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Amazing Hires Happen Here

A newly redesigned selection process is helping NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital stay focused on its patients.
Amazing Hires Happen Here

Their commercial opens with a tight shot of a sweet little girl rattling off a list of hospitals that wouldn’t operate on her to remove a large tumor. "Then we finally found the one place, NewYork-Presby . . . NewYork-Presbyterian," she says, breaking a smile. "I was better, and I was just so happy to be better. And cancer free." The spot ends with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital’s tag line, Amazing Things are Happening Here. And it’s hard not to be amazed by the breathy little girl with the big eyes telling a story about how NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital saved her life when no one else could, or would.

Kate Markham, Tom Ferguson,and Kiersten Kanaley of New York-Presbyterian Hospital
From left, Kate Markham, Tom Ferguson,
and Kiersten Kanaley of
New York-Presbyterian Hospital

NewYork-Presbyterian prides itself on being an amazing hospital—and with good reason. Its five campuses are staffed by over 20,000 people, treating over a million patients in metropolitan New York with $3.5 billion in revenue annually. NewYork-Presbyterian is a mainstay of U.S. News & World Report’s Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals, and more NewYork-Presbyterian physicians were named to the America's Top Doctors list than from any other hospital in the nation in 2011. When television’s Dr. Oz treats patients, he treats them at NewYork-Presbyterian.

The HR team at NewYork-Presbyterian ensures the organization continues its track record of excellence, and of making amazing things possible. “We are rated number six in the U.S. News & World Report honor roll system, and we want to go higher,” says Tom Ferguson, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at NewYork-Presbyterian. “To do that we have to have the best employees, in the context of an increasing focus on safety and quality, and the likelihood that in the future our reimbursement system is going to be based upon those factors.”

 “The Patient is at the Center”

In 2007, NewYork-Presbyterian sought to design a selection system that would supply the organization not only with top talent, but the right top talent. Because of their effect on the patient experience and the high need for clinical professionals, they started with nurses. “The patient is at the center of everything that we do. So we need the best possible people to take care of our patients,” says Ferguson.

For nurses, specifically, the need is to select both on clinical skills as well as motivation. “Their talent and motivation to serve the very complicated and complex health care needs of our patients is critical to be successful in delivering the best of patient care,” says Kate Markham, corporate director, talent acquisition/employment services, HR. “We see some of the sickest and most complex cases, so the nurses not only need to deliver the clinical care, but care about all of our patients and their families.”

With over 200,000 applications received annually, NewYork-Presbyterian strategized on a methodology to quickly and efficiently identify the right talent for all open positions while providing a high level of customer service to every applicant. “When you’re selecting talent in a health care environment, even if someone is not selected they are still a potential consumer. The experience they have when they are looking for a job with us needs to be reflective of the experience they’d have as a patient,” says Kiersten Kanaley, director, talent acquisition services.

The first step to a new selection process that met these needs was to check in with the people who will use it. NewYork-Presbyterian’s talent acquisition/employment services team organized four teams of operational leaders, HR professionals, and clinical leaders to dissect the process, define needs, and improve the way talent was selected and hired. “They were able to provide success stories of not only how to select top talent but also how to support their needs as hiring managers,” says Markham.

NewYork-Presbyterian also partnered with DDI to define Success ProfilesSM for five key positions: vice presidents, directors, managers, supervisors, and bedside nurses. Success ProfilesSM are robust competency models. They add to the clinical/job skill competencies the knowledge, experience, and personal attributes, as well. “We need to have a system to understand the profile of our good employees,” says Ferguson. “And then design a process to identify or match potential employees against that profile, so that we’re hiring somebody who as closely as possible reflects that profile.”

Selecting the Profile

With the Success ProfileSM providing a comprehensive idea of what it needed to select talent, NewYork-Presbyterian moved ahead with a structured approach to select nurses. The first step for candidates is an application screen to confirm the requisite knowledge and experience, measured against the technical competencies and the Success ProfileSM. Applicants hear back within a day if they meet the basic skill requirements—either that they are not a fit for the position in question, or that they have been invited to the next step of the process.

That next step is a pre-employment assessment, DDI’s Nursing Career Battery. “We wanted the ability to be able to prioritize the high volume of applications we receive to ensure that both our recruiters and hiring managers are spending their very valuable time with the right candidates,” says Kanaley. “We also felt confident in the process as it is a legally valid assessment, it offers a realistic preview of the job; and by partnering with DDI we connected with other best-practice hospitals that shared tips to make implementation easier and more successful.”

The career battery is administered online, and measures an applicant’s ability to make judgments and decisions, to manage their work and get along with others, and to focus on patient needs. Results are available immediately. Those whose responses more closely match the Success Profile in key areas are funneled to the recruiters for phone screens and interviews.

“With the career battery, we have been better able to manage the talent that applies for positions here and provide timely feedback to those who have applied. We’ve been able to use that career assessment to identify nurses that are a better fit for our organization, who are going to be more successful and satisfied here, and stay longer at the organization,” says Markham.

The final step is an interview conducted using DDI’s Targeted Selection® behavioral interviewing system. “There was a strong desire from the leadership to have formalized interview training,” says Kanaley. The Targeted Selection® interview process provides a methodology to further target needed areas and details of the Success Profile. That the interviews are organized and hiring managers and peer interviewers have been professionally trained contribute to NewYork- Presbyterian’s ability to leave a good impression on all candidates, regardless of the hiring decision.

“We also deployed interview guides which gave us consistent criteria across our five campuses and across all of our specialties. So the conversation became more meaningful and the criteria are more consistent when we are evaluating talent,” Kanaley says. Information is captured in the applicant tracking system, so interview outcomes are recorded and provide a pool from which to select nurses in the future.

While Targeted Selection reinforces NewYork-Presbyterian’s focus on patients, it also has benefits for recruiters and hiring managers. Training starts with a four-hour virtual class that imparts the key concepts of behavioral interviewing. Training continues in the classroom, where the time is reserved for learners to practice their skills around gathering examples. Several senior recruiters have gone on to become Targeted Selection trainers who now train hundreds of NewYork-Presbyterian employees to conduct Targeted Selection interviews.

An Invaluable Approach

“It seems like it’s a simple approach but it’s one that is invaluable for any organization who wants to be a leader in the war for talent,” says Markham. “Even though we’re at the beginning of utilizing Targeted Selection and career batteries to help us better select the right talent, we’re already getting feedback from our applicants that they believe the questions are applicable to the positions that they’re applying for. And we’re hearing from our managers that they’re better able to select the right talent.”

Positive results are also already evident in how many applicants are routed for interviews. In just a year, the number of applicants presented to hiring managers for interviews has been halved, reducing the time they spend interviewing candidates. Meanwhile, the quality of new hires has remained the same.

Finally, the new approach to selection is a launching point for other talent management systems. Attracting highly qualified people and selecting the right talent for the right job leads to their retention, and their future success with progressively higher levels of responsibility. “We have a target of promoting 60 percent of the positions filled at the director and vice president level with internal candidates,” says Ferguson. “My mantra is, the best organization is one that is a place where people can grow and develop and build a career—not just a place where someone comes to do a job.”


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