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September 24, 2019
WHY HEALTHCARE WORKFORCE TRANSFORMATION STARTS AT THE TOP
By: Karen Bychowski

Start developing leaders of the future to push the transformation agenda forward

Developing strong leadership across all levels of a healthcare organization has become a must-do initiative. Leaders have the power to affect bold change at a time when transformation is essential for the future. For instance, according to 39% of payer operations executives we surveyed, a change in leadership would likely trigger a major operational transformation within their organization.

Perhaps this is why organizations continue to invest in leadership development. Organizations spent $1,296 per employee in 2017, up 1.7% from 2016. But with employee development budgets under continued pressure and with continued focused on delivering outcomes, chief human resources officers (CHROs) must ensure they are offering leadership development solutions that enable their leaders, while maximizing investment.

Many organizations look to glossy leadership books or off-the-shelf training solutions to get the job done fast. The reality is, there is no quick fix. Healthcare organizations must take a holistic approach to developing genuine leadership that will guide the organization into the future.

What are today’s leaders up against?

Socioeconomic factors, shifting consumer expectations and an ever-evolving technology and science landscape have all contributed to current challenges in healthcare. Increased awareness of social determinants of health and value-based reimbursements are on the rise. Consumers are seeking better and more integrated products and services, with digital devices as a primary tool for health management.

The competitive environment adds further strain. Technology companies big and small are expanding into healthcare. Rapid advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are leading to increased investments in targeted healthcare capabilities including care management, utilization management and consumer engagement.

To address these diverse challenges, leaders must expand their skills while also executing organizational goals. Organizations are already feeling the absence of some of these skills. For instance, 39% of payers indicate lack of digital/transformational leaders and 33% identify “lack of talent that understands digital business models” as a barrier to success.

Status quo skills aren’t enough

Competencies encompass the skills, knowledge and behaviors required of an individual to perform a given task or activity. New “minimum” competency requirements for leaders have emerged in this new healthcare landscape. For instance, creativity, innovation, courage to fail or push boundaries and critical thinking are hot on the skillset menu. And it’s not the critical thinking of the past. Critical thinking must now happen in harmony with increasingly complex and ubiquitous advances in technology, such as AI.

Imagine: "what is the machine thinking?" Leaders must understand the nuances and work along technology, using digital and data to influence their thinking and actions. Lack of understanding can be a barrier. In fact, 39% of payer operations executives said lack of relevant data analytics, AI and machine learning skills was among the highest barriers preventing them from achieving business goals.

Leaders must be equipped to infuse entrepreneurialism in the structure of more traditional corporate environment. Not just managing employees, but also coaching them using insights from neuroscience and human behavior, will be essential. EQ (self-awareness and emotional intelligence) is important, but so is “WE-Q” - or the collective social intelligence of a broadened landscape of partners. These “right-brain” skills are weakest according to 65% of C-suite leaders.

Leaders must demonstrate resiliency in the face of ambiguity and be advocates of lifelong learning, not only for themselves, but for their teams.

Learning isn’t packaged, it’s perpetual

Often, organizations want to purchase packaged leadership development solutions as a quick, “cost-effective” way to implement leadership development efforts. These pre-fab solutions don’t fully hit the mark. Organizations must take a holistic look at leadership development solutions–beyond the textbook and classroom to the everyday work environment.

Each leader’s day offers a fertile landscape of teaching moments that guide the leader in both consistent and personalized ways. How might leaders intentionally be put in real-life situations that require them both to learn and perform? Ideally leaders will experience moments of success that build confidence, while also allowing them to fail and learn from those failures.

Leaders are everywhere

A level or title does not define a leader. Leaders range from the newest entry-level employee to the most seasoned executive. Therefore, leadership development efforts must be made at all levels to create cohesion in the organization. Engage the creative energies of new generations of employees and enable impact closer to the point of need in the organization.

Lead the way

CHROs and other healthcare leaders can show others how it’s done. Emulate the characteristics the organization is seeking. Ask the questions that need to be asked. Challenge the status quo. Go beyond the textbook to what YOUR organization really needs. Then proactively help with shaping the next generation of leaders who can guide the organization through an uncertain future.

Don’t just talk about leadership as a goal. Invest in leadership. Make it a priority. Once you do, you’ll begin to see real results.

So now the question is, CHROs, are you ready?

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