Moving Past a Scarcity Mindset in Healthcare Hiring

By Tom Huntington

Jan 10, 2023

We’ve all gotten so used to the torrent of bad news over the past few years regarding the state of the healthcare labor market that it can be a bit jarring when a positive indicator pops up.  Nonetheless, the latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics offers cause for optimism, showing significant job growth in healthcare in 2022 compared to the previous year. Over 54,000 jobs were added in December, and healthcare job growth averaged 49,000 each month in 2022, compared with a monthly average of 9,000 in 2021. The industry still has a long way to go to get back to pre-pandemic levels, of course, but it seems safe to say that a recovery is squarely under way.

In the height of the very real labor crisis that gripped the healthcare sector in the midst of the pandemic, many hiring managers were forced to settle for whatever they could get. “Anyone with a pulse” became a common refrain in HR departments, and even that bar could be difficult to meet during the darkest days. Hospitals spent (and continue to spend) a fortune on travel nurses and other forms of premium labor to fill in gaps, and recruiters were quick to offer up costly perks, bonuses, and benefits to try and lure in permanent employees. 

So what does the uptick in job growth mean for healthcare HR professionals and hiring managers on the ground who have been struggling to fill open positions? Nothing changes overnight, of course, and a pretty chart from a government study doesn’t automatically fill up an empty candidate funnel. But it may be time to start shifting away from a “scarcity” mindset when it comes to hiring, and start considering a longer-term, more strategic approach, driven by a few key principles. 

Hire for Retention

Employers can’t afford to be picky when the pickings are slim, but neither can they afford to continually bring in employees who are just going to walk back out the door a few weeks after getting hired. With the labor market beginning to improve, it’s imperative to consider the likelihood that a given candidate will stay with your organization over the long term before making a hiring decision. Hiring for retention creates better outcomes for everyone, greatly alleviating the pressure to continually replace hard-to-fill positions.

Advancements in AI and data science have made it possible to reliably and accurately predict whether a given candidate will stay in their job over a specific period of time. Arena’s Retention Prediction Model, for example, collects and analyzes over 10,000 data points per applicant, and then applies data science and machine learning tools to identify patterns and predict which candidates are most likely to be retained by the organization if hired.

Mine Your ATS

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) contain records of every candidate that applies to your organization over time, regardless of whether or not they were hired. Do you know how many records you have in your ATS? Each record, after all, is a candidate with contact information who was interested, at some point, in working for your organization. Now is the perfect time to return to your ATS in search of past candidates who, for whatever reason, may not have been a fit for a specific job at the time they applied. As the labor outlook improves, you can save money and time on sourcing new candidates by re-engaging applicants who already know your organization. Arena’s Talent ReDiscovery solution is the perfect tool to help you get the most out of valuable applicant data that is just sitting fallow and unused in your ATS today.

Improve the Applicant Experience 

A cumbersome, time-consuming application process can be one of the biggest barriers to effective hiring. As the job market continues to rebound, it’s more important than ever to streamline the application and hiring process in order to take advantage of the hungry, willing talent that’s out there. Make it as easy as possible for candidates to apply for your jobs as quickly as possible; reach out to qualified candidates in a timely manner, and keep them in the loop as the process progresses; and choose tools and software solutions that integrate seamlessly with your existing workflow to alleviate time for both employer and prospective employee.

Take Steps to Reduce Bias

Biased hiring hurts both candidates and organizations by keeping qualified candidates from positions where they would thrive. And everyone suffers from bias in one form or another. After all, pattern recognition is a necessary skill to navigate our daily overload of information. But these same shortcuts can prove unproductive at best and harmful at worst when making hiring decisions that require nuance and outside-the-box thinking. It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking that tools like bias mitigation are a luxury you can’t afford, but the truth is reducing bias opens up the market to candidates you never would have considered, which is more important than ever as the labor pool grows. Arena helps employers move past unconscious bias and discover a new, more objective and expansive, lens through which to view talent.  

While the healthcare industry continues to face an uphill climb back to pre-pandemic staffing levels, recent indicators point to continued momentum toward the summit. It’s time to move past the scarcity mindset and plan for success.  

Tom Huntington

Senior Director of Communications