April 15, 2016

‘We Go Bowling’: The Challenges of Recruiting and Engagement When Death Is Your Business


“Whether you like it or not, all people die,” says Dan Hogan, founder of Medalogix, a tech company that uses predictive analytics to identify patient risks and help clinicians and families provide better end-of-life care.

This is not the kind of thing I hear on a daily basis in this line of work. Then again, there’s nothing mundane about Medalogix.

Hogan founded the company in 2012, after operating a home health care agency from 2005 to 2010.

“Toward the end of that operation, I began to toy with the idea of taking critical data and mapping it … to identify which patients would be more likely to suffer readmission,” Hogan says.

Further spurred by all the talk about health care reform that was (and still is) so prevelant in the public discourse, Hogan assembled a team and built and product that uses neural networking to identify patients who are at elevated risk of readmission, mortality, and adverse events. And thus, Medalogix was born.

Hogan says the daily reports that Medalogix generates for clinicians has lead to “dramatic results,” in terms of declining rates of readmission, mortality, and adverse events. The company is providing a real serve to the world – but that doesn’t mean everything is smooth sailing for Medalogix. Not only do the company’s employees spend all day, every day around death (in a sense), but the work that Medalogix does requires a unique mixture of high-level technical skills and tons of compassion. It’s not super easy to find employees who fit that bill.

“To be honest, there are a ton of people that are available and would love to work here, but they’re a–holes,” Hogan says. For a man whose business traffics in grim realties, he’s surprisingly positive and jocular throughout our entire discussion.

“They’re qualified, but life is too short to suffer working with a–holes – so we don’t do that,” he continues.

Culture: ‘Our Single Greatest Recruiting Tool’

ForestIt’s not just the abundance of a–holes that makes recruiting difficult for Medalogix. The company is still in the startups stages, which means Hogan can’t yet afford to pay market rates for the in-demand technical talent he needs to run the business.

“When I do locate [potential employees], I have to convince them come on board for maybe 80 or 85 percent of what they could make on the open market,” Hogan says.

To compensate for this, Hogan has made it his policy to offer all new employees stock options.

“There aren’t too many opportunities to own a piece of the company your work for,” he says.

But even more than the stock options, Hogan’s real secret weapon in the recruiting space is his company’s culture. As mentioned above, he doesn’t suffer a–holes, which is a major plus for a lot of people. But there’s more to the culture than that: When you’re constantly surrounded by death, you really have to step it up if you want to keep morale high. Fun and bonding have to become top priorities.

“I hope you don’t think this is tongue-in-cheek, but we drink a lot,” Hogan says. “We go out a lot. We play together. We go bowling. We’re a group of people who genuinely enjoy working and being with one another.”

The result of this focus on positive team experiences is a powerful company culture that Hogan calls “my single greatest recruiting tool.” He can’t pay market rates, but he can give you a truly dedicated workplace community – and meaningful work.

The Draw of Meaningful Work

“We’re servicing an important need that everyone can relate to,” Hogan says. “Most of the people who work here have had someone they love pass away. When that tragedy happens, it can open your eyes to what is truly important in terms of end-of-life care.”

Hogan calls the work Medalogix does his “second greatest recruiting tool.”

“This is something that speaks to people’s purpose,” Hogan says. “That often helps me close that gap on the payment issue. People can’t get the gratification of doing important work on the open market.”

For all the challenges that Hogan faces in recruiting the talent he needs and maintaining a strong company culture, he’s clearly doing something right: Last year, the Nashville Business Journal named Medalogix one of the best places to work.

Your company may not work in such a high-stakes field, but it can certainly learn a thing or two from Hogan. When it comes to recruiting the right talent, a dedication the company culture and meaningful work can go a long way – longer, even, than a hefty paycheck.

Read more in Organizational Culture

Matthew Kosinski is the managing editor of Recruiter.com.