Hospitals support a whopping one in nine jobs in the U.S., according to a recent American Hospital Association study. Hospitals in urban settings are in a unique position to hire locally and address unemployment rates that contribute to poor health conditions. And leaders are striving to make sure their workforce and management teams better reflect the communities they serve so neighborhood perspectives and health concerns are heard.

While progress is being made on that front, more is needed. Minorities made up just 19 percent of first- and mid-level hospital managers and 11 percent of executive leadership positions, according to an Institute for Diversity in Health Management and Health Research & Educational Trust survey of U.S. hospitals in 2015.

The Institute held a webinar outlining best practices for improving those numbers, spotlighting University Hospitals, Cleveland, which partnered with local organizations to create an "Outside In, Inside Up" approach to hire locally and promote from within.

"The situation was that our neighbors saw University Hospitals as impenetrable, and not a place that they could even aspire to work at,"  says Debbi Perkul, senior workforce development professional at University Hospitals. "We worked hard to change that perception."

UH created the Step Up to University Hospitals program to prepare people in the community for a job at the hospital and to promote from within when possible.

Thanks in part to a $250,000 grant from the Cleveland Foundation, UH was able to partner with local organizations that had developed deep roots in surrounding neighborhoods, such as Towards Employment and Neighborhood Connections.

That group heads into neighborhoods conducting information meetings about positions at UH Hospitals. Interested residents fill out applications and are interviewed for the program by Towards Employment team members. Those who are accepted go through a two-week pre-employment workshop and workplace simulation training. Graduates meet with a UH recruiter for an interview before going to the hiring manager at UH for a final decision.

Once new hires are on board, a job coach works with them for the first six months because, Perkul says, transitioning to the hospital workplace can be bumpy for some.

Hiring people from the community is the initial goal. Retaining those employees and offering opportunities for advancement are even more important.  

In three years, the program has hired 145 people to environmental and nutritional services positions and achieved a one-year retention rate of 80 percent. The program has had 70 patient care assistant hires in those three years with the same 80 percent retention rate.

“I can’t emphasize enough, a local hire program is only going to work as long as positions are open and the program can continually advance employees,” says Perkul.

The program has been such a success that the model is being adopted by hotel and hospitality businesses in the Greater University Circle area this year.