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How to Use Pre-Hire Assessments for Workers in Healthcare Unions

November 22, 2017

healthcare-unions.jpgHealthcare organizations are adopting progressive talent strategies from other industries. This often means using more objective, deliberate, and standardized hiring tools such as pre-hire assessments. If done correctly, this “evidence-based” approach to hiring yields great results. It can reduce turnover, improve time-to-hire, and help you to identify candidates, with the attributes you value, who are more likely to succeed on the job.

Related Post: Evidence-Based Hiring: Everything You Need to Know

Implementing these tools in healthcare presents some unique challenges because of the special nature of the healthcare workforce. If the organization has an organized workforce, it can complicate things further. A labor union does not preclude the use of these tools. Far from it. We have several healthcare clients using assessments in an organized environment. We even have health systems where some of the hospitals are organized and some are not.

Union Membership is on the Rise in Healthcare

There is evidence that union representation is on the rise in healthcare. A 2015 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that the number of healthcare and social assistance union members increased by 22,000 to reach 1,242,000. This represents a 7.3 percent share of the healthcare and social assistance workforce. This comes amid overall stable union membership across all sectors – the total number of union members was 14.8 million or 11.1 percent of wage and salary workers.

The healthcare union jobs increase came during a 2015 healthcare industry hiring boom. Some of the spike in healthcare union activity was partly due to a recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board that shortened required time between filing a petition and holding an election.

The four unions most active in healthcare include:

  • SEIU United Healthcare East

  • National Nurses United

  • American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL CIO)

  • United Food and Commercial Workers International Union

Using Assessments with an Organized Workforce

Working with healthcare unions does not create a barrier to using assessments, but it does mean you should have expert guidance on how to effectively implement their use. A few important considerations:

  1. Start with the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The CBA is the contract between the labor union and the employer. It may include specific obligations regarding the hiring process, decisions during the hiring process, and even the use of tests and assessments. Generally, the union will not have as much control over external hires, but how you handle internal transfers/promotions, etc. is routinely covered by the CBA.

  2. Tenure is everything. When you are considering hiring processes for internal transfers and promotions, the union will generally see tenure as the most important factor. They want to see the most senior people moved to the best, highest paying jobs. Job-specific tests of any sort can be in direct conflict with this philosophy. One of our clients worked with the union to accept the concept of hiring/promoting the “senior most qualified” individual - so that seniority matters, but only among those candidates who have the skills (i.e. test results) to perform the job.

  3. It’s in everyone’s best interests to choose the best external candidates. In theory, both the employer and the union want to see the organization hire the most qualified external candidates. It’s better for everyone if new people brought into the organization, and the union, are the best candidates for the role – those most likely to be successful and to make the organization successful. If you can get both parties to agree to this concept, there might be less resistance to using assessments for new/external hires.

  4. Job Analysis can be tricky. Often, before you implement any sort of pre-employment test or assessment you’ll want to gather data from current employees and job content experts, either through surveys or focus groups. This data allows you to configure the assessment and to ensure the tool is job relevant and will predict on-the-job success. If you have a less than ideal relationship with the union, these activities may be looked upon with suspicion. The Union may suspect ulterior motives for these meetings/surveys. It is critical to work pro-actively with union leadership on why you need this data, how it will be gathered, and how to communicate this to the union members.

This entire issue is a good reminder that if you want to use these valuable tools, it’s often advisable to work with a firm that not only sells tests, but has expertise in how to use them effectively in your industry.

To learn more about evidence-based hiring:

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To learn more about improving the hiring efficiency and candidate experience in your organization:

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Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.