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Creating Meaningful Career Pathways for the Community

Initiatives target hiring of local residents


When Melissa Burrows, PhD, attended meetings with Cleveland leaders as the city’s Director of Equal Opportunity for seven years, she served as a conduit for residents.


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“I thought about all the people I represented who weren’t privileged enough to be in the room and tried to use my voice to speak on their behalf,” she says. “I thought about who was at the table, who was not at the table and who should be at the table.”

Burrows, who joined Cleveland Clinic in June 2021 as Director of Talent Acquisition and Workforce Diversity, continues to advocate for the community.

“It’s so important for us to consider where we as an organization are physically located and provide opportunities for individuals who live in those communities to work at the organization. So many people are left out,” says Burrows. “If we are part of the community, we have to be part of the solution.”

One way to do that is to create meaningful career pathways for local residents.

Programs to promote career pathways

While Cleveland Clinic’s main campus is located east of downtown in the Fairfax neighborhood, the healthcare organization defines its community as the entire city. It focuses recruitment efforts on the east side and west side, as well as the surrounding Fairfax neighborhood.

Cleveland Clinic uses several strategies to increase the number of local hires, including the following:

  • Relationship Building – The Office of Talent Acquisition is fostering relationships with hundreds of community partners, including non-profit organizations, schools, faith-based organizations, businesses and government agencies. “Our program managers are building on existing relationships and forming new ones to better understand and serve the community,” says Burrows.
  • Community Embedment – Program managers don’t sit at desks all day. They are expected to be out in the community three days a week, accessible to residents in the spaces where they live. They are embedded at Cleveland Clinic’s Langston Hughes Center, which provides community health and education, as well as local recreation centers. “We tell our program managers to wear sweats and sneakers and go play basketball with teenagers in the gym,” says Burrows. “Residents have to see Cleveland Clinic not as an institution, but as real people. They need to identify with someone.”
  • Community Canvassing – On a Friday afternoon in October 2021, Cleveland Clinic caregivers and leaders walked around the neighborhood surrounding main campus knocking on doors, meeting residents and dropping off literature to promote career paths. City council representatives from two wards joined the team.
  • Career Exposition – As a follow-up to the community canvassing day, Cleveland Clinic will host a career expo in 2022 to highlight career opportunities, such as patient care nursing assistants, patient transporters, customer service, environmental services and stock clerks. The exposition will include interaction with caregivers and hiring managers, application support, interview preparation and on-the-spot interviews. “The path to employment has to be immediate,” says Burrows. “People aren’t waiting for jobs to come to them when they can go down the street and work for Amazon. Our value proposition is landing a job quickly that can lead to a long-term career.”


Advice for increasing local hires

Burrows offers advice for other healthcare organizations striving to hire locally. “First, understand your community,” she says. “Don’t assume anything about the residents.”

In addition, Burrows recommends working with local governments. “We pair up with council people because they know their communities,” she says. “And if they partner with us and create jobs, it’s a win for both of us and the community at large.”

Finally, she encourages healthcare organizations to find out the neighborhoods their caregivers live in and enlist them in promoting the benefits of employment at their organization. “Talent acquisition can’t be in the neighborhoods all the time, so we need to ask our current caregivers if they would serve as our ambassadors,” says Burrows.

Cleveland Clinic Talent Acquisition is making a difference. When Burrows joined the healthcare organization, 12.3% of the enterprise’s employees were local hires. By November 2021, Cleveland Clinic reached its goal of increasing that number to 15%. The goal for 2022 is 17% local employees.

“Even though we reached our goals, we can’t get comfortable. We’re going to keep striving for more local hires,” says Burrows. “My goal is for the community to be embedded in Cleveland Clinic as opposed to Cleveland Clinic being embedded in the neighborhoods.”


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