This article was originally published in Healthcare Business Today.
By Jeff Gorski, Aerotek Director of Business Development
When hiring in-demand skill sets, finding a trained population of available workers is increasingly rare in today’s candidate-driven talent landscape. This is particularly true in the booming healthcare industry — according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 16 million people were employed in the industry in 2016, a figure that is expected to grow 19 percent by 2026.
As the healthcare industry continues to shift away from fee-for-service reimbursements to value-based care and reimbursement models, industry executives are focused on lowering costs and competing for talent, according to Staffing Industry Analysts’ 2019 Healthcare Staffing Market Assessment. Because healthcare staffing is uniquely sensitive to economic, healthcare and regulatory trends, employers often take advantage of the flexibility and scalability of contingent talent. As a result, temp staffing in the industry is projected to hit $17.4 billion in 2019, 4 percent higher than 2018.
This combination of economic and market issues can create significant obstacles for companies who need a high volume of trained workers.
That was the case for a major sales and marketing organization for Medicare and health insurance segments that needed to hire 100 licensed health agents. Although the company had tapped the supply of already-licensed workers in the region, the volume fell far short of what the company needed.
Licensed health agents for this company handle inbound contacts, focusing on member acquisition and engagement. The agents describe different insurance plans and consult with members to help find the right plan for them. They need to be comfortable talking on the phone while also accessing internal systems for customer data. Although the positions provide information on upgrades to existing policies, there is more of a focus on finding the right policy instead of a strict emphasis on sales. However, employees with these skills were also in high demand by other companies and even other industries — high-end retail and restaurants, as well as organizations with significant customer service needs.
Complicating the recruitment process was that these positions are primarily short-term positions lasting from summer until January or February of the following year. Often though, the top 20 percent or so of top performers were kept on all year and others were rehired the following open enrollment season.
To increase the qualified talent pool, the company began offering two-week, “fast-track” training sessions that led to job offers if a trainee completed the sessions and passed the licensure tests. However, attrition was high for the unpaid training, in part because trainees who received an offer for a paid position at any time during the training would inevitably leave.
The company decided to begin compensating trainees to take the courses to become agents licensed in Life, Accident and Health or Sickness, as well as paying for them to take each licensing test up to three times, according to Zach Weatherman, Aerotek account manager.
The classroom training is a proprietary mix of instruction, practice exercises and job shadowing of successful agents. The training culminates in one last practice test on the last day, which trainees take until they can achieve a minimum score of 80 percent. During the sessions, trainees are paid $13/hour, which bumps up to $18/hour base pay with an opportunity to earn commissions once they begin working.
Once onboard, the new employees continue with-the-job training and a gradual transition into a full roster of customer contacts, notes Weatherman.
Implementing the new program has eased hiring woes for the company and substantially increased the retention rates among fast-track employees. By providing licensing for employees, they also help their employees take the first steps to a lifelong career. Although the program is especially well-suited to customer service positions in the busy healthcare marketplace, it could easily be replicated in other positions and industries where high-volume, skilled or licensed employees are needed.
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