Getting a new hiring system off the ground
Helping find the right people for one of the toughest jobs on land or sea
This company needed to bring its hiring practices up to speed with it’s success. As one of the largest emergency medical service companies in the nation, it had grown to serve 3.4 million people, plus up to 80 offshore oil rigs deep in the Gulf of Mexico. But according to the VP of HR, “employee turnover was too high, 25-26% on the ground and 50% offshore. That 50% was eating our lunch.”
Their growth was part of their problem. By 2001 it had expanded to 2000 employees spread across much of Louisiana and Mississippi, operating 200 ambulances, seven helicopters and three fixed-wing aircraft. But their hiring practices hadn’t caught up: There was still very little structure, and much of their screening was based on no more than gut instinct. With the company now hiring from 300-400 employees a year they needed a better way to manage the process.
Finding the right people to meet their offshore commitments was particularly difficult. These employees typically work for two weeks straight in the cramped, dangerous environment of an oil platform, then take two weeks off. “You’re way out in the Gulf, and that takes its toll,” says the VP. But surprisingly, the stress and isolation aren’t always the problem. “Because they’re the only medical staff out there, they tend to serve as health and safety officers and do a lot of office work. That’s hard on ambulance people.”
The Chief Medical Officer was also virtually running HR at the time. He realized his organization needed a more objective, consistent method for hiring, both to decrease turnover and to ensure better legal compliance. To build a better system, he turned to longtime colleague Dr. Wendell Williams and his consulting firm ScientificSelection.com, LLC.
The complete package
Dr. Williams recommended a full-scale redesign of their screening procedures, expanding the process for each candidate from one hour to three. The new system includes the Attitudes, Interests, and Motivations (AIMS) profile tests, a comprehensive behavior-based interview package, and a role-playing scenario designed to reveal how candidates handle interpersonal challenges on the job.
Each element was customized for both ground and offshore positions. ScientificSelection tested the screening techniques extensively on current employees to validate the process and make adjustments. Merely getting the far-flung offshore employees to take the tests was a challenge in itself.
The behavior-based interview process in particular was new to them, and is relatively new to the industry as well. The idea took some getting used to – for their HR staff as well as their employees and applicants. But the company has found it very useful, especially the role playing, which on Dr. Williams advice is based on a work scenario unrelated to emergency medical services. According to the company, “Taking people out of the EMT context tells us a lot about them at a basic level. It provides a lot of great insights.”
Two years after implementation of the new screening process the company has seen dramatic results: their offshore turnover rate has dropped from 50% to 25%, which they attribute directly to finding candidates with a better fit for the offshore environment. On the ground their turnover has gone as low as 16%. In an industry with a largely young and highly mobile workforce, that result may be just as impressive.
Besides the advantages of the new system, the VP attributes some of the program’s success to Dr. Williams high level of personal commitment. “Wendell is very, very persistent. I like that. It’s a polite persistence, but you just know he’s never going to go away until the job gets done. In our busy environment, it’s very helpful that he keeps after us.”
Read other real-life applications of ScientificSelections performance-based approach to assessment development.