The challenges facing today’s healthcare CHRO

Once best known for administering traditional personnel and administrative tasks, Human Resources executives have overcome these outdated perceptions and emerged as key strategic business partners. This elevation is critical in any industry, but is especially important in healthcare.

Today’s healthcare CHROs are not only responsible for overseeing benefits and compensation, employee experience, diversity and regulatory compliance—they also help drive the clinical and financial performance of their organizations. While their performance used to be measured by metrics for basic HR functional areas like recruitment, turnover and payroll costs—their performance is now tightly linked to business outcomes, revenue, profit margin, brand recognition and market share.

Organizations are asking CHROs to deliver better patient outcomes, caregiver experiences and bottom lines. Achieving these ideals requires an organizational culture that engages the workforce, promotes innovation and bridges operational silos. This is not check-the-box work. This is rebuilding a human capital management system from the ground up.

To begin this cultural transformation, CHROs must leverage data analytics to evaluate the effectiveness of talent management practices, target areas of improvement and inform new workforce strategies that account for global labor trends, available talent and next generation leadership. This will enable them to transform their organizations’ human capital strategies, replacing traditional practices like hiring freezes and flex scheduling with evidence-based best practices that keep pace with industry and workforce changes.

These industry and workforce changes are disrupting every stage of the employee life cycle, from recruitment to leadership development. Adapting to them predicts long-term success for your organization and calls on HR leaders to do the following.

  • Recruit and retain in a shrinking labor pool market
    A record low unemployment rate—almost a 20-year-low in the US—combined with unprecedented growth in healthcare employment poses unique and ongoing staffing challenges for an organization. The competition for skilled workers is fierce and growing fiercer. That means organizations will need to recruit and hire quickly without sacrificing quality or fit, and continuously work to create and sustain a culture that retains its top-performing employees.
  • Meet the needs of an increasingly complex, multi-generational workforce
    There are already four generations in the workforce and the fifth, Gen Z, is beginning to enter. CHROs must create a comprehensive strategy that will address their unique needs, engage them in the workplace and align their behaviors with the organization’s mission. This challenge will intensify as workforces continue to grow, spanning geographic boundaries and including virtual teams, contingent workforces and telecommuters.
  • Preparing your workforce to deliver care in diverse care settings
    As the industry continues to migrate to ambulatory care, home care, digital health, population health and telemedicine, organizations must hire, develop and retain diverse leaders for diverse care settings. The HR mandate of finding the right people for the right roles is more important, and complicated, than ever before. Excellent hospital leaders may not perform as well in urgent care centers or minute clinics, and an organization’s talent management system should account for that—ideally, through robust training that would enable leaders to move into adjacent markets, from hospital to retail clinic, for example.
  • Replace “silo mentality” with a unified vision
    Many C-Suite leaders have been working within their silos for years, or even decades. They’ve grown comfortable with this structure and are passionate about their domains. As a result, it’s not uncommon to see push back against integrating departments, teams and efforts. Functional leaders routinely ask why their people are being asked to do more, and why they’re being asked to work with other leaders, report to nursing, share their data with HR and a variety of other questions. A CHRO must be able to link these expectations to the organization’s and industry’s mission of delivering safe, high quality, patient-centered care, or they’ll never get the buy-in or sustainable results to succeed.

Preparing the Healthcare Workforce for Change

These are only a few of the challenges facing CHROs today, and there are more to come in this era of continuous change and disruption in healthcare. Instead of managing change reactively, CHROs must address the benefits of looking ahead, dismantling the idea of returning to the “good old days” in the process.

The adoption of executive rounding as a daily, or even more frequent, requirement is now widespread, but it was a disruptive change in healthcare a few year ago. Leaders justifiably found that rounding added new complexity and challenges of time allocation to their roles. However, it wasn’t better before this practice. Many leaders had less insight into daily operations; fewer interactions with staff, especially front-line staff; and a more difficult time building trust with key stakeholders in the organization. Rounding does require a serious investment of time from leadership—because it should. It lays the foundation for successful patient and employee experience outcomes and drives sustainable improvement. Organizations continue to evolve this practice by integrating patient and staff rounding, quality and safety rounds and more.

Evolution can be challenging, but it is inevitable, and adapting and innovating is essential to succeed in the new healthcare landscape. As healthcare leaders, we must think carefully about how we present change and prepare our workforces for it. This mindset begins with CHROs, who must be prepared for new regulations, cybersecurity crises, medical errors, mergers and acquisitions, competitive threats and more in this era of disruption.

The ultimate challenge facing healthcare CHROs, and the whole of HR, is also its greatest reward. Because we work with people, and more importantly, people in healthcare, we have to continuously evaluate our processes and strategies to meet their unique needs—but, in that ongoing challenge, we get to help those people save lives.

Joseph Cabral is the chief human resources officer and president of workforce solutions at Press Ganey, a position to which he brings significant experience driving cultural transformation and caregiver engagement to support Press Ganey’s broad client base. With more than 20 years of experience developing and executing strategies that drive cultural and organizational transformation, Joe has built his career by aligning people strategies with organizational goals to drive business outcomes.

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