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Recruiter describes 'war for talent'

By Andis Robeznieks
Posted: March 7, 2013 - 4:45 pm ET

One of the last speakers at the HIMSS annual conference and exhibition in New Orleans began his talk by telling the audience he may be causing problems for them in the near future.

Steven Bennett is the vice president of Heathrow, Fla.-based Kirby Partners, a recruiting firm for health IT professionals, and he acknowledged that he may be calling staff members of the people he was speaking to at the conference and asking them if they would be interested in another "opportunity."

"That's my job," Bennett said. "As a recruiter, you may consider me as part of your problem."

He added that, if he hears something negative from someone on their staffs, he'll soon be calling other members of their staffs as well.

Bennett said that because of the economic downturn, people have stayed at positions they wanted to leave—sometimes because difficulty in selling their houses made relocation problematic. So now, he said, not only are there more opportunities, "There's a pent-up demand for change."

"The war for talent is on," Bennett added.

When employees are unhappy because of low raises or heavy workloads, Bennett said the people who leave first are generally the risk-takers, innovators, future leaders and most ambitious. Their departure can lead to the loss of others who are then forced to take on even more work and start looking for new jobs as well.

When top job candidates are found, Bennett recommended acting swiftly in making a job offer.

"Time kills deals," he said. "A+ candidates go very quickly."

Bennett and his co-presenter, Timothy Stettheimer, regional chief information officer for Ascension Health, presented findings of a survey they conducted specifically for the conference. It included responses from 800 health IT professionals, including chief information officers, manager/directors and staff "without people-management responsibilities."

Bennett told how one survey respondent commented that "finding a job in healthcare IT is the easiest it's ever been."

Earlier in the conference, Marilyn Tavenner, acting CMS administrator noted how 17,000 health IT professionals had received education or training at a community college through funding included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Bennett said hospitals were more likely to bypass recent graduates because they were looking for staff who could hit the ground running. But Stettheimer noted that newly trained IT professionals have been hired by physician practices to help doctors meet meaningful-use requirements. He added that retired physicians had been hired part time or temporarily by Ascension to help with implementation of computerized physician-order entry systems.

Stettheimer noted that one CIO in the survey said how "IT is critical to every single initiative" taking place at their institution, but another told how, "We don't have the people to get things done."

CIOs work long hours, according to the presenters' survey, with 48% working 51 to 60 hours a week, 21% working more than 60 hours, 30% working 41 to 50 hours, and only 1% working 40 or less. But, on a one-to-10 scale, CIOs were the happiest group, rating their job satisfaction at 7.2, while manager/directors gave an average rating of 6.8 and other staff gave a 6.2 rating.

When asked if they would be open to new opportunities in the next 12 to 18 months, the survey found that 26% of the manager/directors said they were happy were they were, 48% said they were "keeping an eye open" for new opportunities, and 26% were actively seeking a new job. Of nonpersonnel-management staff, 36% said they were happy with their current job, but 42% were keeping an eye open and 22% were actively looking for greener pastures.

Stettheimer noted, however, that staff morale is generally high in healthcare as many employees "feel like they're making a difference," especially if they're involved with patient care.

That said, Stettheimer added that many are open to new opportunities if career advancement or leadership posts are offered or if there is an issue with location, flexibility with hours or the chance to telecommute.

Employees are also likely to leave, Stettheimer said, if they don't feel they are getting respect, or think that they're spending too much time in meetings or their work is being micromanaged.

If CIOs see their managers hovering over the shoulders of the staff, Stettheimer suggested they "back them away quickly."

“We have to trust our team members," he said.

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