Program Design Strategies

Best practices for setting up a local hiring pipeline

Key Elements

  • Designate geographic focus in high-poverty neighborhoods
  • Work with residents with the greatest barriers to employment
  • Focus on jobs with clear career pathways
  • Set aside positions for cohort graduates
  • Involve hiring managers in the training process

Geographic focus on high-poverty neighborhoods

Targeting specific zip codes for local hiring efforts ensures that resources are targeted at the communities most affected by un- and underemployment. University Hospitals (UH) of Cleveland, Ohio, West Philadelphia Skills Initiative (WPSI) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins University and Health System (Johns Hopkins) in Baltimore, Maryland and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus (UC Anschutz) in Aurora, Colorado all have programs that target specific zip codes and neighborhoods. Focusing on particular neighborhoods concentrates impact as pipeline programs can reach a measurable percentage of the population. Often these same neighborhoods already have economic development efforts underway that can be leveraged, either through community-based organizations and intermediaries with existing networks in the community or through other hospital-led efforts. Having a geographic focus is a way to align investments across the health system and across institutions.

An example of this aligned investment is Atlanta CareerRise’s workforce training efforts in Atlanta, Georgia. The Atlanta BeltLine is an organization dedicated to redevelopment along the historic railway infrastructure around the city. Part of the mission of the BeltLine is to generate jobs for residents in the communities surrounding the greenway. Atlanta CareerRise was able to target these neighborhoods when designing a program for Grady Health System. This leveraged existing non-profit resources for the design of the effort, which benefited the hospital and helped the BeltLine project meet their local hiring goals. 1Cinda Herndon-King and Helen Slaven, interview by Katie Parker, February 24, 2016, transcript; For an evaluation of the Atlanta BeltLine Workforce Partnership in Healthcare, see More Resources

Having a geographic focus is a way to align investments across the health system and across institutions.

Another example of this is the University of California, San Francisco’s (UCSF) Excellence through Community Engagement and Learning (EXCEL) program. UCSF’s funding partnership with the city of San Francisco and San Francisco County ensures that the EXCEL program reaches individuals on public assistance.  Additionally, UCSF focuses program outreach on two neighborhoods where 50 percent of the families receiving public assistance in San Francisco live. Having a geographic target ensures that UCSF’s program most effectively meets its goals.2Damon Lew, interview by David Zuckerman and Katie Parker, December 11, 2015, transcript.

Focus on residents with the greatest barriers to employment

In addition to concentrating on particular geographies, some programs focus on particular populations with barriers to employment. The Alameda County EMS Corps in Alameda County, California works specifically with young men of color, many who have spent time in the juvenile detention system.  UC Anschutz works with community-based organizations that serve refugee and immigrant populations.3Robert McGranaghan, interview by David Zuckerman and Katie Parker, April 7, 2016, transcript. Johns Hopkins University and Health System has taken steps to help facilitate hiring individuals with criminal backgrounds; 10 percent of hires have criminal backgrounds, a number that mirrors the percentage of formerly incarcerated individuals in the surrounding community.4Yariela Kerr-Donovan, interview by David Zuckerman and Katie Parker, January 7, 2016, Baltimore, MD, transcript. By channeling resources to these particular populations, training programs can have a greater impact. To serve these populations successfully, programs develop specific strategies to address the challenges and obstacles members of these groups often face. These strategies include: enacting ban-the-box policies that seek to prevent bias towards the formerly incarcerated; developing human resource expertise to better match employees to specific jobs they are eligible for based on their backgrounds and skills; and, partnering with intermediaries that serve specific populations.

Focusing on jobs with clear career pathways

A local hire pipeline should not be designed in isolation. It is critical that the end point for a particular applicant is not the position they are hired into and that, instead, there are pathways for advancement within the institution. Explicitly connecting local hire initiatives to future career pathways can be an important recruitment tool. Dr. Cinda Herndon-King, director of Atlanta CareerRise, explained this when discussing the success of a local hiring initiative they developed with Grady Health System: “One of the things that attracts people to these programs is that once they get into Grady, after six months they’re eligible for tuition reimbursement, and for promotion. This first step may not be your dream job, but it gets you into the system where you can access other resources.”5Cinda Herndon-King and Helen Slaven interview. This is a critical strategy of WPSI and UH as well. Jobs that do not offer possibilities for advancement are not selected for training programs. At times, advancement first involves a lateral move within the institution. This is the case for UH’s pathway program, which helps prepare environmental services staff to move into patient care positions. In these cases, employees still have the ability to move into higher-skill and higher-wage positions and are made aware of the process for advancement before they are even hired.

Set aside position vacancies or guaranteed interviews for pipeline cohort graduates

Cohort models reduce the outreach, recruitment, and screening costs of hiring departments. However, unless there are separate application pathways for pipeline graduates carved out, these benefits may not be fully realized. Setting aside a pool of positions designated for cohort graduates eliminates any duplicative actions that might happen if the candidate were put into the regular applicant pool. For example, New Haven Works in New Haven, Connecticut completes background checks on participants. Yale then has access to these results, meaning that they do not need to complete the check themselves.6Boris Sigal, interview by David Zuckerman and Katie Parker, New Haven, CT, April 1, 2016, notes. UH employs this strategy even more explicitly, setting aside a specific percentage of positions for Step Up to UH graduates. Since candidates have already received preliminary screening, Towards Employment (Step Up to UH’s workforce intermediary partner) is able to ensure they only train people eligible to work at UH. This gives UH greater confidence in Towards Employment’s program. Moreover, the training program connects hiring managers directly to applicants who have been trained for particular positions and who have learned about UH’s culture and practices.7Debbi Perkul and Danielle Price, interview by David Zuckerman and Katie Parker, Cleveland, OH. January 11, 2016.

Another way to ensure pipeline graduates a pathway to hire is by requiring that employers have vacancies for positions before a training program is scheduled. Or, at the very least, by requiring that employers guarantee interviews for pipeline candidates, which is what The Hire Local Program at UC Anschutz does. Sheila Ireland, vice president of workforce solutions at the WPSI explains that while asking employers to guarantee a vacancy is a lot more feasible than asking for a guarantee to hire, the structure of the program often helps to facilitate hires. As she describes it: “someone worked in your practice for five months and you don’t hire? That doesn’t happen. You’ve evaluated them, we’ve had conversations with them, we have resolved any issues that have come up. At this particular point in time, they’re supposed to be effective members of your staff by your own accord, and you have the vacancies. That’s what the 95 percent placement rate is about.”8Sheila Ireland, interview by David Zuckerman and Katie Parker, March 30, 2016, transcript.

Involvement of hiring managers in the training process

Hiring managers are critical actors in the implementation of a pipeline program because they make ultimate decisions on whether or not to hire a particular candidate. Without their buy-in and input during the program design stage, even the best training programs can stall. Adjustments will need to be made to the application processes in order to facilitate local hiring, and many of these processes are part of the day-to-day practices of hiring managers. Therefore, hiring managers should be involved in designing training programs in order to ensure that programming is able to meet the challenges they face. In addition, involving hiring managers in the training process can be an important way to personalize the application process for pipeline participants, while also allowing the managers to get a more in-depth understanding of the candidate than they would from a standard hiring process.

Partners HealthCare (Partners) in Boston, Massachusetts emphasizes getting hiring managers to participate in program design to ensure buy-in: “invite them into discussions about program design and the design of program improvements. If they’re asked, they have a whole different perspective than if they’re not,” they explained. If managers help design program and curriculum, they will have greater confidence that the training itself is rigorous.9Anchor Institution Toolkit Meeting (Partners HealthCare, Boston, MA, January 19, 2016), transcript. Similarly, when the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colorado developed a Hire Local Program, interviews were conducted with the staff who would be making hiring decisions in order to identify their challenges and needs.10Robert McGranaghan, interview by David Zuckerman and Katie Parker, April 7, 2016, transcript.

One of the major barriers for entry for applicants is that due to the sheer volume of applications, screening processes have become highly automated, making it likely that an application will be screened out before it gets past the recruitment stage. Involving hiring managers in the training process ensures that candidates get time with those who have the power to hire.

Involvement of the hiring managers should extend past initial feedback and program refinement, into the implementation of the pipeline program itself. This helps to create an access point for pipeline candidates. One of the major barriers for entry for applicants is that due to the sheer volume of applications, screening processes have become highly automated, making it likely that an application will be screened out before it gets past the recruitment stage. Involving hiring managers in the training process ensures that candidates get time with those who have the power to hire. Moreover, hiring and departmental managers can assist with mock interviews, provide information particular to the institution, help with job-specific trainings, and explain the application process.

The benefits of involving managers in training are two-fold: candidates have the opportunity to gain experience with interviews and interface with managers, and hiring managers become familiar with particular candidates. This can help get managers enthusiastic about the program because it enables them to identify individuals they are particularly excited to hire.  “One of the best things we did during our hire local initiative with the BeltLine was to have the hiring managers conduct mock interviews with the students,” emphasized Dr. Cinda Herndon-King, director of Atlanta CareerRise in Atlanta, Georgia. “It pre-sold them on these students, so by the end of the training, we had hiring managers fighting over them… It built the internal buy-in so that hiring managers were comfortable with students and comfortable with the program, and really proud to be a part of it. It helps build that internal culture shift,” she adds.11Cinda Herndon-King and Helen Slaven, interview by Katie Parker, February 24, 2016, transcript.

This strategy is also employed at New Haven Works (NHW) in New Haven, Connecticut.  Although NHW partners with a variety of employers, there is particular focus on jobs at Yale University and Yale University Medical Center. NHW will host events where job applicants who have been deemed “Yale ready” based on their qualifications and training can meet with recruiters. Each candidate has the opportunity to describe their skills, which not only provides interview practice, but enables the staff from Yale to identify candidates they are interested in. This in turn provides data to NHW on areas candidates can still improve in and what type of candidates Yale is looking for.12Boris Sigal, interview by David Zuckerman and Katie Parker, New Haven, CT, April 1, 2016, notes.

Program Design Strategies

Best practices for setting up a local hiring pipeline

  • Designate geographic focus in high-poverty neighborhoods
  • Work with residents with the greatest barriers to employment
  • Focus on jobs with clear career pathways
  • ...

Institutional Strategies

Tools to sustain local hiring efforts

  • Foster collaboration between human resources and community health departments
  • Connect forecasting, training, and hiring departments
  • Connect to health system diversity...

Intermediary strategies

Success factors for workforce partners

  • Offer wrap around supports and soft skills training
  • Function in a hub/navigator role
  • Work with a network of multiple employers

References   [ + ]

1. Cinda Herndon-King and Helen Slaven, interview by Katie Parker, February 24, 2016, transcript; For an evaluation of the Atlanta BeltLine Workforce Partnership in Healthcare, see More Resources
2. Damon Lew, interview by David Zuckerman and Katie Parker, December 11, 2015, transcript.
3, 10. Robert McGranaghan, interview by David Zuckerman and Katie Parker, April 7, 2016, transcript.
4. Yariela Kerr-Donovan, interview by David Zuckerman and Katie Parker, January 7, 2016, Baltimore, MD, transcript.
5. Cinda Herndon-King and Helen Slaven interview.
6, 12. Boris Sigal, interview by David Zuckerman and Katie Parker, New Haven, CT, April 1, 2016, notes.
7. Debbi Perkul and Danielle Price, interview by David Zuckerman and Katie Parker, Cleveland, OH. January 11, 2016.
8. Sheila Ireland, interview by David Zuckerman and Katie Parker, March 30, 2016, transcript.
9. Anchor Institution Toolkit Meeting (Partners HealthCare, Boston, MA, January 19, 2016), transcript.
11. Cinda Herndon-King and Helen Slaven, interview by Katie Parker, February 24, 2016, transcript.