Coming into the role of the CIO for Alameda Health System (AHS) in the San Francisco Bay area, a 5 hospital system, we had 30 people on staff for the application team. 16 of those people were consultants that had been with the department for at least 4 years. It seemed as if there were bright warning lights going off everywhere. I was asked to reduce the IT footprint because clinical space is very valuable, as in most healthcare organizations. This presented a challenge to me as the incoming CIO. Each of these consultants cost more in dollars than a full time employee. At this point in time, I knew something needed to be done. I needed a different way of looking at the department and attacking the situation. I wanted to eliminate the expenses of consultants but how was I going to do this?
“The RTH process has been a huge success for AHS, not only in terms of dollars saved but also for finding the right hires for the positions needed”
I advertised job postings in the bay area and we just weren’t finding what we were looking for in terms of talent, plus the bay area salaries are typically 15-20 percent higher than the national norms according to recent employment surveys.
Outside of the Cubicle Thinking
Being a CIO, it is important for me to have a clear and innovative vision and develop a seamless process to work along with my CEO and HR department to find the best hires for the positions available. I had allowed working from home before with great success so I thought, why not try remote employees? I then ran the idea past my CEO and explained to him that hiring remote employees would eliminate the need for me to require more office space for my staff, eliminate travel time, and more importantly parking for meetings since many of my employees work off campus at other facilities around the east bay area. All in all, it would be a win/win situation. After the initial hesitation with my Human Resources department, I explained that not everyone had the desire or the financial means to live in the Bay area. With this new approach, this would be a seamless operation with each new employee and we were ready to begin the initial process of hiring remote employees for Alameda Health System.
After the decision was made, I knew how important it would be to partner with a reputable consulting agency to integrate this process within my organization while also finding the right hires regardless of physical location. With the help of the chosen agency, I was able to implement a Right to Hire (RTH) solution, a technique for ease of hiring these employees and dealing with state taxes, salaries and benefits.
Great Talent Doesn’t Live Next Door
I relied heavily on ICG, my consulting agency to not only find the top candidates with the specific credentials I was looking for to fill these positions, but I also looked to them to work with my HR department with ease of onboarding, etc. ICG worked with my organization to match salary requirements and benefits to make an easy conversion to full time employee. The process begins with each candidate coming onboard as an employee of ICG and works for Alameda Health System for 6 months to try out the position. This is a trial period to determine if they are the right fit for the position and to see if they like the position and will like working for AHS. After 6 months, each RTH resource is then transitioned to become an Alameda Health System employee.
Using the Latest Technology
Over the last several years, technology has made it easier and easier to adopt a remote working scenario. With our RTH employees, we use video conferencing and Skype to not only interview candidates, but to also have meetings and one on one discussion. Before implementing this process, if we were to have an on-site meeting, we would have employees coming from five different facilities in the Bay area and due to drive time and traffic, it would take most of their time out of their day. Now, we can have remote meetings and save on drive time and other time taking away from productivity; which brings me to my next point-I get asked quite often, “How do you measure productivity with remote employees”? I determine productivity based on whether or not each project gets done in the time it is required to be completed just like I do for employees that have an office on-site.
The RTH process has been a huge success for AHS, not only in terms of dollars saved but also for finding the right hires for the positions needed. I couldn’t have asked for a better pool of talent than what I have now. I have found that the work is getting completed in a timely manner due to the fact that the new hires don’t even need training because they are experts in their field. I have even had some of the exiting employees take advantage of working remotely. The best part about this is that I can see how it affects everyone in the organization, including our patients, which is what we are in this business for, providing better patient outcomes. If I were going to give advice to anyone who is open to the idea of hiring remote employees, I would say that it is important to keep an open mind and to communicate to the rest of your organization to keep an open mind when trying to sell the idea. In the end, it is a gratifying feeling knowing that this process has not only increased productivity, saved us millions in our IT budget, increased patient outcomes and provided better employees. As I finish writing this article, it is now time for me to depart home and I will be the one to turn the lights off in the department, as I am the last one here because the rest of my staff is working remote.