Jess ElmquistNovember 16, 2023
Topics: Customer Stories

Greasing the Gears for a Frictionless Talent Experience


Did you hear about the guy who spent 50 years with the same company? He credits his incredible longevity to all of the on-the-job training he pursued. His big advice — “take advantage of all of the training and education opportunities” your employer offers.

Spot on. That’s useful advice from someone who reinvented his career over and over, picking up useful skills from the first day on the job to the last.

In a perfect world, organizations would seamlessly convert leads into applicants, candidates into employees, and then finally into lifers. Bon Secours Mercy Health is one organization that aspires to that state of perfection.

The Catholic hospital system’s mission is to save lives, so not only does it have to hire for right now, it has to have its eye trained years down the road to position itself to handle the demands of an aging population.

Speaking of age, I should mention that the origins of what is now Bon Secours dates more than 150 years ago, when congregations of women came to the United States to care for the underserved, the poor, and immigrants — typically without compensation.

“We are a pretty old school health system with new school ideas around innovation,” said Allan Calonge, the Chief People Officer in charge of talent acquisition, workforce planning, and internal mobility. Pandemic-fueled turnover has stabilized, but vacancies are still in double-digit percentages. Contract nurses solved the problem for now, but labor costs ballooned.

Calonge joined me on an episode of “Smarter” to talk about how he’s building a frictionless talent experience to deal with the immediacy of now while planning for what tomorrow brings.

[Watch the full podcast episode here, listen to it on Apple and Spotify, or continue reading for the big takeaways]

Capture & Captivate a Talent Pipeline

A frictionless talent experience from the moment of sourcing to onboarding and post-onboarding of associates is a critical part of his look-forward strategy. The process starts with the basic economic principles of supply and demand.

“Demand is going to be ever present for us,” Calonge said. “The baby boomer generation that is going to drive a lot of that care and supply is simply not there. We do not have enough caregivers to care for that demand.”

Talk about a wake-up call. All baby boomers will be older than 65 by 2030, according to U.S. Census figures. This will expand the size of the older population so that one in every five residents will be at retirement age. That makes 2030 a pivotal demographic turning point.

The talent acquisition process is one area where friction needs to be removed. Historically it has been a very individualized tactical process. One of the things Bon Secours is doing with great success is positioning recruiters to work at top of license by taking repetitive tasks off their plate, allowing recruiters to engage with talent quicker.

Technology is a huge component of that. Automation and artificial intelligence, with a human in the loop, are a big part of that as well.

No Margin, No Mission

You don’t need to look far to find the company’s mission, vision, and value. They’re all right there on one page for all to see.

I had an opportunity to do a strategic planning day a while back with some of Bon Secours’s talent leaders, and I heard from each and every one of those professionals about how important the company’s mission is. The length of service in that group blew my mind too because it's a complicated business. There are real stakes on the line. These are people’s moms, dads, and kids who are their patients.

So how does a company make money in order to fulfill its mission? By doing what Bon Secours and other health care organizations are doing — reducing pandemic-driven labor costs, including travel nurses.

“They say if you have no margin you don’t have missions, so we’re trying everything we can to get this right,” Calonge said.

That’s a profound statement. I’m a true believer that every mission worth doing can be sustained, and certainly this is one worth doing.

It’s important to note that saving money cuts more than one way at Bon Secours — for the company itself, and for taxpayers. Through a series of efficiency measures, including a reduction in duplication of services, the company saved taxpayers more than $66 million in Medicare spend. That’s fantastic.

In fact, in 2022, the company provided more than $644.7 million back to its communities in benefits including charity care, community impact, and benefits to the poor and underserved.

It just further proves the point that innovation can stretch a dollar and help an organization stay true to its raison d’etre.

[Here’s a related blog I wrote a few months ago that you might also find interesting: Instead of Shrinking From the Labor Shortage, This Hospital System Doubled Down by Boldly Innovating]

Data That Speaks to the Head

Calonge is a numbers guy who relies on data to support spending decisions. He actually started out at Bon Secours managing benefits, requiring him to work in tandem with actuaries on financial reporting. “We cannot make decisions based on an anecdote or a focus group of one,” he said. “If our mission speaks to the heart, the data speaks to the head.”

He and his team spent quite a bit of time clarifying a value proposition for employees (Bon Secours calls them associates) using reams of data. The result was the triad of mission, growth, and flexibility. Those are the three areas of distinctiveness.

“If we can build our recruitment platform to just blare those out loud and positioned in a very personalized way for that potential caregiver, I think that's a big draw to our organization,” Calonge said.

It’s really something to see an organization like Bon Secours put time, talent, and treasure to the things that are most important. Analytics is really important to the company, but it's also something that's important to Calonge as a leader. Leadership, I should point out, often defines what we decide to prioritize.

Onboarding is one traditional area where a lot of HR teams struggle, Bon Secours included.

One of the things that is indicative of their data-driven culture is their willingness to say something doesn't work. They’re willing to face up to it and address it in a way that makes the whole associate experience feel genuine and authentic.

Can the same be said for your organization? Are you willing to hear what the numbers have to say about the friction points within your HR processes?

I’d like to hear from you. Maybe I’ll invite you to come on an episode of “Smarter” to talk about that journey. Let’s connect on LinkedIn.

About Smarter

“Smarter” is a podcast where I engage with top experts and senior leaders to uncover the big people trends, unlock the insights, and listen for new ideas related to purpose, people, and the processes that work the best. Let’s get smarter together.

Jess Elmquist

Jess Elmquist is the Chief Human Resources Officer and Chief Evangelist at Phenom. In a previous career as the Chief Learning Officer at Life Time, the healthy way of life company, Jess hired more than 200,000 people and spoke to hundreds of his executive peers about talent trends.

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