Help Wanted: Accountability starts with you

The first two blogs in this series came to me during early morning sessions at the YMCA and were drafted over a weekend. Candidly, I struggled when writing this entry. The idea lightbulb flickered, but with the importance of the topic, building around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), I wanted to offer a unique perspective that would prove helpful to readers. At times leaders with privilege, like myself, play it safe and re-package concepts that should already be known and valued. Talking at their audience rather than creating space for thought and meaningful conversation. This approach can be damaging, as clinging to comfort under the guise of change impedes actual change. In attempt to offer fresh content, I ultimately decided to share more about my background, insights into healthcare talent acquisition, along with advice from industry leaders that will help advance DEI within your organization.

About the Author

Who is Eric Van Duren? Demographic info;

  • White, Male.

Who is Eric Van Duren? Per LinkedIn;

  • (He/Him) – A Talent Acquisition Leader employed by Spectrum Health, an enterprise comprised of 31,000+ team members, 14 hospitals, 150 ambulatory service sites; and Priority Health, a health plan with 1,000,000+ members served.

 

Who is Eric Van Duren, aka EVD? Per some lived experiences;

  • A small-town boy whose primary exposure to race/ethnic diversity was through sports. To this day, if you find me wearing a baseball cap, it will most likely be backwards thanks to the iconic Ken Griffey Jr.
  • A spry but naïve teen who often avoided serious trouble while also being provided ample opportunity due to people and systems supporting my ‘bright future’.
  • A college graduate who found the best education coming after class, through talking with people from different backgrounds and learning from their stories. An outcome that wasn’t expected when initially seeing the sticker price for a degree. A topic for a future time.
  • A new hire at my first job post college, confidently proclaiming “I don’t see color” in a training focused on DEI. Then, squarely hit with the realization of how much I had to learn after the seasoned facilitator enlightened me on why that could be hurtful.
  • A husband to Emily and father to now 10-year-old Elliott whose best learnings come from the intentional and unintentional examples his parents set. Together, we make up the EVDs.
  • A first-time leader, looking to build around DEI, making the mistake of tasking marginalized groups to educate me without putting in the continuous study myself. From this experience, learning that positive intent could no longer be an excuse.
  • A grateful attendee who listened to Dr. Ibram X. Kendi speak the words, “we know how to be racist, we know how to pretend to be not racist, now let’s know how to be antiracist”.
  • A patient, offline, 1 hour every other week to talk with my therapist. This helps keep my mental health strong and one of the many reasons I work at Spectrum Health, an organization dedicated to supporting the mental health of their team members, which is a dedication any employer can commit to when looking to enhance their DEI efforts.
  • A teammate with a career in healthcare talent acquisition the past 15 years. From that I’ve gained a deep appreciation for the power of employment, the critical need to create health equity and the impact robust DEI efforts can have.

I referenced a ‘bright future’; our intention should be to see realistic pathways to a bright future for everyone. Not only see, but act. Far too many have their progress negatively impacted by racism, engrained within systems that must be broken down, reimagined, and rebuilt. I am an advocate for self-reflection and a question I’ve contemplated, if I wasn’t a white male, would I have the same LinkedIn bio today?

Healthcare Talent Acquisition

I was recently interviewed and asked the question “Why do you choose Healthcare and Talent Acquisition as your career?” The word choose was smart, as the market is competitive and organizations are swiftly attempting to refine their value proposition to retain employees. One prevalent strategy is to strengthen commitments to DEI, which leaders need to capitalize on as challenging times can lead to bold actions. Actions that, unfortunately, may not have emerged as top priorities just a few years back. It’s opportunities like this, and the disparities Talent Acquisition teams can help close, that keep my career a clear choice for me.

Why Healthcare?

Let’s start with two quotes;

  • Spectrum Health’s Chief Nursing Executive and Senior Vice President of Clinical Operations, Shawn Ulreich, recently shared in a video that features nurses doing the work that matters, “That’s what inspires me, that they come in every day, they give 110% every day, to make sure that our patients are getting good care, to make sure that the families are connected in some way”.
  • Priority Health’s President, Praveen Thadani, recently shared via LinkedIn “Very proud of #PriorityHealthforGood and its work to highlight and support organizations addressing health equity in Michigan. Excited to continue creating meaningful change together”.

Shawn’s quote resonates as it’s beyond gratifying to work alongside warriors that give their all for others. Every team member, across the 31,000, is presented the chance to lift spirits, save lives and provide countless unseen contributions on a daily basis. With that, the video is immensely better at sharing the why than words from me and I invite you to watch.

Praveen’s quote resonates as health disparities are driven by social and economic inequalities that could include housing, education, food options, health coverage, and employment. Think of that in terms of employment within your organization. If practices aren’t built around DEI, they are perpetuating the longstanding problem of individuals not receiving equitable care. Another LinkedIn post, this one from Diversity, Equity and Inclusion leader Valissa Armstead shared, “The pre-term birth rate in the US is unacceptably high (10.1%) – and even higher for Black women (14%), American Indian women (11.7%) and others from socially vulnerable populations.” Health inequities can’t be tolerated and this is one of countless examples confirming that building a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce is not the nice thing to do but the only thing to do.

Why Talent Acquisition?

My why has changed over time. At first it was a paycheck, then a career, then a profound personal connection and now recognizing the power of employment and the gift I am given to work in this field. Talent Acquisition teams have the ability to see the big picture, to advocate for those without a platform, to strengthen communities and be a cherished differentiator for their organization. Here are numbers from our Talent Acquisition team that highlight how building inclusive employment practices can deliver value:

  • 2021: Percentage of positions filled is up 29.6% when compared to 2020 and 37.7% when compared to 2019. The ‘how’ – making jobs easier to fill and investment.

  • 2021: Percentage of diverse leaders hired is up 14.7% when compared to 2020 and 19.3% when compared to 2019. The ‘how’ – an organizational commitment to DEI.
  • 2021: Cost-per-hire is at the 32nd percentile when compared to SHRM’s 2018 Healthcare Benchmarking report. The ‘how’ – Build around DEI and the results will follow.

  • 2021: The year-end team member engagement survey showed some of our greatest team strengths being the purpose behind our work, having a high level of excellence and being excited for Spectrum Health’s future. The ‘how’ – This team, like many across Spectrum Health, laughs together, cries together, and has an unshakeable bond to each other and their work. They are heroes #InThisTogether.

Anyone, anytime, can reach out if looking to talk employment practices, share experiences, ask questions or purely for emotional support as you go forward.

Why Healthcare Talent Acquisition?

The past 20 months in healthcare have been an ultramarathon at a sprinter’s pace. COVID-19 continues to surge in Michigan, we’re in the throes of flu season, care is compressed, emotions are high, healthcare employees are exhausted and additional team members are needed. Spectrum Health is fortunate to have the support of military medical staffers, but it’s only temporary relief. Here are two calls to action:

  • If you’ve ever considered a career in healthcare, know someone who has, or have your interest peaked for the first time – visit a healthcare provider’s careers site and apply. I’d love for people to join us in the fight at Spectrum Health and our team is hiring roles ranging from those with no experience required, to clinical professionals, to leaders that celebrate diversity and more. But joining any healthcare team is helpful. We all get so many days, why not fill a portion of them with a purpose-driven career?
  • There will always be a reason to put critical work on pause: hectic schedules, narrowing focus, budget restraints, etc., but building around DEI should never pause. DEI is not the responsibility of one person, or a single team, or something that that is only treasured when times are especially easy or hard. DEI is about believing in neighborhoods, providing a sense of belonging, showing respect and creating a greater good. When framed like this, why would it ever stop?

My career has granted me the opportunity to see amazing things – courage, innovation, collaboration, inspiration, and watching someone accept a job while their face fills with elation and eyes with mist. Those are a few reasons I choose Healthcare Talent Acquisition and why access to careers like mine, edit…, access to any career should be available to anyone and not hampered by structural racism. Accountability starts with you and it’s never too late to work on yourself, learn about others, build character and commit to living a just life. The intent is not to grandstand, as I have an abundance of work to do myself, but instead to encourage while offering support in the pursuit to become the best you.

Advice from Regional/National DEI Leaders

Building around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is a win for all – it increases outcomes, keeps an organization sustainable and enhances quality of life for communities. It’s time I turn this over to five specialists I am better off from knowing who graciously offered to share their wisdom.

Dr. Ken Fawcett – Vice President of Spectrum Health Healthier Communities. A true visionary I hold in the highest esteem.

Q – What is one piece of advice or practice you’d share with employers looking to build around diversity, equity and inclusion?

A – Our West Michigan communities are diverse and those difference in perspectives, cultural norms, views and values are powerful assets in the creation of a vibrant community for all. Spectrum Health’s mission to improve health, inspire hope, and to save lives reflects our commitment to each of these communities, and we need to be aware that our interventions need to reflect the differences that exist within the cultural context of different groups. We must first recognize the differences in approach that must be utilized, be deliberate and inclusive as we design our solutions to accomplish our goals which will require different tactics, messengers, and partnerships if we are to achieve our mission for all. The only time when equity and equality interventions are ever the same is when people are starting from the same position, and that simply does not happen within our community.

Shaquille Anthony – Senior Talent Engagement Specialist, SpartanNash. An astute and creative leader pursuing his Doctorate Degree in Education, with a focus on Organizational Development / Leadership. He brings a passion for talent engagement, community outreach, building strong and diverse talent pipelines and is a featured speaker at this year’s ReimagineHR conference.

Q – What is one piece of advice or practice you’d share with employers looking to build around diversity, equity and inclusion?

A – I agree that DEI is a journey but it is a journey that requires action now. Sometimes we inherently use DEI being a journey as a way to negate the urgency that is required for DEI to be effective. While the journey is never ending, let us understand the importance of forward movement and progression.

Cynthia Rocha Manager of Education and Internships at the National Diversity Council. A dynamic leader helping to create diverse talent pipelines for organizations worldwide.

Q – What is one piece of advice or practice you’d share with employers looking to build around diversity, equity and inclusion?

A – Focus your efforts on Emotional Intelligence. Relationships are the new currency and we must always remember to lead with a servant’s heart. It’s about giving back and being the voice for those that don’t feel that they have one. It’s about creating change, not about counting heads but making heads count. It’s about diversity of thought and treating people with dignity and respect, that’s when innovation and creativity thrive.

Mel Trombley – Director of Leadership Programs at the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. An incredibly smart change agent who partners with high performing leaders to enhance their personal and professional development.

Q – What is one piece of advice or practice you’d share with employers looking to build around diversity, equity and inclusion?

A – Commitment to and the journey with DEI vary across and within organizations. For employees wanting to lead their organization to the next step I encourage them to think about the 3 P’s: Purpose, People, Policy. Connecting to the company’s values or purpose, is a way to create buy in and engrain DEI across all the company does and stands for. DEI is key to all things people: employees’ sense of belonging, happiness, and retention as well as ability to perform, innovate and connect. The third P is Policy. It is important to update policies to reflect an organization’s commitment to DEI to ensure consistency.”

Whitney White  Director of Employer Engagement for Talent 2025, Diversity and Inclusion Leader, Author, Innovator and Entrepreneur. A person who can instantly help you build around DEI. Her book, written with other industry leaders, outlines essential leadership competencies to be an effective practitioner and is a must read. It’s also available on Amazon and makes for an excellent team gift.

Q – What is one piece of advice or practice you’d share with employers looking to build around diversity, equity and inclusion?

A – To elevate DEI in an organization, leaders must first use quantitative and qualitative data to understand the current state of their organization. Then, the research can be used to create, track, and analyze relevant metrics, guide strategy, consult various departments, review policies to reduce bias, and influence various teams from a business and moral perspective. Representation matters. People leave. Programs fail. Strategically embedding diversity, equity, and inclusion into policy, procedure, and process is what leads to scalability and sustainability.

Thank You

I’ve found writing this series therapeutic, hope you’ve enjoyed reading and will continue to provide content in 2022. My closing thoughts are to find a career that aligns with your values. You got this; we all will start at different points with the key being to start. Once started, build around a core that makes people feel a sense of belonging. Focus on personal development, changing behaviors and changing systems through intentional design. It will be hard at times but trust that if you take one brick, then the next, and the one after that, eventually you’ll have built a beautiful estate that anyone would like to call home.

Connect

Let us know your advice for building around DEI on Twitter @WMTalent 2025.

Connect with Eric on LinkedIn. Learn more about Spectrum Health.

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