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September 6, 2017

How Henry Ford Health System's diversity recruitment strategy has led to top ratings, and what they have planned for the future

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Read Advisory Board's take on this story.

Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) in Detroit consistently ranks highly for its commitment to diversity—an achievement that HFHS officials say was supported by the system's efforts two years ago to revamp its executive recruitment strategy, Lola Butcher writes for Hospitals & Health Networks.

Jan Harrington-Davis—director for employee and labor relations, workforce diversity, and employee compliance at HFHS—said that before the revamp, the health system had seen its diversity efforts reflected in the candidate pools for its executive leadership openings, but final hiring decisions were not always as diverse.

"When you have a really good applicant pool of qualified individuals and you don't hire minorities and those who are disabled or veterans, that's an issue," Harrington-Davis said. "We wanted more focused attention on hiring." To do this, Harrington-Davis said the health system needed to set goals, develop and use metrics, and secure commitment from leadership.

The executive recruitment overhaul

About two years ago, HFHS created an executive diversity recruitment committee tasked with reviewing all applicants for executive-level positions, as well as some high-level manager positions, and approving all hiring decisions before offers are extended. The team consists of Harrington-Davis, HFHS' chief human resources officer, the human resources legal team leader, and vice presidents of human resources from each of the system's five business units.

The HFHS board of trustees, which sets and monitors the organization's diversity-related goals, establishes and oversees annual goals for the executive diversity recruitment committee to make sure that diversity is considered in every stage of the hiring process, including recruitment and interviews. To help ensure diversity remains a top priority, diversity-related goals are factored into the senior leadership bonus program, which accounts for 10 percent of senior leaders' pay, Butcher writes.

The new process in practice

The revised process consists broadly of three steps: setting diversity goals, reviewing the applicant pool, and selecting a candidate, Butcher writes.

1. To set its diversity goals, HR staff rely on U.S. Census data to calculate the availability of diverse candidates for senior-level positions. According to Butcher, "Availability is an HR term that means the percentage of individuals in certain job classifications within a given recruitment area who are racial/ethnic minorities, women, disabled, or veterans." For 2017, the board said HFHS should aim for 17 percent of senior leadership hires to be racial/ethnic minorities and at least 42 percent to be female.

2. When reviewing applications, HR recruiters who screen applications don't have access to any demographic information, such as details related to race/ethnicity, gender, or veteran status, to avoid the possibility of bias. The recruiters then send the names of all qualified applicants for senior-level positions to HFHS's Office of Workforce Diversity, which does have that demographic data and determines whether the applicant pool meets the previously determined availability. When those criteria are not met, the office asks the recruiter to undertake additional work and outreach to organizations such as the NAACP or the Disabled American Veterans, Harrington-Davis said. Throughout the reviewing process, recruiters are expected to ensure that candidates in a given pool are "similarly situated" in terms of qualifications and years of experience.

3. Candidate selection begins once an applicant pool meets the previously determined availability. At this step, the executive diversity recruitment committee meets to review the pool, and only then can the hiring manager begin scheduling interviews. Once a hiring decision has been made, the candidate's information is sent back to the recruitment committee for review. "It's there that the offer gets approved or is not approved, meaning we need to go back for more outreach," Harrington-Davis said.

Positive results and next steps

With the help of the revised recruitment process, HFHS surpassed its diversity goals for 2016, when about 16 percent of senior-level hires were racial/ethnic minorities and nearly 50 percent were female, Butcher.

HFHS later this year plans to expand the process and start "sourcing" all positions by availability.

"When you have your top HR executives throughout the organization having a dialogue about who brings what to the table and what will benefit the organization the most, that's the richest experience," Harrington-Davis said. "It's far bigger than the numbers" (Butcher, Hospitals & Health Networks, 8/22).

Advisory Board's take

Jesse Bridges, Head of Diversity & Inclusion, The Advisory Board Company

Across health care and other industries, organizations are increasingly focusing on diversity as a business strategy to enhance the engagement and productivity of their staff, expand market reach, and more effectively serve their constituents.

Henry Ford Health System has developed a remarkable blueprint for making progress toward a more diverse workforce that incorporates several best practices: a commitment from top leadership, early wins, accountability, and continuous monitoring.

Additionally, Henry Ford focuses not just on diversity of people, but also on diversity of perspectives. To truly capture the outsized value of diversity, organizations must design an inclusive workplace that empowers staff to bring their best selves and ideas to the fore.

To best foster such a culture, organizations should use annual engagement surveys and/or pulse surveys to gauge employee perceptions of belonging and provide direction on opportunities for improvement. In addition, they need to help managers cultivate an inclusive leadership skill set, as manager behavior is a key driver of employees' perceptions of whether or not an organization values diversity.

Specifically, organizations should incorporate inclusive leadership into performance management competencies, frame trainings as a professional development opportunity (as opposed to a punitive mandate) and provide regular training curriculums, with a focus on inclusive management practices.

For more on investing in diversity and building cultural competency in your organization, access our Health Disparities Initiative resources, which are free for all members.

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