CEO SUMMARY: Headhunters regularly see the best and worst of clinical laboratories in the areas of medical technologist recruiting and retention. Based on her experience, veteran recruiter Peggy McKee offers 10 proven strategies that every laboratory can use to improve both its recruitment of med techs, as well as retention of staff. These strategies reinforce each other and complement the expanded Web presence that McKee recommends be maintained by every lab.
TEN MORE EFFECTIVE STRATEGIES to improve medical technologist (MT) recruitment and retention were offered by Peggy McKee, CEO for PHC Consulting in Celina, Texas. These complement her advice for clinical laboratories and pathology groups to get on the Web and use social networking as a recruitment tool. (See Pages 14-15.)
STRATEGY NUMBER 1
“What makes the use of internships such a great strategy is the fact that you can try before you buy,” noted McKee. “Internships also are called job shadowing.
“An intern can be a high school or college student,” she said. “Don’t overlook professionals with biology and chemistry degrees. Their participation as an intern is one way they can earn certification as a medical technologist. These people are hungry for the opportunity to experience the workplace and to work in your laboratory. And, it may not cost anything if it is
an unpaid internship.
“Your lab’s internship program can be for six to eight weeks or three months,” continued McKee. “But also offer internships that may last for one to five days. This is a way for interns to rotate through different sections of the laboratory and see what happens within each of these sections during a real work day.
“Internships do not require a lot of structure,” she added. “You can learn if each of the interns shows up on time, whether they can communicate intelligently, and if they ask questions that demonstrate that they would fit well in your laboratory. At the same time, the interns get to see what your staff is like. They can learn about the personality of the laboratory, as well as the positives and negatives of working there.
STRATEGY NUMBER 2
“Next, consider hiring outside the United States,” McKee said. “Every month, I get email requests from client companies who want to know if I will represent medical technologists from India or the Philippines in the United States. Some U.S. laboratories have a high number of these folks filling positions.
“Hiring outside of this country can be challenging,” she added. “Not only are
there cultural issues to consider, but the paperwork and regulations can be complex. However, often these candidates are highly motivated and hard working. If you can find a laboratory doing this, have a conversation to see how it’s working. Learn from that lab’s successes and mistakes before attempting this on your own.
STRATEGY NUMBER 3
Better Job Descriptions
“Write better job descriptions!” advised McKee. “I am amazed at how dull some job descriptions are. It makes me wonder if the person who wrote such a unappealing job description would apply for that position. You’ll reap great rewards by putting more time and thought into writing effective and thorough job descriptions.
“Some employers will pay more to sponsor jobs on job search sites. When they do, I recommend that they spend the time necessary to develop a job description that is specific, that ‘sells’ the opportunity, and that provides details about the compensation,” she said. “You don’t have to show the exact pay; a pay range is fine. If you match workers’ 401(k) contributions, include that information too.
“In fact, it’s best to over communicate with candidates so that they fully understand what you want from a candidate that applies for each job opening,” McKee explained. “Qualified candidates are much more likely to apply for a job that is fully explained than one that isn’t.
STRATEGY NUMBER 4
“Your on-line presence is a tremendous opportunity and most laboratories fail to take advantage of it,” observed McKee. “I recommend that every laboratory maintain a continuous job posting for medical technologists. Some human resources professionals may be uncomfortable with this idea, but candidates know that you will post jobs that may not always be available. If so, you can add, ‘No current position, but anticipating growth in the future.’
“Once candidates apply on-line, then you have their name and contact information in your database,” she noted. “These candidates should then begin to receive your electronic newsletter, which is my next suggested strategy.
STRATEGY NUMBER 5
“Your laboratory should produce an electronic newsletter at least once a month,” McKee advised. “When I started work as a recruiter, I did an electronic newsletter once every six months, and then I moved to quarterly. Every time I send out the newsletter, great things happen. As a recruiter, I’m always looking for candidates, job orders, speaking engagements, and other opportunities. Recruiting is like fishing, and all these steps are like setting hooks. Every time I send out the newsletter, I get 10 or 15 responses back and someone says, ‘Call me if you get this kind of a job.’
STRATEGY NUMBER 6
Recruit At Universities
“Your lab should regularly recruit at the university level,” she continued. “Some labs can identify 10 colleges and universities in their service areas but not every lab can do so. Select the college training programs with which you want to work and develop an internship program with each one, if possible. With high visibility on these campuses, your laboratory will get more qualified candidates anytime you publicize a job opening.
STRATEGY NUMBER 7
Assess Your Talent
“Number seven is assess your talent with personality profiling tools,” McKee said. “Labs that do this report a better rate of staff retention. Your lab’s staff turnover drains resources and depletes your talent pool because you lose people who are trained on your equipment and who know your laboratory and your pathologists.
“That’s why I recommend using personality assessments such as the DISC profile (which stands for dominance, influential, steadiness, and conscientiousness),” she explained. “In my own business, I use DISC profiles for assessing personalities because there are certain personalities that don’t work in my personal lab, if you will.
“For any laboratory that is experiencing unacceptable rates of staff turnover, I recommend that it conduct a baseline assessment of those folks: 1) who have recently exited; 2) who are coming into the organization; and, 3) who are among the top-performing individuals within your laboratory organization.
“Among medical technologists, typically, the most consistent performers will have high SC attributes (meaning steady and conscientious) and lower DI characteristics (meaning dominance and influence),” she said. “This translates into long term job satisfaction. Were your lab to hire someone with a high DI, he or she may be exceptional on the job, but the role of medical technologist is not likely to satisfy their personality. Unless you promote them into management within 18 months, they often leave.
“DISC and similar profiling tools are useful in retaining med techs,” added McKee. “It’s much less expensive to keep existing lab staff than to continuously hire new medical technologists.
STRATEGY NUMBER 8
Use a Mentor Program
“Another effective way to increase retention—and recruit top candidates—is to revive or initiate a mentor program,” recommended McKee. “When staff members are mentored, they recognize that your lab is educating them and that they are being prepared for other opportunities. Mentoring challenges participating staff in positive ways. It also helps you identify staff who could become supervisors or lead techs.
STRATEGY NUMBER 9
Engage Their Intellect
“Making it possible to rotate around the laboratory is a useful strategy,” McKee said. “Medical technologists often feel as if their job is like working in a factory, performing production-type work by moving tubes from here to there. Use work rotation to help them engage their scientific knowledge and experience to the benefit of the lab and patient care. This is a positive factor in staff retention and helps in recruiting solid performers.
“Be proactive about making special activities available to staff,” noted McKee. “Engage your Web-savvy staff to assist with the lab’s Facebook and MySpace accounts. Have them write articles and identify authors for blog articles. Your lab’s most ambitious med techs will see these as ways to develop additional skills.
“Remember, they took this job because they have a deep interest in science,” she added. “Therefore, get them involved in evaluating equipment or some other task that taps their scientific background.
STRATEGY NUMBER 10
Show Some Love
“Don’t forget to show your staff some love,” urged McKee. “What would a $5 gift card to a coffee shop or a book store do for your staff? What would be the effect of giving an hour off early? Or, lunch with a supervisor or with a pathologist? What could those things do to pro- vide staff with a feeling of participation, involvement, and value? Keep in mind that this kind of staff enthusiasm must be communicated to new job candidates.”
Opportunity To Improve
Collectively, McKee’s 10 medical technologist recruiting strategies make an important point: effective staff recruiting and retention requires a comprehensive and sustained effort. Few laboratory organizations devote effort to all 10 strategies. However, that creates an opportunity for any lab to improve its med tech recruitment and retention by doing better at even just a couple more of these strategies.