Digital Health Talent Wars: 4 Best Practices for Executive Recruitment

Written by Michael Delisle, Vice President, Practice Leader for Digital Health

Over the past decade, investors have poured a lot of promise and cash, upwards to about $49 billion, into the digital health market. According to Rock Health, those seed-funded efforts continued to sprout in 2020, as evidenced by the emergence of a dozen IPOs, 24 $100M+ mega-deals in digital health startups, and healthcare moves from the likes of Amazon, Apple, Walmart, Best Buy, and Walgreens.

A recent market study reports that the digital health market is expected to soar to more than $457 billion by 2026. Talent scarcity, startup immaturity, and the growing uncertainty of COVID-19 have created challenges, especially in the arena of executive recruitment. It’s not easy to convince someone to change jobs in the middle of a pandemic, especially during the emergence and evolution of a potential hybrid workforce. But if you find yourself facing this daunting challenge head on, here are four best practices you can adopt from an experienced veteran of executive recruitment to help you through it.

1. Motivate Through Your Company Mission

Most top-tier executives don’t make significant career moves merely over money. Sure, it’s a motivator, but it’s often not the first or even second priority. What attracts top talent is a sense of purpose. The more well-defined a company can communicate its mission, vision, and values, the more likely a talented executive can assess what they could add by coming onboard.

Successful seed-funded startups that have turned public like Doximity, Teledoc, and Livongo didn’t grow just from having good ideas. Many digital health startups fail despite having a viable product or service because they didn’t carve a path that defined the company’s overarching purpose. And talent can sense that.

It seems like a commonsense practice, yet many startups fall victim to the bootstrap mentality of figuring out things on the fly. What’s going to move the needle forward is defining “why” before finding the “who” and “what”. Just remember, what sets you apart must be meaningful enough to keep your mission and ambition in motion.

2. Dissect Your Company’s DNA

You can’t properly assess what is out in the market for your company without understanding your enterprise. That’s why both internal and external assessments are critical tools every growing company needs in its arsenal. First, taking that internal temperature among your existing talent is vital to the long-term success of your company; let your employees communicate what’s working and what isn’t. Next, an honest look in the mirror will help you further define your recruitment goals. Finally, you must identify where even your contributions are falling short, so you can find the talent to fill in those gaps.

Examine your company on that granular level, no matter how your company grows, particularly when expanding through corporate partnerships and acquisition. Maintaining a set of internal, integrative assessments can help your company persevere, especially during periods of challenge and transition.

3. Refine Your Recruitment Efforts

Nothing drains morale and market potential more than hiring the wrong person for the wrong position. Therefore, it’s critical to employ a thorough process for seeking and vetting talent right from the start. Make sure your hiring process includes checking credentials and references thoroughly. Don’t rush this process. Many good companies fail because of it.
Do your due diligence on both sides of the aisle, too. Utilize analytics and assessment tools to gain a deeper understanding of the talent pool. As far as fulfilling executive positions, don’t get stuck on domain expertise. The digital health landscape is narrow. It’s going to be hard to find the perfect fit if you’re only looking in the digital healthcare space.
And we know the healthcare industry has historically been behind on embracing technology. So, it only makes sense to seek candidates with the desired functional skills from other sectors to fill such roles. That different industry experience may prove to be invaluable to your company down the line.

4. Keep Your Eye on the Talent

It may be tempting to give your recruitment efforts a rest once your company hits a comfortable stride. That would be a mistake. Don’t become complacent when seeking, retaining, and cultivating talent. Your company may not be hiring now, but you should always be actively on watch for the best talent out there. If we have learned anything from 2020, it is that things can change quickly, and we should be prepared.
Let your company’s commitment to transparency guide your retention practices. At the same time, keep your eye on the talent emerging beyond your enterprise. Recruiting top talent can take time, so be sure to explore all options.

As you find candidates with qualifications that appeal to your objectives, ask yourself: what can my company offer in terms of mission, vision, values, and culture to recruit talent like that? To put it simply: always be recruiting. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain from paying attention to the talent around you and even in different industries, especially in this market. Talent recruitment in digital health will only become more competitive from here. And that’s a fact.