Many healthcare leaders would agree that the healthcare industry has been operating in crisis mode for more than two years in a row.
The past few years have had a profound effect on the healthcare industry, especially its workforce. The leaders responsible for finding, facilitating and retaining this workforce – i.e. human capital management (HCM) – have had their work cut out for them. Many would agree that the healthcare sector has been operating in crisis mode for more than two years in a row.
It’s time to put things back in order.
To reliably maintain capacity and support future innovation in care, managed health systems must revisit the dynamics of the current workplace and the ongoing evolution of health care delivery. The main priorities of the modern human resources strategy focus on:
- Reinvent work
- Reinvent the workforce
- Reinvent the experience
Reinventing work requires focusing on optimizing processes and leveraging technology to improve efficiency, reduce friction and frustration. Reinventing the workforce involves refocusing the recruitment strategy, leveraging and integrating remote capabilities, addressing job and compensation inequities, and retaining the best employees. Finally, reinventing the experience requires engaging employees, providing opportunities for growth and learning, and reducing stress. Let’s go into the details:
Organizations need to rethink how employees do their jobs. We’ve all quickly embraced a range of remote working capabilities, for example. But in many cases, we are still dependent on ad hoc workflow changes enacted under duress during the initial pandemic response. Just because something works well enough in an emergency doesn’t mean it should become standard practice.
Review processes to ensure you are using technology and people efficiently. How your business processes work determines the cost and outcome of your work. Since many processes are continuous, small improvements can bring huge benefits. Focus your attention on processes with the following characteristics:
- performed often
- costs more than best practices
- impact on user/customer satisfaction
Current process performance and maturity can be established using tools such as LEAN/Six Sigma to eliminate waste and identify where technology can bring efficiencies. Standardization (or lack thereof) can impact the process in surprising ways.
Organizations need to determine how to facilitate “work from anywhere” capabilities, including as much self-service as possible. For example, if your core HR technology solution is more than five years old, you likely have the opportunity to upgrade and acquire a host of new features. If complementary HR solutions are in place (eg, HealthcareSource, SuccessFactors), you should consider the integration capabilities against your implementation. Chances are your different vendor solutions are not integrated, creating inefficiencies and frustration for recruits, employees, and managers. Reinvent the workforce
Remote working, digitalization, talent shortages and high burnout statistics have changed the dynamics of healthcare recruitment and hiring. Future state operating models must fundamentally synthesize the impact of these changes with a set of feasible reactive measures. It may sound nebulous, but it can be made practical with the right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
For a mid-sized healthcare organization, for example, an ideal HCM operating model might include:
– Agile recruiting, with a pipeline of candidates available to hire as needed within ten days, and a cost per hire of less than $750
– 0-5% unplanned turnover and ~80% very satisfied employees
– Effectiveness of the HR department linked to best practices of more than 250 employees per HR staff member
– Linked and automated succession planning and training plans
– Automated and efficient annual performance review processes related to pay-for-performance compensation plans
– Digitally enabled employees and managers with self-service resources
– 100% digital human resources documentation (no paper file)
– Support for flexible compensation and benefits plans, allowing the organization to adapt to changing recruitment demands and retention efforts
An ideal operating plan identifies strategic goals and assesses systems and processes, then identifies priorities for the next 18-36 months based on key performance indicators such as those listed above. Priorities include areas where work is heavily manual or paper-based, and finding creative solutions for high turnover roles.
Questions that help frame the development of the plan may include:
- How do we recruit and retain the talent we need?
- What processes need or can be streamlined?
- How can we empower our managers and staff with easy-to-access, real-time, meaningful and actionable data?
- What technology is required?
- Do our processes support sustainable productivity measures, allow remote workers, and integrate into systems and workflows?
- How do we provision emerging service areas?
Reinvent the experience
The devastating toll of the pandemic on healthcare workers cannot be underestimated. There are now simply fewer medical professionals available to do critical work. To attract and retain talent in such an atmosphere, improving the employee experience in your organization should be a top priority. A better healthcare employee experience can be shaped by:
- Create a culture of engagement
- Increase opportunities for growth and learning
- Address stress management
Two of the most important aspects of work for employees are a sense of belonging and inspiration, which must be conveyed consistently from senior management all the way up to line supervisors.
It is crucial to provide tools to provide managers with accurate and timely information on the state of employee engagement. This measure should be tracked at the organizational, group and individual level. Traditionally accomplished with annual surveys, leading organizations run survey polls monthly and solicit more comprehensive employee feedback several times a year with tools like Glint or Qualtrics.
The intention is not to over-survey staff, but to keep the pulse of organizational sentiment and to provide employees with an ongoing means to voice concerns or suggest improvements. It improves situational awareness for the entire organization and gives employees a sense of agency in their work.
Presenting opportunities for growth and learning also increases employee engagement and supports the bottom line by developing internal skill sets to preemptively curb skyrocketing recruitment costs.
Career development may require you to rethink the entire organizational structure. The growth and learning strategy involves more than making courses available. Best practice is to clearly identify the specific requirements of each position and the learning/certification material for the qualification, and make it available for those who wish to hone their expertise, progress or move into new roles.
Perhaps more than any other factor, persistent stress hinders the employee experience of healthcare. There are many changes an organization can implement to help employees manage stress (eg mental health services, flexible time off, resiliency training).
Another way to have a huge impact on employee stress is to reduce administrative burden and simplify the work environment through improved technology and automation. But you also need to ensure that your overall operating model is not geared towards crisis or survival mode. This may mean it’s time to recalibrate roles, compensation, and workload expectations to fit the current environment (not 2020).
The goal is to establish a sustainable vision for human capital management that supports work, workforce and employee experience, as well as an operating model fit for the future.
Tim Webb is a Senior Health Informatics Consultant at Healthlink Advisors. He is a healthcare management expert and strategic advisor with over 30 years of payer/provider leadership experience.