Insights (Essays)

Insights (Essays) May 2021
Ottawahealthcareers.ca

The Power of Collaboration

Jamie McIntosh

Greg Hedgecoe 

As the second wave of COVID-19 loomed in the fall of 2020, hospitals in Ottawa, ON, and the surrounding areas were all short-staffed. Where and how would they find the recruits they needed? Their innovative answer was to stop competing and start cooperating.

Beginning November 2020, 19 hospitals joined forces with medical laboratories and long-term care homes across the region to launch a national digital recruitment campaign. The campaign culminated in ottawahealthcareers.ca – a microsite that lets job seekers search a single job board with 24 employers and more than 1,000 jobs. It also makes a compelling case for Ottawa as one of the best places to live in Canada.

To get an insider’s perspective on the campaign’s approach and impact, my company (inMotion.ca) spoke to Greg Hedgecoe, vice president of People, Performance Improvement and Diagnostic Services at Queensway Carleton Hospital in Ottawa, ON, and chair of the Regional HR Committee. 

inMotion: One thing that is so interesting about this project is that hospitals typically compete for recruitment.

Greg: True, but it was time to take a new approach. We’ve been short-staffed for quite some time and the first wave of COVID amplified the problem because we needed to staff assessment centres and additional beds. Even when the pandemic is over, we’ll need more staff in our region. As regional HR lead for the pandemic response, I had a conversation with some of my VP counterparts and we agreed that the past approach of recruiting away from one another just leaves a hole somewhere else in the system. So why don’t we launch a joint recruitment campaign focused specifically on bringing new healthcare workers into our region? Our marketing focus was entirely outside of the region, highlighting the benefits of a healthcare career in the Ottawa area.

inMotion: Which types of healthcare workersare you looking for? 

Greg: We’re focused on registered nurses, registered practical nurses, personal support workers and medical laboratory technologists. But based on the way otttawahealthcareers.ca is built and the way the marketing campaign is structured, we’re really drawing on all types of healthcare workers. 

inMotion: Phase Two of the campaign started in February 2021. From your perspective, what did you achieve in Phase One, and what do you hope to achieve in Phase Two?

Greg: The results have been pretty phenomenal so far. As of early May 2021, we’ve had 18 million impressions, close to 90,000 ad clicks and 30,000 site visitors. And every month we’re hiring about 20 people from outside our region who otherwise probably wouldn’t have even considered us. So, what are getting out of it? All of that exposure and that interest in working here is translating into people accepting jobs and moving here. I’m hoping that in Phase Two we can convert more people who have had their curiosity piqued into people who move here.

inMotion: Do you expect that to happen as COVID fades?

Greg: In fact, the steering committee was talking earlier today about the 800 or so subscribers to our newsletter that highlights new job postings. Once we begin moving beyond COVID, we’ll reach out to them to start a conversation about why they’re interested but haven’t applied yet. Those are warm, active leads, and we need to attract them to move here because we will still have many job opportunities after the pandemic. 

inMotion: When you launched the campaign, did you think that the response might not be a lot just because there was a demand for healthcare workers everywhere?

Greg: That was definitely one of our initial concerns. At the time, Quebec was being hit pretty hard, and BC and Toronto … so how likely was it that those people were going to want to leave their employer when they had or felt a duty of care? But at the same time, we had other regions that weren’t having the same COVID numbers and we thought that maybe those folks would be willing and interested in making a move. By focusing on the whole region of Ottawa, we’re able to offer a wide range of career and lifestyle options from large teaching and research hospitals to regional hospitals in rural areas. 

inMotion: Do you see this partnership and ottawhealthcareers.ca living beyond COVID? 

Greg: I do. I think it’s one of those COVID necessities that becomes permanent. I report to a group of CEOs from all of the hospitals and never once have they questioned the value of us doing this. Every time I report back to the CEOs or the regional HR committee on progress, all I get is a combination of “wow” and “we really need to keep this going beyond the pandemic.”

inMotion: Any final thoughts? 

Greg: If we don’t have enough healthcare workers, then our ability to maintain essential healthcare services in our region is at risk. I don’t want to think about what might have happened if we hadn’t launched this joint recruitment campaign.

About the Author(s)

Jamie McIntosh is president of inMotion Digital and Video Marketing (inMotion.ca), the company that developed the ottawahealthcareers.ca campaign. inMotion specializes in the healthcare and medical markets.

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