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Curbside Consult with Dr. Jayne 8/27/18

August 27, 2018 Dr. Jayne No Comments

I’ve been helping a good-sized provider organization through a practice transformation project recently and it’s been a major challenge. They initially hired me to help them spin up a transformation team, which would be tasked with running various projects across the organization. Some of the change that needed to happen was financial or revenue cycle, but there were also a number of clinical projects that had been repeatedly placed on the back burner due to lack of focus or resources.

The goal was to help them identify which internal resources might be a good fit for the team and to educate those resources on not only the overall process of change management and practice transformation, but to ensure that they had a super-user level of knowledge of the EHR, practice management system, and ancillary applications. This would allow them to have the deep knowledge required to lead people through change, even in small groups where there might not be a subject matter expert readily available. They were to serve as kind of a SWAT team for transformation – go to a practice or site, lead the efforts, make suggestions, get it all documented, and supervise the rollout of the changes.

I was also tasked with helping the organization hire external resources to fill any gaps that we couldn’t fill internally. We knew that some members of the transformation team would only spend part of their time on the team – they may stay as half-time in their regular role and spend half of the time on transformation. My client felt strongly that for the transformation team to have a high degree of credibility, they needed to be in the trenches at least part of the time. I wasn’t opposed to the concept as long as we could make the scheduling and workload allocation work. The clinical employees selected for the team were particularly excited about being able to do the transformation work without having to give up the clinical experiences that they enjoy.

Where the super-user development and change leadership education went well, the hiring of external resources quickly turned into a disaster. My client subscribes to some HR functions through its parent hospital system and the hiring process is one of them. The first roadblock we ran into was getting the job descriptions created and approved.

Despite the provider organization being 100 percent on board with what I had created (drawing on samples from other major provider organizations), the hospital HR team didn’t understand what we were trying to do and insisted on trying to create the new positions around an IT-centric model that didn’t make sense for the provider organization. They wanted to classify the new transformation resources as project managers, which although it makes sense on some levels, doesn’t totally match what we expected them to do. In that IT-centric model, having the PMP certification may have been important, but not necessarily for our project. What was more important to us was having a proven track record of leading organizations through complex change, and especially experience in healthcare.

After a couple of months, we finally had the jobs posted and then were at the mercy of the hospital’s talent recruitment team to screen and vet potential candidates. I’m not sure whether it was market forces or what was going on, but nearly all of the first 10 applicants they presented to me came from the automotive industry. Their resumes were heavy on project management and not a single one had ever participated in a clinical project. That led to many phone calls between the provider organization’s leadership, the talent team, and myself trying to again explain what we were looking for.

Apparently our job postings had been handed off to a new recruiter who didn’t receive all the notes from the original HR team, and the new guy thought we wanted project managers and that’s what he was serving up. Following that clarification, we received a steady stream of candidates that were either medical assistants or office managers, but who didn’t have any background in change management. It took a little over two months to actually receive a screened applicant who seemed capable of doing practice transformation. In the mean time, I was contemplating regular appointments with Miss Clairol to cover the grey hair that I was sure this scenario would cause me.

By then, I was handed off to a third recruiter, who explained what was going on. The hospital had outsourced that particular part of HR and the recruiters were actually contractors from a third party that also provided services for a multitude of non-healthcare organizations. After some additional level-setting, we had a decent pool of applicants and were off to the races for some video interviews.

I was excited about using the video platform to do an initial interview. Particularly for activities that are technology-heavy and people-focused, understanding how they interact with their device is a good test. Our first video interview was a disaster. The candidate was logged into the Webex session twice and was trying to use both a phone session and a computer microphone / speakers session at the same time. There was a horrible echo and everything I said was played back to me as it resonated around the applicant’s desk, which was right in front of a large sunny window so that the applicant was backlit and you couldn’t even see his facial expressions.

We spent 10 minutes of the interview trying to get him to hang up one session, or at least disconnect the audio, which he finally figured out. Still, he was left with two sessions. He must have been using a laptop for the camera, but looking at us on another device, because then we always got a shot of his right-side profile as he looked away from us. At that point, I knew it wasn’t going to be a good fit because if you can’t figure out how to talk directly to your interviewer, I’m not going to want to spend a ton of time with you.

It also became apparent that he was probably doing the interview from his current place of employment, as someone walked in and just started talking to him about his work without knowing that he was busy. That’s not a good sign, either. I began to wonder whether he was doing the interview using company property or what was going on, which makes you think that a candidate is likely to pull those kind of shenanigans on you if you’re foolish enough to hire them.

By the end of the call, the HR rep was as frustrated as I was. In our debrief, it seemed that he was even more motivated to try to find the right kind of candidate for us so we can get going on these projects. I’m getting rather impatient because my client wants to power ahead with transformation efforts even though they’re short-staffed relative to what they want to do and we haven’t finished building the methodologies and training the resources that we do have. It’s hard to convince the C-suite that sometimes you have to hurry up only to wait, and that sometimes you need to go slow at the beginning so that you can go quickly in the future.

I’m doing a lot of “managing up” on this engagement and helping them understand that their impatience is what got them to the place where they needed to bring in outside assistance and to get them to trust the process and trust the team. I’ve got another stack of candidates ready for interviews once we get the scheduling sorted, so let’s hope this week is a better one.

What’s your favorite interview question? Leave a comment or email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.

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