Hurdling The Hiring Gap in the Contact Center: Implementing a Proactive Approach


Hiring GapThe Operations, Training & Recruitment teams at the Rochester-based Mayo Clinic have done an exceptional job reengineering the hiring process for the main appointment office. As the job market has changed - and the appeal of remote work rises - reducing employee turnover rate in the contact center has become a primary goal for managing patient access. Operations Administrator, Brynn Howard and Operations Manager, Troy Thul, both leaders at Mayo Clinic, discussed with the Patient Access Collaborative the proactive steps they have put in place to tackle the hiring gap.

The appointment office at the Mayo Clinic’s destination campus in Rochester handles large volumes of calls: each week, schedulers assist 75,000 callers.

As evidenced by the PAC 2023 Benchmark survey, call centers have experienced an average of 27.2% turnover in agents, which has left managers looking for ways to combat the lengthy gaps in time to refill positions and minimize financial losses. These gaps also leave health systems struggling to deliver consistently stellar patient experience. Mayo Clinic’s appointment office was no different.

At Mayo, the typical hire timeline was 16 weeks from when supervisors post positions, hire, train and start each new employee. Mayo Clinic experienced a 30% turnover rate for these positions. In 2021 and 2022, the resignations involved more than 20 schedulers a month. This dynamic “created stress on the operating systems and increased employee burnout, as staff members felt they were not supported,” according to Howard.

Looking for ways to shorten the 16-week hiring process, Operations Manager Troy Thul suggested changes to improve the recruitment and training processes. Further, the new model had to address the following goals: “improve productivity, reduce candidate loss and overstaffing, and to eliminate department competition around new hires.” Thul revealed the “overall hope was to reduce burnout, increase staff satisfaction and to standardize the hiring and training process.”

Focused on revamping training efforts, the team quickly released some key wins. They introduced a new formula which included: a “pre-hire” initiative. This initiative is designed to maintain a pool of 12 pre-hired schedulers that are balanced with the current turnover and the process supports pre-hired placement into permanent work units after 4 weeks of training. Thul noted, “the best candidates are those that have 2 years of customer service experience, as well as call center experience, which is preferred, but is not required.” In addition, he suggested “throughout the pre- hires process, job duties are reinforced using multiple channels of communication, which include, personal communication, a video and FAQ documents.” 

Department shadowing was also introduced to evaluate scheduler performance and a six-week live call training was implemented, as well as a simulator program and audio library, containing a variety of patient calls. A week-long, on-site training is required, but the team can work from home or from various geographical locations. New employees have a “meet and greet” with their supervision team to discuss department placement. The supervision team tries to accommodate the new hire’s placement request based on the unit’s needs and current position openings.

With the “pre-hire” alone, the team saved two weeks in the overall recruitment process. Howard suggested, “single job postings and centralized hiring efficiencies were established and competition over candidate hires was removed.” Howard emphasized that “although the ‘pre-hire’ does include up-front costs, over time, these costs are minimal as they pay off in productivity with improved morale, a staffed unit, less overtime and burnout, and improved financial performance.” Current improvement initiatives include: working on the mock call process and technical skill evaluation, which will be done virtually.