Sheldon Arora, LiquidAgents Healthcare CEO, knows how to treat his employees. From VIP access to premium concerts to generous happy hour parties, Arora shows a commitment to his team’s happiness that yields loyalty, trust, and excellence. And, as a result, LiquidAgents Healthcare’s track record shows nothing but success: the healthcare staffing firm often tops lists of the best places to work and has grown 60% in the last year alone. We sat down with Arora to get a little insight into what it takes to build an excellent staffing firm.
“Once we started building relationships with hospitals and clinical staff, we never looked back.”
We were a very successful IT services company, but our business was severely impacted after 9/11. Since healthcare is recession-proof, we tried to sell our services to hospitals. No one was buying because we didn’t have the experience they wanted. At one of our monthly meetings, we were brainstorming, and I asked: “What do hospitals want to buy?” and one smart aleck said, “Too bad we don’t have any doctors or nurses.” And that’s how we got started.
We included clinical staffing into our contracts and sales started to roll in. We started recruiting doctors, nurses, and allied workers, thinking that we would return to selling IT once the recession was over. But we never did. Once we started building relationships with hospitals and clinical staff, we never looked back.
“We set out to build the technology and infrastructure for a recruiting engine that would keep up with hospitals’ needs.”
Healthcare is different from every other industry. In other industries, from construction to pharmaceuticals, IT to retail, the biggest challenge is sales. But, because hospital services are always needed, their struggle is recruiting — having the right amount of qualified staff at all times to keep up with demand.
We understood from the beginning that solving the problem of candidate supply was key. We used our engineering and IT backgrounds to delve deeply into the processes that support our clients, setting out to design a supply-chain-style infrastructure specifically for recruiting. Today we have specialized teams dedicated solely to managing our candidate database, screening candidates, talking to candidates, and managing compliance requirements. Each department is supported by the most advanced technology in the industry, one that provides the largest database of clinical talent in the world that we’ve accumulated and kept current over many years.
“We’ve built an intensive training program to teach recruiters how to excel. ”
A strong training engine has also been crucial to our success. Recruiting is difficult. To recruit well in healthcare, you have to be a savvy salesperson, a knowledgeable HR manager, and a strong leader, all rolled into one.
When you’re competing with 10 other companies for the same talented nurse, you have to be able to convince them to work with you. You have to be persuasive and genuine to get nurses in the door. You also have to know all the HR rules to advise candidates and clinical staff about their rights and responsibilities. And, on top of all that, you need to lead clinical staff when they are out in the field. You need to be responsive to their needs and adeptly handle their issues with housing, benefits, payroll, trouble with their assignments, or their next assignment. Knowledge in these areas isn’t innate. So, we’ve built an intensive training program to teach recruiters how to excel.
“Text messaging is the primary way nurses, allied workers, and doctors communicate.”
Another crucial aspect of our success are the tools we use. We didn’t take software from the IT industry and modify it for healthcare. We worked with a partner (LaborEdge), to design and build software from scratch to support the healthcare staffing industry.
In addition to the software, we have partnered with leading companies for add-on functionality; for example, using TextUs, the business texting tool, has been a game changer. Text messaging is the primary way nurses, allied workers, and doctors communicate, so texting is much more effective than email for getting in touch with candidates. It’s the new email — it’s more concise, direct, and immediate.
“The healthcare staffing industry is still living in the Dark Ages.”
One of the biggest challenges in the healthcare staffing industry is how fragmented it is. In a lot of ways, the industry is still living in the Dark Ages. Other industries have invested in automation, with good success. In our industry, there’s limited integration and automation, so there’s a lot of wasted time, energy, and money.
For example, we get hundreds of job orders from VMSs (Vendor Management Systems) every day and almost all of them are in a different format. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to create an industry-standard job order? This would allow for more automation.
Another issue is that the supply of candidates is very restricted. Demand is massive but not enough supply exists to meet it. That’s why staffing agencies try a lot of tools and techniques to reach out to people, because everyone is fighting over the same limited supply.
Third, I think the industry has trouble growing leaders. As a company, we’ve grown 60% in the last year, and we’re ranked the 22nd largest company for travel nurses by Staffing Industry Analysts. And we can’t grow leaders the way we’d like to. We can’t train them fast enough to keep up with the hiring we’re doing internally because it takes so much time to learn leadership skills.
“The job of leadership in our company is very simple: remove the obstacles that our employees are facing.”
Every person I know wants to come into work and do a good job. I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t want to do a good job. The reason they can’t is because there’s something in their way. It could be lack of tools, technology, or training.
The job of leadership in our company is very simple: remove the obstacles that our employees are facing. In the process, because employees aren’t left to pound their heads against the same walls day after day, staff will see that leadership really cares. This helps an organization run well.
“If employees are happy, they’re going to do a good job.”
We’re not afraid to give our employees exactly what they want. If I did an all-hands meeting and I asked our team, “what do you need to do your job more effectively?” I don’t think a lot of people would raise their hands. They already have what they need. My goal is to make sure they have everything they need so they’re happy. If employees are happy, they’re going to do a good job.
We have a very unique culture. We give feedback directly. We don’t hide anything, good or bad. If we screw up, we admit it. We work together to fix problems. We also provide clear opportunities for advancement. And, since this is a stressful business, we try really hard to have a lot of fun in the process.
I genuinely think that we’re successful because our employees can see that they’ve contributed to our success. It makes everyone want to work harder because they know that they can have a massive impact on the future and that the company runs smoothly as a direct result of their hard work.
Looking for more on how to succeed in staffing? Check out our executive staffing interview series.