Dave Swinehart, Director of Human Capital and Operations at HealthScape Advisors is absolutely passionate about getting the right type of talent hired. With a stated mission to be “the trusted advisor for clients navigating the evolving healthcare environment”, he acknowledges that recruitment in such a complex and rapidly-changing industry requires a careful and strategic approach. It also helps to work with external vendors who understand his firm well enough to know which candidates will be the best fit.  Read more in the interview that follows.

Question: What is your industry’s greatest talent challenge these days?

Swinehart: The business challenges facing the healthcare industry today are as complex as they have ever been.  At the crux are three relationships: between the healthcare provider, the payer, and the healthcare patient. That triangle is extremely complicated, filled with sometimes disparate motivators and emotions.  And when you add in ACA (the Affordable Care Act) there is an additional layer of intricacy. Therefore, as a consulting firm, we’re charged with finding solutions to problems that haven’t existed before. In turn, that’s what makes the talent challenge so complex. Today, solutions that we have used in the past are less relevant – or don’t even apply – when we need to address the full complement of nuances within this relationship triangle. Our team must be capable of facing a degree of uncertainty or ambiguity that they, as professionals, may not have ever experienced before.

We have always made sure that the workforce we deploy is exceptionally nimble, motivated, bright, experienced and good at listening to solve problems. Now, today, on top of all of that, we are asking our people to consider problems that have never, heretofore, been a problem. Experience alone is not a safe harbor anymore. Collaboration is paramount whereas before, doing research on one’s own might have generated some effective ideas. What oftentimes in the past led to a fair amount of success still holds true but now there is added element that we seek in new hires: we want people who revel in the gray area, who enjoy chasing after a ghost – metaphorically speaking – and who are able to hear whispers or hints of solutions in places that weren’t necessarily relevant a couple of years ago. It’s challenging to find people who can do that.  Hiring people with these competencies is difficult.

Question: When you look for external partners, what specific criteria do you use?

Swinehart: It’s relatively simple and straightforward. Before I consider any relationship, I test that potential vendor’s market credibility. Someone I trust needs to tell me that the external firm will do well here. That’s not the only basis for a decision, of course. A referral is not a “go”, but it is typically a “no go” if it’s not positive.  By far, the next important thing is the relationship. When we approached TalentRISE to do executive search for us, our final decision was to choose between TalentRISE and another vendor really deeply entrenched in the healthcare space. We selected TalentRISE because of that team’s deep knowledge of us. We know that Jim’s [Jim O’Malley] team will present us – for instance – with three great candidates and tell us, “this is the one you want because we know you.”  That is really important to me.

Question: In addition to retained searches, TalentRISE is also handling an on-demand recruitment project for you. How is that going?

Swinehart:  The three month long on-demand project, which has just been completed, has worked very well. We’ve viewed it as retained search “lite”, with flexible pricing as we’re filling a very specific need, as far as the level of domain expertise and fairly senior level of candidates. In using contingent search providers, they only occasionally come across candidates that fit the bill. With the on-demand solution from TalentRISE, we started with a list of a dozen to twenty companies and they are generating names, pounding the pavement and handling candidate prep. It’s worked out really well for us.

Question:  There is a Latin motto on your website, “Genesis Doctrina Culture”, which roughly translates to “Living a Learning Culture”.  How has it helped you to attract the types of people you describe above?

Swinehart: By way of background, the literal translation of that phrase is “being alive”, “learning” and “culture”. We use this expression because Latin is the foundation of so many languages in the world and, likewise, we feel that learning here at HeathScape is the core component, or foundation, of our values. Our people’s ability to learn is how we add value to our clients. And their desire to learn is often the reason that our employees accept a job here.

For recruitment purposes, the motto has resonated particularly well with recent graduates. When the firm was launched seven years ago, our corporate brand was quickly well-received. On the other hand, while that branding was off and running immediately, our employment branding was a complete unknown. In doing campus recruitment, we fared pretty well because we were in the healthcare space and because of our focus on the development of people. But new recruits had to take our emphasis on “sharpening the saw” on faith. So the motto has helped to underscore our recruitment message and make our employment brand unique.

Question: Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

Swinehart:  Regardless of what type of service TalentRISE has provided, we recognize that the recruiters who work on our behalf are an extension of our employee brand. We are very protective of that brand. If we get that wrong in the talent marketplace, we attract the wrong people or the wrong expertise, both of which are very difficult to undo. I have the utmost confidence in TalentRISE’s team’s ability communicate our brand to candidates in a fashion that represents us professionally and appropriately.

Look, I’ve worked in organizations where I’ve had a large in-house recruiting team and I know you really can’t always control the message. However, with TalentRISE, I have had candidates tell me things about the TalentRISE team like, “Sarah knows a lot about your firm/position or the culture at HealthScape”. I’m confident that TalentRISE represents us in a knowledgeable and balanced way and that’s important. It makes the recruitment process effective.