City of Hope Is Leading the Way to Create a Talent Pipeline for Hispanics in Healthcare

04/21/2015 10:39 am ET | Updated Jun 21, 2015

Like many healthcare providers in the Los Angeles area, and well beyond to healthcare organizations throughout the United States, City of Hope has recognized the growing need for clinical professionals and staff that more closely mirror the patients it serves in its catchment area. And with a local population that is nearly half Hispanic, that means recruiting more Hispanics into the industry, as well as providing much needed career development opportunities. But whereas most in the industry are just beginning to acknowledge the need, City of Hope has taken the lead to recruit more Hispanics into the industry and also has started to build a Hispanic talent pipeline for the immediate and not so distant future.

According to Ann Miller, senior director of talent acquisition and workforce development, "Even when people in the industry recognize the need for more Hispanics, or just a more diverse workforce, it can feel overwhelming trying to figure out what actions to take and how to build a strategy around it. But once you see the data laid out in front of you, and see that 46 percent of your primary service area is Hispanic, you realize it would be optimal to figure out how to recruit a workforce that looks more like the population you are serving. Beyond that, it's also important to employ a bilingual staff that can speak the language and understand the culture to best meet the needs of the community being served."

Once you recognize the need, it's time to start asking the questions that will help you fill the gaps:

  • How do you find and appeal to the types of people you need to start building relationships with? Who are the influencers and the connectors?
  • How do you get your recruitment team looking toward the future and building a pipeline, when limited resources are focused on more immediate needs?
  • How do you get buy-in from senior management and enlist other departments throughout the organization?
  • How do you partner with others in the industry who recognize the need but have yet to become active in the pursuit of common goals?

Here's how City of Hope has started to answer these questions as it takes the lead in addressing these timely industry issues. Stephanie Neuvirth, Chief Human Resources and Diversity Officer, has said that it's not easy to build a diverse healthcare or biomedical pipeline of talent, even when you understand the supply and demand of your primary service area and the business case becomes clearer. "Few in the industry are taking the helicopter perspective that is needed to really see the linkage between the different variables that must be factored in to solve the problem," she says.

Even in healthcare, it's not simple, and it takes time to develop the paths, the relationships and the pipeline to cause real and sustainable change. It takes linking a workforce talent strategy to the broader mission and strategic goals of the organization. And it takes collaboration with the community, schools, government, parents and everyone who touches the pipeline to help achieve the necessary and vital missing pieces of the puzzle.

Talent Acquisition and Workforce Development

What you first have to realize is that there is an immediate but also a long-term gap to fill, which represent two sides of the same coin: talent acquisition and workforce development. We know we can best serve our community by mirroring the community that we serve, and that doesn't stop with the talent that we attract today; it's an imperative that depends on the talent pipeline that we build for the future.

City of Hope's approach has been to start fast and strong with some immediate steps that can then be built upon and cascaded out into a longer term strategy for the future. The good news is that if your goal is to look like the community you serve, you don't have to look far for the talent you need. It's right in your own backyard. But there's still a lot of work to be done in terms of educating people about potential careers in healthcare -- clinical and otherwise -- developing the workforce skills and knowledge that they will need, and planting the seeds in the next generation.

It's particularly disheartening to hear about the young people graduating from high school and college who can't get jobs, when there are growing shortages in the healthcare industry - the nation's third largest industry, and projected to be its second largest in just seven years. According to a recent report by The Economist, U.S. businesses are going to depend heavily on Latinos - the country's fastest-growing and what it calls "irreversible" population -- to fill the gaps not just in healthcare but across all industries.

Teresa McCormac, nurse recruiter, is one of the people at City of Hope working to build the Hispanic talent pipeline, beginning with the need for Spanish speaking nurses. She is responsible for elevating City of Hope's presence in the community through word of mouth referrals and by getting active in broader outreach online, in publications and at local, college and national events, such as the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN) annual conference taking place in Anaheim, CA this July.

"It's important to have a passionate champion for the candidates, as well as our hiring managers and the organization. My role is to get the word out into the community about City of Hope and connect with the talent we need to fill our current and future openings," she says.

This requires a multi-prong approach to recruitment efforts, where you must act to attract candidates not only for current needs, but down the road five-ten years, and even further into the future.

This begs the question: how do you get more Hispanics and other diverse students interested in the sciences and considering careers in healthcare?

Traditionally, recruiters focus on those currently working in healthcare to fill immediate gaps, as well as those working in other industries with transferable skills, who might be interested in working in healthcare in a non-clinical capacity, such as IT or marketing. They also look at colleges with nursing and other clinical programs -- particularly those with high concentrations of Hispanics and other diverse students -- where they can conduct outreach efforts, build partnerships and establish a presence.

But building a talent pipeline requires that you reach students well before the college years, when they are still in high school, and even earlier as middle and grade-schoolers. It takes time to get the message out there and have it stick, so the bigger and bolder you can go, the better. That was City of Hope's thinking behind the launch of its Diversity Health Care Career Expo in September 2014, which made quite an impact with the community and opened eyes to the variety of career opportunities within healthcare. It also opened City of Hope's eyes to the level of interest from the community when 1500 people showed up for this first of its kind event.

What started as an idea for a diversity career fair to fill immediate positions quickly grew to encompass a workforce development component to include students, parents, as well as working professionals interested in transitioning into healthcare. The Career Expo brought a level of awareness never seen before in the community -- and did so very quickly. For example, it allowed healthcare professionals to connect the dots between math and science classes students were taking and how this learning applied in the real world of healthcare -- and the different careers these types of classes are helping to prepare them for if they stick with them. It also allowed parents to understand how to help their children prepare for jobs that are available and will continue to be available in the future. They also gained insights into how growing up with smartphones and other electronic devices has given their children a distinct advantage that previous generations didn't have -- enabling them to leverage their everyday use of technology into transferable skills that could lead towards a career in Information Technology, which offers a very promising career path within the healthcare and biomedicine industries.

Catching students early on to spark their interest and expose them to healthcare careers and professionals who can encourage and support them along the way requires that you go out into the community as well. Toward that end, City of Hope has partnered with Duarte Unified School District and Citrus College on a program called TEACH (Train, Educate and Accelerate Careers in Healthcare).

According to Tamara Robertson, senior manager of recruitment, the TEACH partnership provides students with the opportunity to gain college credit while still in high school by taking college-level classes at no cost. This puts them on the fast track to higher education and career readiness by giving them essential skills and capabilities to enter the workforce soon after graduating high school, or to continue their education with up to one year of college coursework already completed. Eighteen students were accepted into the program in its first year.

Each partner plays a valuable role in the program. City of Hope provides students with opportunities to gain first-hand exposure to healthcare IT by giving overviews of the various areas within IT, providing summer internships, and offering mentoring and development interactions. Duarte High School is the conduit for the program by selecting the students for the program and facilitating the learning, and Citrus College develops the curriculum that enables students to earn college credits and IT certifications. It's ideal for students who may not have the means to continue on to college, but can work for an organization like City of Hope that offers opportunities to start their IT career as a Helpdesk or Technology Specialist. In addition, they can take advantage of tuition reimbursement should they choose to further their education and development.

In today's world, social media must be in the recruitment mix, especially if you want to engage with Hispanics who index higher on time spent on social media than the general population and any other group. Statistically, 80 percent of Hispanics utilize social media compared to 75 percent of African Americans and 70 percent of non-Hispanic whites. It's also a great way to reach not just active candidates in search of a new position, but passive ones employed elsewhere whose interest may be peaked when a more interesting opportunity presents itself.

This is where Aggie Cooke, branding and digital specialist, comes in -- leveraging social media as a core component of City of Hope's outreach efforts to potential candidates. She takes a three-legged approach to the use of social media for recruitment:

1. Branding - offering relevant content that portrays the culture and appeals to a candidate's values and broader career aspirations;

2. Targeting - identifying potential candidates who have skills and experiences that the organization needs today and in the future; and

3. Engaging - creating a relationship by inviting candidates to dialog with City of Hope.

You can reach more people through social media -- even if they're not active job seekers -- by posting information that is relevant to their field and interests. For example, oncology nurses will be interested in what you have to say about the latest developments in the world of oncology.

Though it can seem overwhelming with so many messages out there competing for people's attention, you can break through with content that is authentic, timely and purposeful. You can also make an impact by tailoring your content to the medium you are using. For example, a story about a scientific breakthrough at City of Hope would play well on LinkedIn, while pictures of happy employees taking a Zumba class together would engage potential candidates on Instagram. Social media also enables you to expand the reach and prolong the life of live events. For example, attendees of the Career Expo last year engaged online with live tweets and Instagram pictures from the event and later provided comments and feedback about their experience that will be instrumental in planning this year's event.

Going forward, successful programs and events, like TEACH and the Diversity Health Care Career Expo, will be expanded upon, as City of Hope continues to lead the way in talent acquisition, workforce development and creating a talent pipeline for Hispanics and the future of healthcare.