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Solving the Staffing Crisis: Untraditional Recruiting at Lehigh Valley Health Network

Solving the Staffing Crisis: Untraditional Recruiting at Lehigh Valley Health Network

Solving labor and hiring challenges is, in many ways, the defining issue for health systems in today’s environment. A hospital’s success at recruiting and retaining talent is directly proportional to access and quality of care. On the food and nutrition services side of the business, new strategies are needed that take a long-term view of workforce solutions. At Morrison Healthcare that means looking at creative and untraditional recruiting models.

At Morrison Healthcare, their client, Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN), which is headquartered in Pennsylvania, has taken a different approach that is already seeing major benefits. Instead of sticking with a traditional model of recruiting from a set pool of candidates within a geographic area, LVHN is innovating by expanding the pool and creating opportunities for people interested in a healthcare career.

It comes down to a three-pronged strategy:
• College Partnerships
• High School Partnerships
• Community Partnerships

By creating new relationships and opening positions up to a broader pool of applicants, LVHN is expanding the wealth of talent in the area.

“Our goal is to meet colleagues where they are,” said Marie Poretta, director of project management, Morrison Healthcare. “It’s a win-win solution. We get a strong candidate that is focused on healthcare. After they graduate from their respective programs, they are healthcare ready.”

In many cases, student and community members aren’t aware of the opportunities available to them. That’s why LVHN looks beyond just culinary students. By partnering with school programs in other sectors, students gain insights and exposure to healthcare and food service which opens them up to a potential career path.

For others who are interested in healthcare but aren’t sure how to break into the industry, this program offers students an entry point. Upon graduating, they will better understand the industry and can make moves within the system to further their careers.

The program also offers opportunities to differently abled individuals. Project Search has proved to be a valuable partner in finding staff to fill specific roles. Not only is LVHN hiring special needs workers, but through the program, they are making an impact on the community.

LVHN’s untraditional approach to staffing has already seen significant successes. In one case, a college student was promoted to a dietetic role and is already putting her degree to use. In all, the program partners with four local colleges and five high school programs. On the community group side, four primary organizations have provided excellent candidates for food and nutrition roles.

These relationships and the success of the program didn’t happen overnight. Through the foresight of the team, LVHN nurtured partnerships by:
• Providing tours for college culinary students
• Attending job fairs
• Holding Lunch and Learn seminars
• Posting on Handshake
• Participating in Advisory Committees in Hospitality Management programs at local community colleges
• Collaborating with Pennsylvania CareerLink to open doors for unemployed
• Partnering with Literacy Center of Allentown to offer ESL students new careers

In all of these opportunities, LVHN has offered applicants the ability to earn while they learned the job and the industry.

“This strategy should lead to an engaged work force,” said Poretta. “The impact is reduced turnover and increased referrals from individuals in this target audience. This is a flywheel strategy that should be part of our DNA over time.”

So far, they have employed 25 people through their community initiatives. This is a tangible boost to the staffing efforts of the food and nutrition services department, which influences job satisfaction for existing associates and the patient experience. LVHN isn’t stopping there. They are continuing to expand the program and hire more deserving candidates to solve their staffing challenges.

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