3 Takeaways from the 2019 ASHHRA Conference

3 Takeaways from the 2019 ASHHRA Conference
Marketing Director

The 2019 American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration (ASHHRA) Conference took place this past week in the Windy City of Chicago, Illinois. This year’s theme was “Connect. Innovate. Transform.” In the midst of constant change in the healthcare field, fostering professional connections is more important than ever before. Sarah Fredrickson, ASHHRA President, discussed how healthcare HR must lead an engaged workforce to innovate. “We balance business with empathy and creativity,” she explained. With healthcare expected to add 4 million new jobs in the next 7 years, the industry will certainly transform over that period of time. 

The following represent my top takeaways from the 2019 ASHHRA conference. I hope you find them insightful as you prepare for the forthcoming decade.

1. Staying Ahead of Medical Marijuana Law Developments

Jill Lashay, a labor and employment law attorney at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, discussed the ongoing conflict between the federal law and state medical marijuana laws. While the Federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) establishes marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance that has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Today, however, there are 33 states that have approved the use of medical marijuana, with 11 allowing recreational use as well. “[These state laws] have created some new employment protections that didn’t otherwise exist,” Lashay stated. “However, using, possessing, or being impaired by marijuana in the workplace is still rounds for discipline or termination, even if an individual is a medical marijuana user.”

Nevertheless, medical marijuana laws are changing constantly—almost on a month to month basis. Employers with a presence in multiple states, specifically, can run into trouble if they are not mindful of the various state laws. “Stay on top of statewide developments and consult legal counsel for guidance,” Lashay suggests. She also offered the following best practices for employers:

  1. Give notice to employees of drug testing policies and procedures.
  2. In the event of a positive drug test, instruct the medical review officer to have a discussion with the applicant. 
  3. Consult the applicable state anti-discrimination and accommodation obligations. 
  4. Take action only after gathering information to determine if the individual is authorized to use medical marijuana and after conducting a thorough review of any applicable state laws.

2. Cultivating a Candidate-Centric Recruitment Experience

In a learning session, Christine Johnson, Vice President of Human Resources at Baptist Health of Jacksonville, and Joseph Marino, Senior Vice President at Hueman People Solutions, discussed how they partnered to transform Baptist Health’s recruitment experience. “Our recruitment process didn’t align with our brand experience and the patient experience,” Johnson shared. “We needed to decrease our time-to-fill.”

As part of their journey, Baptist Health changed their applicant tracking system (ATS), but it wasn’t the only part that changed. “Technology will help you,” Johnson explained. “It is a tool, but you have to have other things in place. The ATS should not be geared toward your recruiters, but it is better to be more designed towards your candidate.”

Baptist Health focused on creating a candidate-first experience. “We want the experience to be great from the minute they apply for the job,” Johnson stated. “Unemployment is low, so they have a lot of choices.” In order to achieve this goal, Baptist Health implemented the following changes:

  • Mobile-Friendly: They mobile-optimized their job application to display on every device and to look and feel like an app. 
  • Application Reduction: They reduced their application process from 20 minutes to 2 minutes by asking only the questions needed to make a hiring decision; the rest can be incorporated post-hire as part of the onboarding process.
  • Texting: They used text messaging software to speed up the recruitment and onboarding process, which yielded greater response rates than other methods such as e-mail.
  • On-Site Job Offers: For some positions, Baptist Health is making a job offer before candidates leave the building in order to compete in a very competitive market. 

As the healthcare industry faces increased competition for talent, healthcare organizations will need to get creative while focusing on improving the experience for the candidate first. The strategies outlined above are just a few examples that worked for Baptist Health. 

3. Aligning Employer Branding, Data Analytics and LEAN for Strategic HR

Aligning HR strategy to corporate strategy can be challenging for any healthcare organization, especially one that is defining a new employer brand. For Ekta Vyas, Director, Human Resources & Adjunct Management Faculty at Stanford Children’s Health, this was a process that began in 2017 when the organization changed its identity from Stanford Children’s Hospital. “Our corporate brand was evolving,” Vyas explained. “We were always Stanford, but we were establishing ourselves as a new employer.”

In order to address their challenges, Vyas and her team at Stanford Children’s Health focused on the following three components:

  1. Employer Branding: “A brand is not just a logo—it’s an experience,” Vyas says. “We wanted an employee value proposition that was our reality when candidates walk into the organization.” In order to establish their employer brand, they conducted an extensive market benchmarking by researching competitors in the area and reviewing employee engagement surveys to identify common themes among employees. After conducting the internal and external assessments, they were able to establish four employee value propositions. 
  2. Data Analytics: Stanford Children’s Health implemented standardization for efficiencies using data to execute their corporate strategies successfully. They leveraged data to conduct workforce planning. “I don’t want to just forecast and prepare for the new projected growth positions,” Vyas stated. “I wanted to project turnover based on past trends and to project retirements because we are in a world of baby boomers.”
  3. LEAN Process Management: For Vyas and her team, the goal was to standardize and improve the recruitment process flow, which was paper-based. They used LEAN methodology to define their problem statement and define an end goal. “Efficiency is key in the recruitment function,” Vyas affirms. “Once you have done a process improvement, you find new problems. The goal is to go do it again when you identify new problems.”  

With regulatory developments, talent shortages, and evolving brands, the healthcare landscape is constantly changing. By staying ahead of legal developments, focusing on the candidate experience, and building an employer brand, however, healthcare HR can position their organizations for success in the forthcoming decade.

Did you attend this year’s ASHHRA conference? What were your favorite takeaways from the learning sessions?