'Just hiring staff' is ineffective. Exec from Providence shares tips on effective recruiting

Michael McClain is the executive director of ambulatory surgery at Renton, Wash.-based Providence.

Mr. McClain will serve on the panels "Baby Boomers to Gen Z: How to Inspire Team Greatness and Engage Staff" and "Hospital Ownership, Joint Ventures, Noncompetes and More: Key Issues on the Horizon" at Becker’s ASC Annual Meeting. As part of an ongoing series, Becker’s is talking to healthcare leaders who plan to speak at the conference on Oct. 27-29 in Chicago.

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Question: What is the smartest thing you've done in the last year to set your organization up for success? 

Michael McClain: Within the last year, I've aggressively pursued OR utilization, revenue cycle, and labor productivity metrics in every ASC —  even across those ASCs managed by outside managers. Despite the value scaled management partners can bring to health systems, hospital JV leadership teams must hold each ASC manager accountable to focus on the little things. Basic blocking and tackling are critical to success, and hospital ASC leaders can’t take their eye off the ball when managing their ASCs and their managers.

Q: What are you most excited about right now and what makes you nervous? 

MM: Cardiac, expanded spine and robotic-assisted services are rapidly progressing in both interest and general acceptance. However, with the increased complexity of care comes increased costs (labor, supplies, disposables) and an increased need to be hypervigilant about clinical quality. Payors continue to put downward pressure on ASCs, at a time when we are expanding services, and that tension makes all of our ASC partners nervous. As hospital ASC leaders, we need to be sure that we have both the clinical expertise and alignment in our ASCs as well as do our homework on the reimbursement piece.

Q: How are you thinking about growth over the next 12 months? 

MM: We are laser-focused on heavily leaning in the optimization of our current ASC footprint while growing strategically at scale. The first and second waves of the pandemic taught health systems a lot about the value (and limitations) of scaling ASC management partners in our portfolio and how the stability and creativity of our scaled partners lend heavily to our long-term success. So, as we look to expand our partnerships, we continue to look to partner and grow with those organizations that see the value of a fully engaged and committed hospital partner. Our organization has much to offer potential ASC partners from a value proposition standpoint. Having the right strategic alignments at scale can truly improve the care and stability of all our ASCs.

Q: What will healthcare executives and leaders need to be effective leaders for the next five years?

MM: It seems like every day, there is a new player in the ASC space, be it private equity, large medical groups, insurance carriers, or even tech and sales giants entering the fray. While those parties bring big purse strings and expertise, many of these organizations lack the deep relationships and multilevel community connections that local health systems and medical groups have. In my mind, the MOST important aspect of maintaining and growing our businesses and margins is maintaining and improving our relationships with our physicians and community leaders. Those relationships help organizations weather the storms of pandemics, capital challenges, regulatory changes, and growth. That is not to say that being well-informed and constantly vigilant in observing market trends is unimportant. Still, the focus needs to be on improving and expanding the connectivity between organizations to be better prepared to adapt and iterate to meet the rapidly evolving needs of our physicians, patients and communities.

Q: What is your strategy for recruiting and retaining great teams? 

MM: Truly focusing on caregivers and leaders as individuals with a whole-person approach to leading and recruiting, and not just hiring "staff," is critical. Organizations have commoditized leadership and line staff for too long, looking to squeeze more and more productivity out of a steadily declining labor force. If the great resignation has taught us anything, the concept of work-life balance is not an option in high-functioning organizations. What that means for us in the ASC JV space is continually focusing on caregiver retention and personal/professional growth as an alternative to the race to the bottom in escalating wages. Providing truly diverse compensation packages, including educational support, family support, training, and upward mobility, can effectively recruit long-term, stable talent. When combined with sign-on bonuses AND retention/wage adjustments for the existing teams — the result can be a much more stable workforce than is seen with wage adjustments alone.

At Providence, we also find that one of our greatest recruitment and retention strategies continually reinforces our commitment to our Mission and community focus as internal analysis shows that resonance with our mission is critical for short- and long-term retention. This resonance with the mission is key across both our wholly owned ASCs as well as our JVs, as we find caregivers that find alignment with our larger commitment to provide care for all patients, including the poor and vulnerable, feel more engaged in their work, feel more ownership in their organization and the important role ASCs play in lowering the overall cost of care while expanding care for all.

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