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Heather Jefferis

Executive Director of the Oregon Council For Behavioral Health

Membership Spotlight on Heather Jefferis: Obstacles and Opportunities in the Hiring Process

July 25, 2019 | Workforce | Comments
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In this Membership Spotlight, Heather Jefferis, a National Council board member and executive director of the Oregon Council For Behavioral Health, opens up about the workforce development issues in her state and shares best practices for getting more out of the recruitment process.

What challenges have you encountered hiring qualified staff in the behavioral health care industry?

“In Oregon, workforce shortages exist at every tier of the industry. We are experiencing stagnating wages, increased cost of living, issues with housing access and affordability, and an aging workforce. Recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce has been challenging.

“As many people in the behavioral health field prepare for retirement, younger members are a desirable commodity. But they are being courted by higher-paying entities within our behavioral health system and other sectors; organizations that can offer higher wages and a larger capacity to provide enticing employee supports. It’s an obstacle we have to overcome.”

How are you bridging the gaps that exist in the behavioral health care workforce?

“Oregon, among other states, faces difficulty in recruiting multi-lingual, culturally specific providers, as well as those whose race and ethnicity reflect those whom they serve. Sadly, Oregon faces shortages in all employee types – from doctorial through peers.

“Easing the pathway for interstate state license portability, perhaps even international portability; utilizing increased telehealth and consultation to improve the reach of limited resources; and expanding the role of the provider in the system will create some improvement.”

What’s the key to outlasting the competition to attract qualified professionals?

“With such a limited number of potential employees, creative marketing, strong benefits and employee supports are critical to the recruitment process. Providers who don’t take the time to modernize their HR packages, as well as their recruitment and retention practices, will face serious competition for our limited workforce pool.

“In Oregon, we are deepening our advocacy in new ways by working more intentionally with our educational institutions, board members, employers and others to create momentum for our sector.”

Can you share some ideas about being innovative in your employee recruitment strategy?

“Marketing your behavioral health positions is critical. The behavioral health sector has been slow to adopt the HR practices being utilized in competitive sectors – such as social media recruitment, which modernizes job descriptions and recruitment postings – to sell employment to the emerging workforce. Simple practices like posting your pay range and flexible scheduling opportunities, describing your work culture and the community your organization serves, and highlighting benefits, are essential.”

What can we do to generate more interest in a behavioral health care career?

“It starts with awareness. For example, try reaching out to educational institutions to promote opportunities in the behavioral health sector, such as high schools, trade schools, community colleges and higher education institutions.

“Also, work to increase the implementation and utilization of payment methodologies and formulas that support competitive wages and benefits within the sector. And support the implementation of technology for quality improvement, enabling the workforce in their daily duties and data collection.”