Amy Beales has been in talent acquisition and management for more than fifteen years, and although she’s climbed the standard HR ladder, her work is anything but routine. She’s worked in both financial services and healthcare, and a recent promotion at Children’s National Hospital is giving her space to showcase her skills outside of recruitment. As she steps into the role of vice president of HR talent management, Beales is on a mission to break the mold around the typical healthcare hiring process.
Although the area is known for monuments, attractions, and buildings like the Library of Congress, the Lincoln Memorial, and the White House, Washington, DC, is home to another important institution—Children’s National Hospital. Its original facility was founded in 1870, but today the top-ranking system has locations across Maryland, Virginia, and DC that provide general pediatric and specialized care. The network links thousands of employees that serve individuals and patients in its communities.
Children’s National has built a strong reputation in the industry, but when Beales joined as director of talent acquisition in 2017 she found a recruitment function in need of repair. Internally, the department was not seen as a strategic partner to help with sourcing and finding top talent. “It’s important for every HR team to be seen as a true internal partner,” she says. “And I knew we had the foundation to build that trust and get to a better place by implementing some strategies I had seen work well earlier in my career.”
Beales is turning her nontraditional background into an asset in healthcare. After completing undergraduate and master’s degree programs at Towson University, she spent the first half of her career in financial services as a talent acquisition director at MetLife. The fast-paced era taught her about branding and showed her the importance of creating the right candidate experience. “We want every candidate to walk away thinking Children’s National would be a great place to work,” she explains. Beales has introduced branding, clarity, and efficiency into the process to make the candidate experience better.
She’s also imported best practices from her nearly five years at the University of Maryland Medical System. During her tenure there, the organization was transitioning to a shared service model. As the talent acquisition team expanded from supporting one hospital to ten, she built a team of dedicated sources to handle outbound headhunting. Then, she compiled robust data sets to help leaders understand how they could leverage the strengths of a shared service model in healthcare.
These lessons and experiences are helping Beales find success at Children’s National. Her first move involved rebranding talent acquisition to leaders, managers, and administrators. While many viewed talent acquisition only as a necessary resource to post jobs and screen candidates, Beales knew the potential of the function. “Recruiters should be a true strategic partner to its organization,” she reiterates.
Beales reshuffled teams and issued the onboarding tasks to a dedicated group of coordinators who work with candidates from start to finish. That empowered recruiters to focus on sourcing and selecting. Next, she used the data model from the University of Maryland to capture information on time-to-fill and other metrics before creating dashboards, analyzing trends, and uncovering opportunities for improvements.
After putting these foundational pieces in place, Beales was promoted to VP of HR talent management in July 2021 and continued to develop her program. “The competition for talent in healthcare is fierce, and I wanted to push us to do new things,” she says. “If we don’t start looking for talent where others aren’t, we will miss an opportunity to differentiate.” Children’s National has broadened its sourcing strategies and is working with community partners to recruit high school students and Afghan refugees.
Today, one of the biggest challenges is tackling the nationwide healthcare worker shortage. Beales says mission and values are more important than ever before. “Candidates care about jobs and benefits, but what pushes it over the finish line is culture,” she says. Her team completed an engagement survey that returned some surprising results. In response to an open-ended question to identify how employees like to be recognized, responders overwhelmingly indicated that the top five ways they prefer to receive recognition had nothing to do with benefits or bonuses—they want one-on-one conversations, feedback, and public recognition.
Beales’s colleagues outside the hospital have recognized her efforts. “Amy’s commitment to building an organization that celebrates, strengthens, and engages each individual through their unique strengths and talents sets up every colleague and team for continued success and growth opportunities within Children’s National,” says Mitch Bergen, client strategist for HR consulting firm Talent Plus.
This spring, Beales will refresh the system’s core values and use this to reenergize employee recognition efforts. She’ll also complete a performance management redesign and reshape a new interview process. Teams are increasingly focused on behavior and potential rather than experience. Because Beales uses data, she knows which behaviors will lead to long-term success at Children’s National.
These strategies are also aimed at those already working at Children’s National. Beales, who coordinates learning and development efforts and leads succession planning, utilizes a tool to help leaders identify their strengths so they can utilize them to develop new skills, and potentially lead other functions. In her system the hope is that one day, one executive could replace another who is departing. “People crave development, and leaders need to see potential to stay with an organization for a long time,” she says.
In 2021, Beales and her team filled about 1,700 positions. This year, they expect to fill about the same volume of positions. As some clinicians leave the bedside in search of better pay or a new environment, Children’s National is trusting the impact it makes to aid in recruitment. “We’re a special place filled with amazing people who provide lifesaving care to the nation’s children,” Beales says. “Anyone who cares about that mission can find a home here.”