Prepare Your Healthcare Workforce for the Skills Economy

David Gedeon

Vice President, Healthcare Vertical at Cornerstone OnDemand

With the life and wellbeing of patients constantly at stake, health care will always have one foot outside the mainstream world of business. But real-world financial and regulatory pressures are beginning to reshape health care, adding more and more business-like pressures. For example, federal officials maintain their goal of switching 50 percent of Medicare and Medicaid payments away from fee-for-service and toward value-based pay by 2018. And a 2017 McKinsey & Company report said consumer choices now "have the potential to affect 61 percent of all health care spending."

According to results from a new survey of healthcare executives by Cornerstone OnDemand and WBR Insights, a conferencing and networking firm for business leaders, the most agile and adaptable institutions in health care are constantly reviewing their skills and their deficits. As such, top healthcare systems and institutions are looking to acquire skills and specialties from the private business sector to prepare for a world where doctor-patient relationships more resemble business-consumer relationships.

Moreover, to cope with the rapid pace of change in healthcare, executives from Cornerstone, Healthcare HR and WBR recommend staying ahead not only by hiring from non-health industries to maximize your business talent, but also offering constant and convenient career-long learning for your current talent.

Tapping Private Sector Talent

The survey of 119 health executives found that while many healthcare companies welcome the new skills economy and feel their employees are prepared, many of those same executives are well aware they have to step up their efforts to source talent from the private sector. When asked if new employees from the private sector "will help our organization," 76 percent of the executives agreed or strongly agreed.

Shawn Ray, director of nursing talent acquisition at BJC HealthCare, a healthcare system in Missouri and Illinois, said systems like hers have had great success hiring non-health executives schooled in the "lean management" techniques developed among manufacturers.

Jason Hopkins, director of talent acquisition and internal marketing for Emerus Holdings, a developer and operator of micro-hospitals in the Southern and Western parts of the U.S, found similar success in hiring talent outside healthcare. Emerus's VP of strategy came from the telecom industry with an expertise in culling data for the best cell tower locations. Hopkins says many of the same data skills translate to seeking locations for micro-hospitals.

Upskilling the Current Workforce

Thanks to advancements in business and technology, the demand on healthcare organizations and employees is the same for high-functioning workers across industries: Willingness and opportunity to be lifelong learners. Over a third of survey respondents indicated that they are not confident they have the skills to adapt to this new skills economy.

Dr. Tom Tonkin, principal in thought leadership and advisory services for Cornerstone OnDemand, advises approaching the coming artificial intelligence systems and other technologies as job-changers, not job destroyers. While machines that draw patients' blood may replace some phlebotomists, he said, "who is going to fix the machine, and make sure it's in the right work flow? That job doesn't exist, but it will."

To prepare to fill these roles, health companies should seek out employees who are enthusiastic about advancing their knowledge and careers, and find the best HR techniques and technologies to help them do so. BJC HealthCare, like many hospital systems, offers incentive pay for advanced degrees and financial help going back to school, Ray said. Simulation labs throughout their hospital system are "always booked" as providers and technical staff try to keep up with the rigors of acute patient environments.

Moreover, learning platforms can help address many of the skills gaps already appearing in healthcare. Seventy percent of survey respondents, for example, agreed with the statement, "regulation dictates our operations." These regulations add a layer of complexity to administrative tasks that many existing employees aren't equipped to handle. Many learning platforms can allow administrative staff to learn these new ins and outs on their smartphones—a tool they are used to learning from, study participants noted.

Overall, the survey unearthed the following key tactics for those trying to stay ahead of change in healthcare's new skills economy:

1) Consider drawing on more private sector talent outside your organization to meet the challenges of relentless regulatory pressure and increasing empowerment of consumers.

2) Promote a culture of continuous learning within your organization. Yes, retain and promote existing talent — but also help ensure your best people have the chance to learn new skills.

3) Leverage HR learning tools to become more systematic about evaluating your current talent and pointing employees in the direction of optimal skills development. Knowing what your people are learning and how will help you stay effective.

"The most successful organizations will seek out lifelong learners, and then invest in them," said Cathy Martin, vice president of workforce policy for the California Hospital Association. "They will have the best performing workforce and likely the best patient outcomes."

Interested to learn more about the ways healthcare companies can keep up with the pace of change through learning and development? Check out the webinar from Cornerstone OnDemand, "Developing a Healthcare Workforce to Outperform in the Skills Economy."

Photo: Creative Commons

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