Established in 1949 and now the 13th largest nonprofit in the nation, American Baptist Homes of the West (ABHOW) is one of America’s largest and most trusted nonprofit, nonsectarian providers of housing, health care, and support services to the upper- and low-income senior living consumer and small business markets. Aiming to serve an ever-increasing number of seniors, ABHOW is committed to providing extraordinary service and healthy aging programs to older adults, their families, and the wider community. The company is known as a pioneer among its nonprofit peers in the senior living industry.
On joining ABHOW 11 years ago, Terese Juntz, the San Francisco Bay Area-based Senior Vice President of Human Resources, was tasked to help shape executive management to advance ABHOW’s mission, culture and business goals. Fundamental to this challenge, a decade ago she installed a systematic candidate search and selection process that delivers capable candidates to these important positions. To do this, she partnered with hfi and has since worked to build one of the strongest executive leadership teams in the senior living nonprofit sector. Here’s how.
Terese: When I transitioned from the high-tech, for-profit business sector to ABHOW, I was struck by the complexity of the business structure in ABHOW and within other peer organizations in the nonprofit sector. I was also surprised to see how narrow the industry was in its talent acquisition and management strategies. A decade ago, most management people employed at ABHOW had come direct from the Senior Living industry. It was rare that managers were hired from outside the industry, and rarer still to look for new hires for our Executive Director positions from outside the industry until several years ago.
Terese: I had used psychometric assessment during my time in the high-tech sector for hiring senior level positions and executive team building, but I found the hiring practices I encountered when moving to ABHOW lacked the rigor necessary to source, recruit, and hire the best talent. Our old process was based on familiarity rather than on strong criteria, so after a year at ABHOW, I worked to install a more rigorous process. And when we needed to fill a vacancy for our top operations job, I knew I wanted the process to begin including psychometric testing. The problem was that I had difficulty in finding US-based companies doing the work I needed. I eventually found hfi on the internet – we’ve been partners for over 10 years now.
Terese: We use hfi psychometric assessments for our executive-level positions: Executive Director, Vice President, or above, and with both external candidates and those being considered for promotion internally. What I find most valuable, personally and for our business, are the debriefing phone calls I receive from hfi’s business psychologists. Together, we review the test results of our candidates and hfi provides insightful recommendations and coaching on questions to ask candidates in follow-up interviews based on their test results. This helps us accurately understand the strengths and the weaknesses of our candidates, their personalities and abilities.
Terese: Sure. Well, rather early in our relationship, hfi made some recommendations that ultimately played a significant role in the way we look at candidates. And this goes back to the prevailing trend in the industry at the time that very few people from outside it were being considered as potential hires – this caused problems. We had positions to fill and it was becoming more difficult to find the talent we needed from within the industry. Many executives and managers are retiring and there has been a lack of qualified talent to fill these vacancies. hfi advised us to look elsewhere and allow ourselves to consider top talent from other compatible industries, hospitality and the military in particular, to meet our management needs.
So based on that advice, I teamed with ABHOW’s Chief Operations Manager of our Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC), and went against the popular view within the company, and the industry, and hired our first “hospitality” person for an Executive Director position. Since then, we have hired two more hotel general managers to run our more complex CCRCs. The results have been outstanding. Recently, I hired a former 20-year military career person into my Vice President, Team Member Relations job, who is performing extraordinarily.
Terese: The assessments themselves are accurate in identifying candidates’ capabilities compared with our job requirements – I’d say that it’s about a 95% accuracy rate with hfi’s ability to match candidates’ abilities to the demands and characteristics required for the given position. I appreciate that our assessments are proctored and I like the depth and breadth of qualifiers and characteristics the assessments capture – those things are vital to hiring the most capable people for senior management jobs. We’re looking for the right cultural fit for the nonprofit environment. Rewards and autonomy should be on the low-end of the personal motivators, but interest in the position, dedication to the mission, and a desire to make a positive difference in the lives of our residents need to be high. The assessments reveal this. Often, the preliminary interviews expose differences to the type of candidate ABHOW seeks to hire and hfi’s testing confirms those disparities. It’s a great safety net.
Terese: Absolutely. ABHOW leadership is in a much better place now because of our partnership with hfi. The executives that we’ve hired using the hfi assessment process are all strong performers when we’ve followed the guidance that comes from the hfi assessments and validated that with our experience with the candidate during the interview process. You can see where the capabilities and talents of the people we’ve hired meet the demands of the job and the qualities that are so necessary for success. In fact, because our results have been so successful, the credibility we’ve created in using psychometric testing has brought about new requests from management to begin implementing those tools for lower level management positions within the organization. It’s a validation and endorsement of the work ABHOW and hfi do together.
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