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August 31, 2021

Mission critical: strategies for recruiting healthcare employees

Hospital workers

It’s not news to you that healthcare is facing a staffing crisis. Nursing shortages particularly have been acute for a while now, and the pandemic has only deepened the challenge, which cuts across all types of care organizations in all regions. Employers are fiercely competing with one another for top talent.

So healthcare systems and community-based organizations have had to get super strategic about recruiting nurses and other care providers. Recruiting and staffing historically have been HR’s domain. But we’re seeing more marketing teams being called in to assist their HR colleagues with targeted, engaging campaigns to attract applicants. 

A Marketing Approach to Hiring 

Marketing typically gets involved to support a staffing initiative or focus — like launching a new NICU or expanding a behavioral health department — as opposed to general ongoing employment needs. Of course, the communication goals and tactics, even the language that you use, is completely different when you’re speaking to healthcare providers vs. your community audience. Because this work may be new to your team and falls on top of your existing to-do list, you’ll need to get up to speed quickly on marketing to healthcare workers. Here are four recommendations:

1. Do your homework. 

HR will provide job descriptions and candidate requirements, but your marketing team needs to dig deeper to understand who, exactly, you’re reaching. It’s not just about who you’re looking for, but also what they might be looking for from you. At the risk of generalizing, those in healthcare view their career not as a job but a calling. They’re personally invested in the work. 

So you need to identify the “soft” skills that are essential for the role. For a recent campaign to recruit nurses for an updated ICU, we created a survey that the client’s marketing department sent to existing employees to identify essential attributes in prospective candidates, like leadership (for senior roles), communication skills with both parents and doctors, and teamwork.

Given the hot competition for workers, you’ll also need to sell your organization and community. In years past, it was challenging to recruit practitioners to rural areas, but now we’re finding that some people are seeking the pace, affordability, and lifestyle of a small town. Talk about everything that appeals about the job and the location. 

A nurse

2. Create personas.

Armed with that insight, build personas that represent your ideal applicants. This marketing tactic is especially effective in a recruitment campaign where you’re targeting a very specific group or groups of people. Put names to these fictional people: Greta the nurse who has five years of experience and is looking to grow her career and help build a new department; she has a young family and is seeking a quieter community.

These personas will help you craft messaging that speaks directly to these types of candidates and appeals to their interests. And it also directs the channels you use to reach them. 

Healthcare professional looking at his mobile phone.

3. Go where your candidates are. 

An integrated campaign using myriad channels is a must, but those channels should be relevant to your audience(s) and focused in the areas where they live, work, and play. Digital advertising and paid social media make it easy to cast a wide net — and also to get really targeted by demographics and geography. If you’re a hospital system in Upstate New York and your personas are RNs who are looking for a rural lifestyle, for example, you might geo-target your online media to Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. If the positions you’re seeking to fill are primarily entry-level, consider a more localized campaign that adds print newspaper advertising, job fairs, and radio (which we’ve found to be surprisingly effective). Knowing your audience well also means you understand when to reach them: You can time your Facebook ads to a lunch break or shift change. 

4. Make applying easy.

Some of this — like the system your organization uses to intake and process job applications — is outside your control. But you can make it easy for potential candidates to find all the information they’re looking for and encourage them to take the next step and apply. Ask your HR partner to walk you through the hiring process, so you can communicate what interested candidates can expect. Remove as many barriers as you can: Minimize the amount of personal information a prospect has to provide up front, and if possible, don’t require them to create an account in order to learn more. 

It’s smart to create a microsite or separate landing page (apart from the organization’s general “we’re hiring” page) that functions as the campaign hub. The page should emphatically sell the benefits of working in this role for this provider in this community. Pitch any bonuses you may be offering: tuition reimbursement, moving stipend, and the like. Help the candidate get to know the team he’ll be working with by including testimonials from existing staffers that capture the culture and personal benefits of the role. 

It’s not cheap to hire people, in time, energy, or money. As a marketer, your task is to come as close as you can to finding the right people for your HR colleagues to pursue. It’s not just about qualifications, but also about attitude, passion, fit, and culture. If your organization is scrambling to fill positions quickly, let’s connect. We can help you design and launch a hiring campaign that works.  

Tenth Crow Creative is a communications agency that creates, aligns, and promotes the external and internal messaging for organizations that support living healthier lives.

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