Ep. 82 – How to Attract and Retain the Best Talent for Your Specialty Pharmacy

Marlin Plank

Marlin Plank, Director of Workforce Solutions

In this episode, Director of Workforce Solutions at CSI Specialty Group Marlin Plank, discusses current labor market conditions and how they impact available talent for your business. He also shares how to attract and retain the best talent for your specialty pharmacy and what to do to set up a successful talent strategy.

As a seasoned workforce talent executive with more than 20 years of experience in the field, Marlin shares his experiential wisdom of having survived and thrived during both economic highs and lows.

Tune in to Discover:

  • What the war for talent is, the challenges it poses to firms, and how organizations can use it to drive corporate performance
  • Key strategies for attracting and retaining top-level talent at all levels of your organization
  • The core elements of a consistent and effective recruitment and hiring process to thrive in today’s candidate-driven market
  • The critical role of onboarding and why so many companies fail at it

About Marlin Plank

Marlin Plank is an accomplished, results-driven sales and staffing professional with 20 years of industry experience. He has delivered significant ROI by building from a recruitment foundation in both temporary and executive search to achieve success in a myriad of staffing agency delivery models from a branch network to global Managed Service Programs (MSPs).

Marlin is a proven leader in developing both local and remote teams to execute continuous improvement with an ability to forge internal and external relationships within all levels of an organization.

Prior to joining the CSI Specialty Group team, Marlin held progressive leadership roles at Adecco, a Global Fortune 500 company. He was most recently responsible for their niche transportation division for the United States and led his team to consecutive historical growth in sales and profitability in the most challenging staffing sector as ranked by the American Staffing Association.  

For more than five years Mr. Plank managed the day-to-day operations of two global staffing programs responsible for a combined $400 million in temporary labor spend across 80+ staffing suppliers. A consistent Superstar and President’s Club awards achiever, Marlin holds both an MBA and B.S. in Business Management from the University of Phoenix.

About CSI Specialty Group

CSI Specialty Group is a globally recognized leadership, strategy and talent consulting firm dedicated to helping clients drive sustainable, accelerated growth while continually elevating the specialty pharmacy industry. By providing inventive specialty pharmacy consulting, workforce planning and talent acquisition solutions, CSI uniquely tailors its service offerings to help clients drive sustainable, accelerated growth. As the provider of the industry’s first, dedicated podcast for specialty pharmacy, CSI is at the forefront of pioneering innovative concepts to meet the changing needs of specialty pharmacy, home infusion, mail order/PBM, health systems and pharma/biotech clients across the USA and throughout Europe.

Transcript Notes:

Marlin Plank: Thank you, Suzette, for the opportunity to speak on a topic I’m passionate about, and thank you for listening to today’s podcast from CSI Specialty Group. This is Marlin Plank, Director of Workforce Solutions at CSI. Today I wanted to spend some time discussing the current labor market conditions, how they are affecting the war for talent, and some best practices to ensure you are taking the right approach to execute a successful talent strategy.

It’s been about 20 years since I managed to land my first role in recruitment and I have weathered the storm through several economic downturns. The war for talent is coined by the book of the same name was released in 1997. The McKinsey study the book was based on shed light on the war for talent as a strategic business challenge and a critical driver of corporate performance. Since that time, we have experienced several economic depressions. But since hitting a high of 10% unemployment in October of 2009, we have experienced growth well past the average growth cycle of 57 months.

Just this September, the US economy posted a 49-year low unemployment rate of 3.7% and economists are forecasting for 2019 to bring a figure of 3.3%, with a slight uptick in 2020, and upward trend continuing in 2021. Those are overall unemployment trends. When you start looking at roles specific to healthcare and specialty pharmacy such as pharmacists, the figures are 2% or lower. That low statistic is often referred to as full employment. For the first time in 20 years since the Department of Labor has been recording the statistic, the number of job openings is greater than the number of people out of work.

In the many conversations across a variety of industries I’ve had for the last three to four years has been one of concern. A concern for attracting and retaining top talent at pretty much all levels of the organization. What I found of interest though has been with such an awareness of these talent struggles, while apparent, the majority of companies sharing these concerns were not able to provide a clear strategy on what they were doing to overcome these challenges. How many top performing companies will often tout it’s their people that make the difference?

Having recently attended the NESP annual meeting in DC, the reoccurring message I heard from attending the breakout sessions and speaking with attendees was being able to provide topnotch patient care with positive outcomes. When asking attendees how they planned on delivering that level of care consistently, I was often met with a delayed response, but an answer that the staff they have on board or hired in the future will share these similar beliefs. It came back to their people.

The people you have hired or will need to hire, are they right fit? Are they the right fit for the role? Are they the right fit for the company? While those are questions each hiring manager should be qualifying every potential employee they speak with, they need to remember that the candidates are also interviewing them. This is a time to hopefully showcase your company. Even if you don’t move forward with an individual to hire or they do not accept your offer, you want them to walk away from the experience feeling positive about your brand.

I will disagree with the saying, “No news is good news,” when it comes to hiring. A candidate may not be happy about not moving forward in the hiring process, but they will respect the fact that you communicated with them. Nothing is worse than the lack of communication or no communication. In the age with a variety of communication outlets, there really is no excuse to not provide timely feedback.

As a testament to how we are living in a candidate-driven market, there have been recent articles about the increased number of candidates not showing up to interviews, accepting offers, and not showing up on the first day, or even walking out of a current job without notice. While the war for talent goes much deeper into overall leadership talent habits and traits, I wanted to start today with recruitment.

Amazon hires some of the highest volume on an annual basis and arguably a higher variety of skillsets than most of the other names that come to mind, such as Walmart. While most of us will never need to hire that many people over a lifetime, I do feel it’s important to have a hiring process and strategy just like companies the size of Amazon and Walmart. Whether you are recruiting for a job opening internal or partnering with a search firm provider such as CSI, your overall success in not only hiring the right individual but retaining them can be significantly influenced by having a consistent and timely process.

Hiring a new staff member can cost a good chunk of change, but having to rehire and retrain typically outweighs that cost especially when you factor in lost production. Lets start with the basics and touch on a few items that should be covered before the actual recruitment process even starts.

Here are questions you need answers to. Who is going to be involved in the hiring process? Will the hiring decision be made by one person or a team of staff. If more than one person will be involved with the hiring decision, do they know what questions they should ask? Will you be utilizing the star method of interviewing questions that urges candidates to tell a story, focusing on a specific situation and providing details, urging for task and results? Do you have a scorecard developed for the role, to help find an A player and allow yourself to take some of the subjectivity out of the hiring process? How long are you expecting the hiring process to take? How much is it costing you to not have this role filled? Hint, if you don’t have any standardization in your process today, you basically are playing darts with your hiring process and hoping you hit a bullseye. For the sake of this podcast, let’s assume you do.

Let’s move on to the next phase, sourcing/recruiting. Any recruiter’s first question to a hiring manager will be, “Can you provide the job description?” The second question any good recruiter will ask is, “Is this job description up to date?” Let’s just say I’ve seen my fair share of dusty job descriptions. “Is the compensation and total benefits package competitive?” Remember my initial feedback about having a standardized process? If you’re hiring on your own and you should ask … you should ask these same questions. Otherwise, you’re already starting off on the wrong track of finding your next hire. If you have more than one individual involved in making the hiring decision, you must make sure there is confirmation that the job description is accurate.

While compensation is rarely the number one factor in retaining talent long term, it needs to be competitive. Should you find you’re not able to attract the talent you are looking for, and through discovery find out that the figure is higher, you will need to either quickly get the budget approved or make a change to reduce some of the requirements driving the increased salary. A decision to do neither is only asking for a continued lengthy hiring process with an unlikely guarantee you will ever find that match. If you working with a search firm, they’ll be able to provide that market data as well.

Remember my initial feedback about having a standardized process? With full employment, some consideration should be made for the timing of interviews, understanding that the majority, if not all your prospect employees, will already be working. Blocks of interview time should already be determined before scheduling, especially if multiple people are going to be involved in the hiring process. While having multiple people interview is common, it shouldn’t be expected to have a candidate make multiple trips for interviews, regardless of the level of the role.

I mentioned Amazon earlier and they typically have four to five interviewers for their management level positions. They schedule them to be accomplished all in one day. While the interviews on one-on-one versus a panel, each interviewer has a set series of star-based questions. When the interviews are done, that team of interviewers debriefs and ultimately makes a hiring decision. This process is done consistently and timely.

Amazon is also very transparent about what to expect in their interview process. I use them as an example as they hire a lot, they hire fast, and based on their results from my earlier comment that the war for talent is looked at as a critical driver of corporate performance, I’d say they’re doing it right a lot.

While I don’t have time today to get further into retention strategies, I will touch briefly on onboarding. Having a good hiring process, the core onboarding, can easily lead you right back to the recruiting process. I’ll speak from experience. For the longest time at one of my prior employers, we did a poor overall job at onboarding new hires. It was common for new staff members to not have their computer set up for several days to a week. Work stations were not always cleaned out and ready for them. No business cards, or a set training schedule was not uncommon to hear. This was a large organization. On ultimately from employee satisfaction surveys and turnover metrics, it was discovered how big of an issue this really was. Fortunately, changes were made and standardization of onboarding was implemented successfully.

While I share this story from my own personal experience, I have heard of similar challenges across many companies. I’ve already shared it’s expensive to hire someone. It can be even more expensive to rehire and retrain them. So make sure if you are going to hire somebody, that you are starting them off on the right track to be successful.

Hopefully now you feel a bit more educated about the current employment market. If you find that you are lacking in successful recruiting strategy, or need to make some tweaks to it, you now have some good ideas on what to implement. If you find yourself struggling or not having the time to handle the actual recruitment process, I’d ask that you’d consider working with the talent team here at CSI. With more than 100 years of combined recruitment experience, we enjoy leveraging that knowledge to help attract the best matches for our clients and candidates alike.

Thank you for your time and for listening to the CSI Special Group podcast.

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About The Specialty Pharmacy Podcast

Join host Suzette DiMascio, CHE, CMCE, CPC, President and CEO of CSI Specialty Group, as she answers questions, addresses concerns and discusses the news you need to stay on top of the ever evolving world of specialty pharmacy. Tune in every episode to hear real world examples of the good, the bad and the outrageous from the experts at CSI Specialty Group, and to learn about the limitless growth opportunities available in the specialty pharmacy industry.

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