For this issue’s examination of workforce issues in mental healthcare, we turned to three colleagues who manage such issues every day.
Denise Reyes, Robin Latulippe and Michael Baransky are recruiters for positions with KidsPeace’s clinical and administrative programs, and Healing Magazine asked them to share their insights with readers:
Healing Magazine: In general, where and how do you find potential candidates for positions at KidsPeace?
Denise Reyes: We have a variety of channels where we look for potential candidates. We attend career events throughout the state, produce hiring events, post on social media, attend community events that aren’t primarily career-focused but more to promote what we do and what we hire for. Honestly, anywhere that the recruiting team can go can turn into a moment of promoting our positions.
Robin Latulippe: For some of our positions that require specific licensures, we can also post our openings on websites for that specific profession (for example, NASW is the National Association of Social Workers). We have used websites like this for Clinicians, nurses, teachers, etc. Non-traditional/”think outside the box” ideas, such as having a booth at the Great Allentown Fair, were great to get our brand out there and attract attention to our hiring needs.
Michael Baransky: One of the ways that the KidsPeace Recruiting Team leads and tries to set itself above other companies is by making it a priority to be accessible to potential candidates. This often means flexibility in our workday by being available to candidates outside of traditional business hours (early mornings, after business hours, weekends and evenings) and through using text messages for communication.
HM: In our post-COVID world, what are some of the concerns that potential employees raise now that they might not have raised before?
Robin: A lot of concern goes into pay rate, schedule and level of flexibility. The cost of living is high, so new candidates are asking for higher pay and schedules with lots of flexibility. Many are seeking remote work whenever possible. This is difficult to accommodate when hiring direct care associates, as we need to be fully staffed 24/7/365.
Denise: Work/Life Balance. This was slowly coming up before COVID but has been more of an expectation since. They are also has been an increase in making their self-worth known; I have seen more candidates speak up about why they deserve a certain compensation or a certain position.
Michael: Potential employees want to enjoy their work environment. Dare I say, they want a fun environment with a supportive and understanding boss in a career where they can make a positive impact on the world. It is becoming more common that potential candidates are actually “interviewing the interviewers” to see how KidsPeace will live up to their idealistic and high expectations.
HM: Have you seen people deciding to change careers to go into mental and behavioral healthcare?
Michael: I encounter candidates on almost a daily basis who would like to change careers and work at a place such as KidsPeace in mental and behavioral healthcare making a difference in the lives of kids. They are often exasperated by their unfulfilling work in places such as warehouses. Although we do hire some of these candidates, most of the candidates, after initially being excited to enter this field, do not accept our job offers due to the lower compensation that the field of mental health offers.
Denise: I have had individuals with engineering, sales, factory work and education roles pivot their careers into mental and behavioral health. They know that this change will impact them financially since most of their careers have been higher paying, but they see the need to make an impact. They want to have meaning and purpose in their life and they don’t see that in their non-healthcare roles.
HM: What seems to be the most important aspects of a position in mental health for potential workers, based on your interaction with them?
Michael: This is going to sound cliché, but many candidates genuinely want to work in a position where they can “make a difference.” The KidsPeace mission of giving “Hope, Help, and Healing” is a major draw to candidates considering employment at KidsPeace. However, targeting candidates who want to make a difference should not be interpreted as meaning that they will work for low wages in a job where they do not feel appreciated.
Robin: “Being able to help the kids” is what they typically say. They feel the reward of helping is what is important. With that being said, the candidates are also looking for a job that meets their lifestyle. Shifts they like to work, decent wage, benefits, etc.
HM: What’s the oddest thing you’ve been asked by someone you were recruiting?
Michael: I have been asked more times than I would like to believe if the direct care position that I was screening them for could be worked remotely.
Robin: It wasn’t necessarily something that was “asked,” but rather how the interview unfolded. At the time, I was conducting interviews over Zoom. This candidate came onto the Zoom call in her nightgown and was laying on her bed and eating a bowl of cereal. I asked if she needed to reschedule and she insisted she was ready. I almost ended the interview, but had to see it through. She laid there answering my questions and eating – all at the same time.
HM: Do you have any advice for managers on what to expect from – and how to work with – today’s potential mental health workforce?
Robin: The days of someone getting a job and staying for 20 years is gone. Who we thought of as “job hoppers” in the past is the new normal. Candidates are trying new things, leaving for better opportunities. We have to rethink how we review a resume because of this. Some candidates may have worked at a lot of places, but left because of money or better work environment. We need to be okay with this.
Denise: The idea that the workforce can be easily replaced is no longer a valid argument. While many of our more experienced/seasoned managers may believe that, it’s not true. Yes, we can train and mold new inexperienced staff to be great employees but that takes a lot of time and in this field we don’t necessarily have that. We have to be able to respond to instant crisis and conflicts that can take others months or even years to excel at. The field that we are in is hard regardless of your experience but as an organization we need our staff to be heard and feel valued.
Michael: Understand that competition for talent post-Covid is beyond fierce. The candidates that we recruit typically have several other job offers that they are considering, and other companies may be able to offer better pay and better schedules in a less stressful environment. But there are some areas in which we can compete that cost us little to nothing:
- Be an advocate for your employees.
- Solicit their input and consider differing, perhaps less popular opinions and suggestions.
- Talk about their future plans and offer to develop them.
- Workdays in mental healthcare are especially stressful; show appreciation for your staff that they came in to work
- Be kind in all of your interactions with your staff.
- Give your direct reports the benefit of the doubt when possible before resorting to punitive measures.
HM: What changes to you expect to see in recruitment for mental healthcare positions in the next five years?
Robin: The majority of the Gen-Z workforce is looking for remote work. They are the “remote” population, having attended school virtually during the pandemic. My concern is we may have a large gap in direct care candidates which could affect staffing. The focus must be shifted to retention in order to offset this.
Michael: Competition for workers will only increase. The companies who authentically value their employees and back it up with competitive compensation will be the winners and the clients they serve will be the true beneficiaries of that.
Denise: I expect to see a larger increase in virtual services as well as desire for WFH opportunities which will greatly impact our programs where virtual cannot be done. With the increase for mental health care in our society, I expect (or maybe hope) to see an increase in funding and payrates. Making society’s mental health a priority will only positively affect other areas in our life.
For more information about working at KidsPeace, visit www.kidspeace.org/careers.