Consider these results released in February of a survey of healthcare employers:
- 35 percent are worried about retaining top talent,
- 39 percent are worried about their ability to pay competitive wages,
- 10 percent are worried they don’t have enough money to recruit talent, and
- 37 percent have openings for which they cannot find qualified candidates … 11 percentage points above the national average.
That survey was commissioned by MiracleWorkers.com, CareerBuilder’s job board for the healthcare industry, and its outcome reveals the effect the challenging economic recession has had on healthcare recruiting. That’s particularly true when it comes to attracting and retaining high-level executives, many of whom have altered their career path to sit tight in the midst of uncertainty.
“You see a lot of people hesitant to leave their positions quickly,” said Teresa Kingery, principal with Nashville-based Kingery & Associates, a corporate recruiting and placement firm. About 25 percent of Kingery’s clients are from the healthcare industry, and the firm predominantly recruits talent at the director level and above.
Traditionally, she said, executives of that caliber have been “opportunistic” and ready to take a risk that promised reward, especially in Nashville where spinoffs and startups are common. “You’re still always going to have those mavericks, don’t get me wrong, but when I’m talking to executives, most want you to check back later,” she said. “Locally, people are staying put unless they are already into that startup/acquisition mode and that’s what they do for a living. They’re risk takers by nature anyway.”
Kingery defined her job as “adding value to the client with a valuable candidate, not just matching resumes to jobs posted,” and she said she’s found herself recruiting nationally for local jobs. “Ideally, clients would like to have local talent because that’s a lower expense, but at the same time, they encourage a new mindset and new blood,” she explained.
Yet, for clients that haven’t recruited a high-level executive in a while, they may discover that the economy is making long-distance negotiations more complex. For example, bringing in talent from an area where real estate isn’t moving can be fraught with complications
“Can you afford to pay two mortgages? What’s your ability to relocate on your own dime? Those are questions you never really had to ask before because there would be a relocation package. It was never a concern that they couldn’t sell their house,” Kingery said. “That world has changed. Companies hiring may not budget like they used to for all those relos, because they don’t want to carry a mortgage on a house that now may not sell for three years that might have sold in three months before the recession.”
For C-suite executives, Kingery added, this usually isn’t a problem. “We know the salaries that executives make here in a lot of our public companies in healthcare. We’re not talking about them, because they could move on their own dime and buy 20 houses,” she said. However, for a younger executive at the director level with two children in private school, it’s a different story. Thus, the logistics of executive recruiting, today more than ever, are “unique to the individual,” she said.
Kingery said two trends have emerged as a result: The first is a lengthening of the recruiting cycle. A hiring process that might have taken four to eight weeks a few years ago now takes as many as 16 weeks. The second is an uptick in the use of recruiting firms like hers.
Persuading healthcare executive prospects to take a look at Nashville has never been a tough sell, Kingery noted, even in these hard times, and she recalled a recent conversation with a colleague from another state who contended that cities like Dallas and Miami are surpassing Nashville in the “healthcare mecca” category. Yet Kingery disagreed.
“We just still continue to see so many entities rising out of the ground or spinning off because of the talent here,” she said. “There’s so much behind the scenes that goes on here that nobody would know unless they’re an integral part of that. That’s why it’s exciting to be here. Look at robotics or biotechnology. It’s not happening overnight, but it’s happening. It’s putting us on the map.”