includes incorporating our mission and culture into hiring.
We view candidates through the lens of whether our mission will matter to them. We know that not every candidate will walk through our doors passionate about healthcare IT, but finding that spark of passion in them is the first step.
We want to find people who can take our mission of improving the world’s healthcare and make it their own.
The culture of a company grows from the relationships employees have with each other, with their leaders or subordinates, and with the company’s clientele. We are a relationship company, both internally and externally, and we facilitate opportunities for relationships to grow. We also try our best to face problems and to take ownership of them and their solutions — from the top down.
We at KLAS are certainly not perfect culture builders, but we genuinely try, and just trying can go a very long way. If a culture is strong, it is not difficult to identify the right characteristics that will nourish it. Having “culture champions” is important for this nourishment. Those are people whose actions demonstrate what matters most in our working relationships. They don’t need to be labeled, but they are certainly recognized, and we look to them to grow culture in others.
We have identified the core characteristics of those who thrive in our culture. They include:
- Compassion: We want to work with people who are genuine; people who care about others first, and who care about the providers they work with.
- Passion: We see passion drive people to do more and better things. If this passion exists naturally, it will often grow to include our mission.
- Hardworking: We seek people who are thrilled to tackle a challenge.
- Intellectual Curiosity: We want people who are always asking, “Why?” We applaud those who do their homework and are willing to dig deeper.
- Competent Humility: This one is very important. We want people who are capable of brilliant ideas and great work on their own, and yet are also willing to listen to and learn from even the newest, least experienced person on the team.
To identify candidates who exemplify the above characteristics, we have done the following:
- Resurrected the cover letter. Few things allow a candidate’s character to be on display better than a well-written cover letter.
- Utilized character-based questions. It is interesting to watch the reactions to these questions and hear the answers. Candidates’ comfort levels are wonderful indicators of whether somebody truly has these traits.
- Held candidates accountable to having researched us. Many job seekers rely on their resume without doing any homework on who we truly are. Many others have their passion ignited because they discover this.
It must be said that hiring character first does not mean that needed skills are disregarded. To the contrary; we often find the right job abilities that we need because of who the person is. We are also conscious of what skills we can teach and what skills we are willing to teach.
There are some not-so-good and some good results.
The not-so-good includes the length of time it may take to find the right fit. Trying to find people who have the combination of naturally-aligned attributes, the right skills for the role, and a cause-driven approach is harder than one might think, and it can be frustrating. It isn’t always easy for candidates to show their genuineness of character during an interview; they often come in with preconceived notions of how an interview typically goes and become awkward when faced with character-based questions.
We mis-hire just like everyone else. A person might quickly display our core characteristics, and this might overshadow other issues that become problems later.
We often embrace expected turnover. Sometimes people with the right characteristics and skillsets are looking at KLAS as a stepping stone to greater goals, such as eventually becoming a physician, an attorney, a parent, or something else. We are willing to have people for a shorter term if they can be superstars during that term. This means that we experience more turnover in some roles than we need to.
The good results of our approach?
We typically have over 40 percent of our hires come through referrals. In certain key positions, it’s close to 90 percent.
Few at KLAS can perfectly recite our mission verbatim, but an employee at any level can articulate our mission and tie it directly to their work. Many employees are eager to expand their roles and their impact without having to be asked. It’s just who they are. We’ve observed interns become executives, and we’ve watched others self-eject because they recognize a misalignment.
One of the best results is the impact that great people have on the success of our mission. Year after year, providers entrust us with their voice more, and vendors listen to the feedback we gather that can help them better meet the needs of providers.
In the end, confidence is strengthened in the healthcare IT systems that keep people healthy, and we feel a sense of ownership in that. We recognize that any success we may have is a result of great people doing great work because they want to.
And that feels more like a cause than a job.