Recruitment Issues Facing Human Services Organizations
As mental health gains political, cultural, and international attention, more Americans are seeking help from licensed, qualified professionals in their area. While industry executives are encouraged by the increasing demand for services, they’re currently faced with the challenge of adequately staffing their organizations to meet the current needs of their communities, let alone grow their workforce for the future. While recruiting and talent issues are common across industries, human services organizations face unique issues when it comes to recruiting, engaging, and retaining top talent in critical positions.
With that said, it is no surprise that industry executives are becoming laser focused on improving their recruitment efforts this year. The DATIS 2018 State of Workforce Management report, which identifies the current challenges and priorities of human services professionals, uncovered that 65% of executives identified recruiting and retention as a top priority. We know that within this industry, vacant positions mean lost revenue. This is especially true within highly utilized or credentialed positions, like clinicians and physiatrists, which are usually (of course) the toughest to recruit. These factors necessitate quick and effective solutions to recruiting issues within this industry.
Here are the top 3 recruitment issues that human services organizations are currently facing, and some tips on how to overcome them.
Issue: Attracting Talent
Solution: In an ideal scenario, executives would have numerous, qualified applicants per open position within their organization. The more applicants that apply for a job, the more choices the employer has, increasing their chances of hiring the best candidate. Unfortunately, it seems that attracting top talent is a major recruitment issue for human services organizations, with only 22% of respondents saying that they do a "very good" or "excellent" job at recruiting talent in the 2018 State of Workforce Management survey. In fact, 41% admitted that their organization did only a "poor" or "fair" job in this area. Clearly, many executives see room for improvement.
Three of the main factors affecting an organizations' ability to attract talent include the barriers to apply, the reach of job postings, and budgeted salaries. Many organizations are using outdated tools and methodology for collecting applications and sharing job posts, which shrinks their applicant pool significantly. The removal of barriers to apply, and streamlined processes for quickly reviewing and segmenting applicants is critical. Prospective applicants are used to buying products on Amazon with one click, so five pages of data entry (online or on paper) is going to cause a lot of drop off. Narrow down the application fields to what you absolutely need to know when initially reviewing an application, and leave additional information to be collected during a phone screen.
Given that many human services organizations are working on tight budgets and struggle to compete with candidates on salary, one of the most cost effective and most successful, ways to attract top talent is by word-of-mouth employee referral programs. Having employees share job openings with friends, former colleagues, and social media connections can boost a job posting’s exposure and increase the credibility of an applicant simultaneously. Offering referral bonuses will also incentivize employees to help internal recruitment efforts. If budget is an issue, referral bonuses don't need to mean cash. Try offering extra vacation days, company swag, or partnering with local business to provide gift cards or discounts to employees that refer candidates. Additionally, providing the bonus only after the referred employee has been with the organization for a set amount of time can help incentivize engagement and retention as well.
Outside of word-of-mouth referrals, executives can guarantee that their job postings get in front of the right job seekers at the right time by investing in recruiting software. Modern recruiting software automatically posts job postings to leading job boards, and when potential candidates hit ‘Apply,’ they get redirected back to the organization’s personal career site. This not only expedites the application process for job seekers, but it also helps organizations view, organize, compare, and take appropriate action with all submitted applications. With the help of such software solutions, executives can even customize their applicant site to showcase their organization’s mission, benefits, and culture.
Issue: Offering Competitive Salaries and Benefits
Solution: When asked to identify the biggest challenge they face when it comes to recruiting, more than half of executives admitted struggling with offering applicants’ competitive salaries and benefits. As previously stated, many human services organizations don’t have the ability to offer enormous salaries with flashy benefits packages due to their tight budgets and limited resources. Fortunately, there are ways for executives to overcome this hurdle with the help of a well-thought out recruiting strategy.
It’s fair to say that the majority of human services professionals aren’t in it for money. The human services workforce is made up of difference makers, not money chasers. Employees in this industry are empathetic, caring, patient, and most of all, they’re passionate. They want to make a positive impact in their community. Lead your recruiting efforts with the organization’s mission, vision, and values by including this information in job descriptions and postings to help motivate job seekers to "go for the good, not the gold."
In terms of benefits, executives can get creative to differentiate themselves without breaking the bank or disrupting employee output. HR Magazine recently released a list of cost-effective benefits that executives can begin implementing into their organizations. Aside from benefits, going the extra mile to make a more inviting, fun, and flexible workplace to help overcome the salary and benefit issue. It might not seem like much, but celebrating employee birthdays, taking team lunches, and being flexible with working hours and PTO can go a long way with current and future employees.
Issue: Finding Qualified Applicants
Solution: Over 140 participants of the 2018 State of Workforce Management report revealed that they actively struggle finding qualified applicants. Given that many human services positions require some form of credentials, collecting and validating these credentials usually extends the recruiting process and shrinks the applicant right pool off the bat. Unfortunately, there is no real way around this obstacle is it’s crucial that all applicants have the required paperwork to assume the position they are applying for, which is especially true when considering the expensive fines and costly penalties associated with noncompliance. However, there are ways to streamline the process.
For starters, all job descriptions should include the position’s requirements, including specific credentials. That’s a simple way to make sure that all job seekers that truly read through your listing understand what will be needed of them if hired. That will help decrease the amount of ‘out of place’ applicants from getting to the employer by formulating the credential requirement as a "knock out" for candidates. To find more qualified applicants by volume, recruiters will have to be willing do some proactive networking. Search LinkedIn or other social sites to find people working in the same or similar positions at other organizations and do some soft outreach to see if they, or anyone they know may be looking for a change. Additionally, try visiting conferences and attending events where CEUs are provided and talking with the professionals there to grow your potential talent market. These efforts can provide insight that will help executives better understand where the qualified applicants are hiding in their local job market.
As human services organizations continue to grow and serve more clients, it’s essential that executives are onboarding the right talent, to the right positions, at the right time. While the struggle to attract talent, offer competitive salaries and benefits, and locate qualified applicants is likely to continue for the foreseeable future within this industry, there are strategies and solutions to help overcome these hurdles.
For more information on human services recruiting, download the DATIS Recruiting Datasheet.