Strategic workforce education: Answering the healthcare talent challenge

Given the massive changes occurring in healthcare, the key to future success will be flexibility among leaders and frontline staff.

Many leading health systems are turning to employee education and development as promising ways to attract, retain and grow talent while also reinventing care delivery models.

At a November workshop sponsored by InStride at the Becker's 10th Annual CEO + CFO Roundtable, Vivek Sharma, InStride's Chief Executive Officer, facilitated a discussion with two healthcare leaders about how they are approaching strategic investments in workforce education:

  • John Couris, President and Chief Executive Officer, Tampa (Fla.) General Hospital (TGH) 
  • Richard Davis, PhD, Chief Executive Officer (N.Y.) Rochester Regional Health

Three key takeaways were: 

  1. The answer to the healthcare talent challenge is cultivating a strong organizational culture. As hospitals and health systems consider how best to address talent acquisition and retention, they must first think about their culture. "When you think about innovation, one of the challenges is attracting and retaining talent. To solve those problems, you need to ask yourself what your organization's culture is," Mr. Couris said. 

Tampa General Hospital's organizational culture focuses on four important aspects of behavior and how people are treated: authenticity, transparency, kindness and vulnerability. All leaders must complete a program at TGH's People Development Institute to learn how to lead based on this culture. Tampa General Hospital has also created a two-year, experiential program called Lead TGH for up-and-coming leaders. The first year focuses on connecting participants with different leaders, while the second year is an alumni program. "When you create meaningful experiences for people, you create a culture that is 'sticky,' Mr. Couris said. "People want to stay and help the organization grow."

  1. Looking ahead to 2027, health systems' talent will be critical to successfully disrupting the current care delivery model. To redefine care delivery across the continuum — from acute care to home care and extended care — organizations must engage the workforce. "At the end of the day, people on the front line know what's working and what's broken," Dr. Davis said. "Organizations that will thrive in the coming years are the ones that recognize that we need to invest significantly in our workforce." Future leaders must embrace change, be nimble and flexible and ensure that employees come first. "Team members are the ones who make care happen. If you give your employees what they want, where they want it and when they want it, the ultimate beneficiary is the patient," Mr. Couris said. 
  1. Investing in employee education is the key to delivering better care. If health systems expect people at every level to think, behave and respond differently to produce different results, they must train employees and develop them professionally and personally. "You can't just will change on people, you must invest in them holistically," Mr. Couris said. To support this goal, Tampa General Hospital created the People Development Institute in collaboration with the USF Muma College of Business. "Even if employees aren't formal leaders in the organization, they are informal leaders and we expect them to influence others. But, to make that happen, we must teach them," Mr. Couris said. 

Those organizations that will thrive over the next five years are the ones that recognize the need today for serious workforce investment. "Education unleashes creativity and challenges people's mental models. We need to understand where our employees are and reinforce that we are there to support them and to give them the necessary skills and tools," Dr. Davis said.

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