Director of Talent Acquisition Kristie Griffin points to changes made system wide, in the last 18 months at Dignity Health as a part of the reason for the health care company winning Glassdoor’s Best Places to Interview Award in 2017. Despite morphing into a health care network of considerable size, the organization is committed to the founding principles of the Sisters of Mercy. At Dignity Health, kindness and compassion are not only practiced in hospitals and clinics, but in their attitude and actions in the acquisition of talent.
Founded in 1986, by the Sisters of Mercy to provide healthcare to all those in need, Dignity Health has grown into one of the largest health systems in the nation. The organization includes 400 care sites across a 22-state network, including 39 hospitals – 24 of which are Catholic and 15 are non-Catholic.
The entire staff’s commitment to humankindness defines the organization, as well as being the most compelling reason for potential candidates to seek employment, according to Griffin. Griffin joined Dignity Health in 2015 after 15 years working in the technology business in Silicon Valley. Since joining she has been involved in the collaborative effort to make behavioral training part of the interviewing process.
Griffin who is responsible for designing recruitment, workforce planning for 60,000 caregivers and staff and development strategies, says that Dignity Health designated humankindness as a core competency, a characteristic that is as carefully assessed as any other vital ability or talent. “The goal is to evaluate people in the right way,” says Griffin who is raising four children with her husband. “We’re figuring out if they’ll be a good cultural fit…I don’t like that phrase, but it’s one people understand.”
Many American businesses have used behavioral training in interviewing, to a greater or lesser degree, but Dignity Health has developed across the board standardized protocol used at every level, from the C-Suite to the maintenance teams. Just as there is a standardized method to ascertain job skill level, Dignity Health has developed a standardized method for measuring the kindness of individuals.
The 80 individuals on the talent acquisition team have been trained to ask questions designed to reveal the interviewees’ essential character, and then, to probe beyond the surface in order to ascertain their degree of humankindness, compassion, and empathy. “We want to know if they share our core values,” says Griffin. “It’s just as important as their skills and abilities. It is what Dignity Health is about.”
“A candidate can’t study or prepare for these questions. You either are, or you’re not.”
While the team looks at a candidate, the potential employee gets a sense of the organization, as well. Griffin’s group is coached to make sure that they are all consistently compassionate and empathetic during what for many is a trying time. “We work hard to prepare the candidate,” says Griffin. “We over communicate in a sense. We want to make sure that they understand the company and the process. We tell them to take a close look at our mission and our core values.”
One of the aspects of the job, always covered upfront, is that no one working at Dignity Health is required to be Catholic. The staff point out that there are non-Catholic hospitals in the group as well as many staffers who don’t practice that faith. Other details are attended to before the interviewee arrives, from making sure there is water, and time to take a breather to calming them if they’re nervous. The talent acquisition members are encouraged to say something to the candidate if they see they’re nervous rather than ignoring how that person might be feeling. A few words can make a difference in their composure.
The team is well aware of what has come to be called “the black hole,” that time between the final interview and hearing from the company. Emails and calls are immediately returned and if a decision is made they are instructed to let the potential hire know immediately, whether it’s a no or yes. “We are proud of the fact that many of our candidates who didn’t get a job, write and tell us that despite the disappointing outcome they liked the experience,” says Griffin. “There can be no greater compliment than that.”
Dignity Health is proud not only of their “humankindness” initiative, they point to an innovative program brought to them by one of the acquisitions staff. A high performing interviewer, the employee refused a promotion. Instead, she presented a proposal for what has become “an in-house headhunter group.” Griffin points out that besides the successful recruiting done by the group, they have saved 100s of thousands of dollars not paying outside agencies.
Griffin does not shy away from the question of how to handle unconscious bias in the interviewing process. The solution at Dignity Health is organic according to Griffin. It’s common for hospitals to have a panel interview candidates. “When you have different perspectives and opinions, you decrease the possibility of bias,” says Griffin. Though she didn’t use panels in her Silicon Valley work she has come to see the value. “Even if we have two people interviewing and then debrief after, you get different ways of looking at the possible employee and avoiding bias.”
In the increasingly tight race for talent in health care, Dignity Health stands by humankindness as the most valuable asset they have in attracting talent. According to Griffin most people who apply, want a larger purpose in their life. They want to help. If they’re not directly healers they are still contributing to another’s life. “That idea seems to ‘sell’ candidates,” says Griffin. “Even in the introductory interactions and then interviewing, I think we show who we are.”