Penn Medicine Is Using Continuous Improvement to Achieve Positive Results in its Recruitment Process

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We don't have to tell you that the process of hiring new staff can be fraught with work, stress, bureaucracy, frustration, and a host of other emotions. After all, if you're reading this article, you probably have at least some experience in the field of human resources.

But few truly understand the scale of the problems which can beset human resources departments in this regard, and much of the problem lies in the onboarding process. Eighty-eight percent of organizations fail to onboard new employees well. In a job market where unemployment is low and job openings are high, more power lies in the hands of candidates than ever before. Nonetheless, those organizations with a great onboarding process can improve employee retention by as much as 82%. And with hiring costing a significant amount both in terms of cost and resources, anything which can improve retention is to be welcomed.

Penn Medicine network member Lancaster General in Lancaster, Pennsylvania understood this issue and wanted to devise a new strategy to improve its own hiring and onboarding process.

Lancaster General

As a massive 590-bed facility, Lancaster General knew all too well how difficult it could be to make sure new staff hit the ground running and were able to slot efficiently into its existing operations. In 2018 alone, the hospital hired more than 2,500 new employees.

To help support the human resources needs of the hospital, an idea card strategy was implemented to identify the main pain points in the process of identifying quality candidates, arranging and coordinating interviews, and managing the onboarding process once offers had been received and accepted.

The resulting continuous improvement tool — dubbed A3 — was implemented to identify and eliminate the root cause of a problem or reduce waste through a structured testing cycle of Plan, Do, Check, and Act.

"We began the A3 process in October 2018," said Director of Recruitment and Talent Acquisition for Lancaster General, Kurt Stillwagon. "With the help of our Performance Improvement coach, we quickly identified that the amount of time it takes to onboard a new employee could not be easily adjusted because of necessary training and the four-week leave notice that has become an industry standard."

The process didn't end there, however. Since that time, Lancaster General has held a weekly meeting in which it could discuss and evaluate the progress made by A3 and use the insights gathered to help drive change.


Through the A3 policy and ongoing evaluation, the team at Lancaster General identified three main pain points with its hiring process. These recurring challenges could then be tackled head on and streamlined as much as possible by, for example, removing unnecessary administrative tasks.

To fill positions more quickly and effectively, Lancaster General knew it had to overhaul the way it communicated with new hires as following up with candidates was causing duplicate steps for recruiters and adding more time to related tasks.

"When it comes to employment, the recruiter, hiring manager, and new employee all have a responsibility to complete a list of tasks," said Manager of Talent Acquisition, Scarlett McGary. "If the items are not uploaded on time or completed correctly, it can cause a domino effect, delaying when the employee can begin New Employee Orientation."

Through the new structure, candidates can now schedule their own pre-employment physical — minimizing the time and cost associated with rescheduling. Recruiters can now communicate with hires by text instead of just email — enabling more efficient communication to make sure pre-employment tasks are completed in good time. Finally, recruiters now have a standard of work when dealing with hiring managers, which allows them to be informed of any delays which may impact current staffing schedules.

Since implementing A3, Lancaster General has saved four hours of work per week of administrative tasks, which frees up more time to meet with new employees and are filling positions 10% faster than they were in 2018. Identifying onboarding issues earlier in the timeline increases the likelihood of new employees starting their role on schedule and saves the hospital time and money.

"This process has been extremely valuable for our team," concluded Stillwagon. "I believe that continuous improvement is possible when leaders listen to and empower their team, begin to ask the right questions and create a space where everyone feels safe trying new ideas, knowing that they can always go back to the drawing board."

Final Thoughts

Continuous improvement is a fantastic strategy to employ when it comes to trimming the fat from your hiring and onboarding processes. By creating a solid strategy and seeing it through to its completion, Penn Medicine and Lancaster General have achieved significant and positive results.

You can hear Penn Medicine's Interim Chief Human Resources Officer, Cindy Morgan, speak at HR Healthcare 2020, taking place in June at the Hyatt Regency Austin, TX.

Download the agenda today for more information and insights.

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