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Ontario Medical Review
April 5, 2023
Keri Sweetman

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of the Ontario Medical Review magazine.

Step up to lead and engage

Improved recruitment process aimed at attracting broader mix of candidates for a variety of roles

Spring recruitment is underway for the important job of serving on the Ontario Medical Association’s committees. A lot of effort has gone into ensuring that the process is fairer and more transparent and that the resulting committee teams are a truer representation of the OMA membership. 

Since 2020, the OMA has recruited twice annually – in spring and fall – for its advisory committees, working groups and task forces. This year’s four-week spring recruitment aims to fill at least 15 vacancies on committees and task forces. Those chosen will serve a two-year term.

Under the guidance of Melinda Gibson, executive director, governance, and members of the Governance and Nominating Committee, major improvements have been made to the recruiting process in the last two years, in an effort to respond to members’ concerns about fairness, diversity and transparency.

“In the past, there was this assumption that people just shoulder-tapped people they knew to go onto committees and boards, that they were always these OMA insiders,” Gibson said. “(That is why) we want to open the doors and the windows and say, ‘there’s no secrets here. This is exactly what the process looks like and we use this process for all of our recruitments’.” 

The changes are meant to ensure that committee membership is as diverse as possible, aiming for gender balance, geographic distribution, career-stage distribution, a range of specialities and diversity attributes, such as race and cultural background.

“We’re not just selecting the best individuals,” Gibson said. “A committee is not made up of individuals – it’s a team. And if you look at the team as a whole, they have to collectively have the skills and background to do the work.”

What changes have been made?

In addition to switching to twice-yearly recruitment campaigns and standardized terms, the governance team has refined the scoring matrix used to assess candidates. The standardized matrix assesses the same skills for all committee positions – such as growth mindset, collaboration, consensus decision-making, conflict resolution, the ability to translate knowledge. Some committees also look for specific skills, such as technical know-how or financial experience.

There is also a standardized, centralized application form that allows candidates to apply for any number of open committee positions they might be interested in. The application form now includes core questions specific to the mandate of each committee, so that reviewers get a real flavour of the candidates’ motivation, their insights and what they hope to achieve if they join the team. In the past, applicants just submitted their CVs and a cover letter.

Some positions require applicants to go through an interview process. This is the case for the Negotiations Task Force, the Relativity Advisory Committee, the Physician Payments Committee and the Physician Services Committee. These groups deal with challenging, high-profile issues.

Gibson said one of the major changes they have made is a de-emphasizing of OMA experience and more recognition of non-OMA experience a candidate might bring to a committee. In the past, she said, many members assumed they wouldn’t be successful applicants if they hadn’t already served on an OMA committee or working group.

“So we’ve changed, even just the language, so it’s more welcoming. We’re emphasizing equally OMA and non-OMA experience. It’s about transferable skills.”

How does the new process work?

All open vacancies are advertised on the OMA member website, with terms of reference, the skills matrix, expectations, time commitment and any committee-specific technical requirements. A direct email also goes out to all members to let them know about the vacancies.

Candidates fill in a standardized application form and are asked to answer committee-specific questions. Every application is reviewed by five to seven OMA staff members, from the governance team, as well as from departments that support the individual committees and from other OMA teams. These reviewers individually rank the candidates, using the scoring matrix and the applicant’s answers. Gibson described the process as intensive and time-consuming but well worth the time and effort. 

Then staff comes together for a conversation about the applicants, looking at the committee as a whole, its current makeup and whether there are gaps in representation on the team. The staff reviewers then come up with a list of preferred candidates, with some potential alternatives, which they often share with OMA officials who might have a broader view, to see if there was anything staff might have missed in their considerations.

The list of preferred candidates and alternates then go to the GNC for approval. This committee is made up of physicians who are OMA board directors, a member-at-large and the chair of the OMA General Assembly. Once they’ve given their OK, the recommendations go to the OMA Board of Directors for final approval.

(There is an extra step for committees requiring interviews. After their group conversation, the staff reviewers make a list of who should be interviewed, which goes to the GNC for approval. Typically, two to three applicants are interviewed for each vacancy. Interviews are carried out by the entire GNC and the staff lead for that committee).

What happens next?

Because there are far more candidates than there are committee openings, not everyone gets a position when they apply. Applicants who are not chosen are contacted by the governance team (this didn’t happen prior to 2019). Those who went through the interview process receive a phone call to tell them the results, while other applicants receive the news by email.

Gibson said a lot of effort goes into writing the emails, many of which come from the GNC chair. She said it’s important to reach out to candidates who didn’t get a committee position to see if there is a way to get them involved in other OMA activities. “We have so many stellar applicants and we don’t have enough positions for them all. The question is how do we keep them engaged and get them involved in other parts of the organization that they may not be aware of?”

Governance staff will also work with candidates who didn’t get a position on how they can make their applications stronger for future opportunities.

How has the new process worked so far?

Changes to the recruitment process began in 2020 and have been refined since then, Gibson said. “We are continually thinking about how to reduce potential bias in the process. We are always looking at it to make it the best process it can be.”

Increased transparency and the additional information available to potential candidates have resulted in an increase in applications. In last fall’s recruitment campaign, for example, there was one small working group looking for seven new members and they received 56 strong applications, she said.

The pool of applicants is also more diverse than in the past. There are more candidates from outside the GTA, more medical students and residents wanting to get involved, more diversity in career stage and practice model, and more people applying without OMA experience but with other background skills.

“We’re seeing an increase in people who’ve never been involved with the OMA before but have very, very strong skills that really will benefit OMA members.”

Keri Sweetman is an Edmonton-based writer.