What’s the key to thriving in times of crisis and uncertainty?  For most businesses and organizations, it has been their ability to quickly transform their internal and external practices and processes to align with both the changing workplace norms and consumer challenges, while serving an industry that has experienced a significant uptick in demand.

Over the last year, this has been seen most prevalently within healthcare, technology, online retailers, grocery stores, and a handful of others business sectors.  They have successfully pivoted their ways of doing business to safely serve their employees, clients, customers, and their communities as a whole.

And in order for growing organizations to be successful, they have had to execute their talent acquisition and talent management strategies around various health and safety measures that have been implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago

One such organization is the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. They became a new VERSA client in February of 2020.  Like many organizations, the decision to outsource Lurie Children’s relocation services was born out of the need to allow their HR team to focus on recruitment and retention strategies, while engaging an expert provider to manage their relocation processes.

“Our team was able to step in, implement quickly, establish our technology platform, and immediately begin taking the burden off of Lurie’s HR team.  This was a long process for them, and we realized that we needed to be responsive, accountable, and deliver value right away,” explained Cindy Salter, Senior Director at VERSA.  “There has been great alignment in our partnership, and it continues to foster a successful relationship.”

We recently sat down with Valarie Amos, director of compensation, HRIS and talent acquisition at Lurie Children’s, and asked her to share her insight about thriving in times of crisis and uncertainty, and what the impact has been on her organization’s talent management and talent mobility strategies.

During our conversation, she also addressed Lurie’s commitment to community-focused initiatives through the hospital’s new Patrick M. Magoon Institute for Healthy Communities, which partners with community organizations to reach youth where they live, learn and play and helps them thrive.  It also strives to address the root causes of health disparities for children and adolescents.

Following are excerpts from our discussion:

How have you had to adjust your approach in terms of your recruitment efforts, and what role has technology played in your strategy?

VA:  “Unfortunately, the pandemic caused us to go into a hiring freeze for about 3 to 4 months, so there were just a few jobs that we were actually able to recruit for during that time. So, we were definitely moving towards coordinating those candidates’ interviews on a virtual platform. In healthcare, we would typically invite those individuals in for formal interviews with their hiring leaders, as well as shadowing opportunities for some of those candidates in the clinical areas, but of course all of that changed with the pandemic.

“I think our strategies in terms of attracting talent really didn’t change as much. We were still sourcing candidates via our social media boards, with LinkedIn and Indeed as our aggregators. So, that didn’t necessarily change as much as the landscape in general with working remotely. As an organization, I think we were looking at more processes and allowances associated with remote work and employee safety, as well as patient safety. All of those things changed our landscape, and our talent management strategy to attract, recruit, and retain talent was maybe paused for a little bit.

“So, we are still hiring at Lurie Children’s Hospital. We want the best and the brightest, the humble, the hungry, and smart individuals.”

What changed to lift the 3 to 4 month hiring freeze?

VA:  “I think as a healthcare organization, our patient population really dictates the needs for human capital, and so some of our surgical volumes were down, and our patient volumes were down, so there was less of a need during the wake of the pandemic. As we have been following the CDC guidelines and supporting patient safety initiatives, as well as employee safety initiatives, we have been able to really open the surgical spaces back up and support our patients and community. So, I think that really prompted the opportunity for us to resume hiring, but to be cautious and remain safe and diligent in our processes.”

In a market the size of Chicago, there is obviously a lot of competition within the healthcare sector to recruit and retain top talent, so can you speak to your ability to compete with the other healthcare organizations, especially as it relates to people who have to relocate to work at Lurie Children’s Hospital?

VA: “As a children’s hospital, I think we are very unique. There are a few other children’s hospitals in the Chicagoland area, but we are in downtown Chicago, so that’s a unique opportunity for candidates. Sometimes it does become a barrier, because of the commute in from the suburbs, as well as the parking expenses and so forth, but most importantly there is still healthy competition in healthcare. We have a neighboring hospital which is an academic medical center, and several other competing hospitals in the area, and so it is challenging. We were competing for the best and the brightest to start even prior to the pandemic. So, we really have been looking for different ways to be more competitive in the market. I think in the wake of the pandemic, it has increased our awareness of the need to continue to source valuable talent, and to look for those individuals who have high potential and transferable skills, so that we can really upscale that end of things.

“I think being a pediatric healthcare facility makes us very unique. Just walking within our four walls and understanding what this organization represents and our mission and our support for all of the community initiatives, is just an awesome way to attract talent. We are giving back to the community, and we want to ensure that we have healthy kids.

“We have a department called the Patrick M. Magoon Institute for Healthy Communities, and the purpose is really to connect with the community to make sure that we have every child in the community fed. There’s a healthy outcome in terms of their opportunities, so the child opportunity index is being reviewed so that they’re healthy and educated.

“Then from a job point of view and from an economic standpoint, that’s where we come in with our recruiting. We want to really focus on attracting diverse talent to the organization, and ensuring that we bring in not only the best talent, but also our focus is on diversity. So, we are really trying to be more well-rounded as an organization and just really stepping up of efforts in everything.”

What would you say are some of those top transferable skills that are really in high demand right now?

VA:  “I think going to virtual and remote work, we have to have individuals that really have superb customer service skills, a telephone presence, and service excellence. We need to hear and see that smile on the phone.  We did move to telehealth and telemedicine, so some of our physicians were able to adopt that in a timely manner to ensure that they were caring for our patients.

“I really think that the landscape changed, and we were looking for more individuals who really have more of a phone presence and are able to be more sedentary and less mobile. So, that changed our sourcing strategies, as well as our ability to really attract that type of talent.  We did not compromise our service excellence, and we did not compromise our compassionate caregiving.  We were looking for people who have that team spirit, and so those things didn’t change. But we were really looking for individuals who have the ability to be more nimble, flexible, and more engaging from a virtual aspect. So, I think all of that causes us to think a little bit differently in our recruiting.”

Now that we have entered 2021, do you anticipate an increased demand in hiring, and will that likely include relocating more people as they join your organization?

VA:  “I actually do, and although it’s a prediction that I can’t confirm, we have been seeing our organization grow, not only from the medical practices and all of the cutting-edge technology with research, but I feel like we are going to continue to attract talent from other markets. So, we will continue our nationwide recruitment.

“We also have international relocating new hires, and so we have been working through all of our immigration processes for some of those individuals. That has been challenging, because there are a lot of immigration laws and nuances, and so we work with expert immigration attorneys to support us with those efforts and to ensure that we are following all of the necessary hiring processes and guidelines. I think that’s going to continue to be kind of sticking point. I am pretty excited about where we are and where we are going, but it continues to be a challenge as it relates to our international recruits, but we certainly recruit those individuals.”

Have you had to change any of your policies to reflect the fluid nature of changes in the workplace and as it relates to relocation of new hires?

VA:  “We have made some policy changes.  One of my HR colleagues has been working with our legal team and some other of the executives within the organization to craft our remote work policies, and the effects of those policies. We’ve been really trying to support our employees both virtually and on-site, and ensure that there’s a sense of quality and a sense of engagement with our employees. I don’t know if we have all of the answers yet, but we have crafted policies.

“So, we are really working hard to keep our teams engaged from a virtual standpoint. We are looking at celebration ideas, because again it’s important for engagement and recognition, since you lose some of that when people are working in different places.  I think as an organization, since we were physically all on-site initially, that this is something that we have all had to adjust to.”

As your relocation management company partner, how has VERSA been able to best support your recruitment and talent management strategies, and what are your expectations of that relationship as your organization continues to grow? 

VA:  “In just the short period of time that we’ve been working with VERSA, they have really helped us to standardize our ways of practice and our business processes have changed.  When we first launched with VERSA in February of 2020, I didn’t know where we were going to go, but as we started, we were really able to provide more support for our physicians and our faculty who were relocating.  Now, from an HR standpoint, we still have staff members who are relocating. So, this has been a game-changer from an HR perspective. We see consistency in practice, and in general we see an aligned process and experience for individuals who have relocated.

“I’ve heard some really positive feedback from our new hires. They have said that they felt like VERSA had talent consultants who reached out to them and provided a great overview of the program and the process. Prior to working with VERSA, new hires who relocated were obligated to secure their own relocation and pay upfront out-of-pocket for some expenses, and that was a hardship for these individuals. And so now, VERSA has come in and serves as our mobility partner. They have taken some of the burden away from the new hires. VERSA is actually shepherding our new hires through the process and they are providing a concierge approach to ensuring that their relocation needs and services have been met, and that’s the game changer for us.

“VERSA is also able to provide responses on the best schools in the area, the best restaurants, the real estate needs, and so forth, and so it takes the burden off of our talent acquisition and our recruiters, because we’re not experts in all of those things. We’re not the best house hunters or the best real estate agents, and we don’t necessarily have opportunities and resources to identify the best schools for our new recruits. So, I feel like VERSA has come in and they have been offering that support and that concierge top notch white glove experience.

“Working with VERSA also aligns with the back end of our processes. We are able to take advantage of a one invoicing system and they have better tracking mechanisms for us to really see what the outcomes are on a monthly basis. So, we have better reporting, and a streamlined approach to ensure that our Accounts Payable team receives information in a timely manner so that bills can get paid. Then, most importantly, we have our new hires being moved here by a top-notch company and services, and so far, everything is going very well.

“From a payroll perspective, I think the benefits have not been realized yet, but one of our factors that we are going to be looking at is ensuring that all of the taxation and W-2s and so forth are measured and managed in the proper manner. Prior to VERSA we had a spreadsheet where we captured all of this information, and now payroll is the recipient of some of these reports. So, it has been working out very well.

“I am very pleased with VERSA. They have been topnotch and provided resource guides and training sessions during the adoption process. They’ve been a really a good expert partner.”

Conclusion

Whether in times of crisis and uncertainty, or times of prosperity, we understand what it means to be a true partner to our clients, and to make sure that our relocation management services are aligned to their unique needs and those of their employees.

At VERSA, we are always ready to meet the challenges of the day head on, and to work closely and diligently with our clients to develop the best solutions.  And as our clients’ needs change and as their organizations grow, we are right there with them every step of the way.

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