Recruitment Effort: Piedmont Hospital focuses in-house to strengthen its staff

In the fast-paced world of healthcare, the caregivers make the difference because of their training and education.

In the fast-paced world of healthcare, the caregivers make the difference because of their training and education.

Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta had always held itself to high standards and had a strong staff to show for it. Unfortunately, the city had been in the midst of a nursing shortage for years, and like many hospitals nearby, Piedmont was suffering the effects.

With so many hospitals competing for a limited labor pool, Piedmont knew it needed help in the race for RNs and Allied Health professionals. The hospital had previously worked with Golin Harris on "The Cure for the Common Job" recruitment program, but now it sought a more targeted effort. Luckily, Golin had plenty of ideas and wise words to accompany them.

"Keeping good employees in healthcare is not only about finding new ones, it's about keeping the ones you have," says Kathy Cosgrove, EVP of Golin Harris Atlanta.

Strategy

Golin's recruitment initiative looked to get staffers to refer someone they trusted and, as such, the applicant pool would neatly self-select itself. "Often when you go outside, you don't have the references you do inside," notes Cosgrove.

The effort's main focus would be internal communications to garner crucial employee referrals. The hospital had a tradition of long-tenured employees. If it could define and stress the traits that made these employees so reliable, then the existing staff would have a better idea of whom to refer. Hopefully, those referred people would see how satisfied everyone was at Piedmont and would come on board.

Tactics

Golin immediately hit the research road and pulled together several focus groups composed of Piedmont employees past, present, and future. The agency found out what was liked and disliked, what had made past employees leave, and, for some, return. Once Golin confirmed that staff targeting was a good idea, it went about putting the message into action.

Golin made sure the goals and incentives were kept in front of employees at all times through posters, fliers, even cookies. The firm kept the staff updated on the campaign's results and introduced new hires. One of the most novel ideas was the "nurse recruitment boxes," toolboxes that were filled with such treats as movie rentals and gift certificates, designed to let individuals know they were appreciated. "Golin was virtually an extension of my staff," says Nina Montenaro, VP of marketing and PR for Piedmont Hospital.

Results

Piedmont got 62 employee referrals in a 100-day period, up from 30 referrals the previous year. In all, the hospital secured 101 RN positions during that time, a 55% increase over its goal, and it filled all of its Allied Health positions within just 45 days. An even bigger hit were the recruitment boxes, which saw such overwhelming popularity that there were requests for boxes from outside of the program, not to mention refills of Piedmont's own goody supplies.

Going beyond the numbers, Piedmont was extremely happy with the caliber of employees it received.

"We felt like our employees would bring in the quality of people that they want and are willing to work beside," says Montenaro. "And they did."

Future

The team has now completed four successful recruitment campaigns, each one targeting a different area. Both Golin and Piedmont know their success with the campaigns is just a short-term solution to the long-term nursing shortage, but they consider it to be a nice interim step on which to stand in the meantime.

"What I like about doing healthcare is that there are so many committed people," says Cosgrove. "You just get so personally involved and you work that much harder to find the right solution."

PR team: Piedmont Hospital (Atlanta) and Golin Harris Atlanta

Campaign: Another Dose of the Cure

Time frame: October 15, 2003, to January 31, 2004

Budget: $75,000

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