When it comes to altering the performance of an individual, it begins with making them aware of their current and expected behaviors.
The workforce today is churning faster than it ever has! We live in the era of talent exodus and that too at an alarming rate! This is especially true for the healthcare sector, where brain drain is at its peak. As per reports released by the WHO, there is an acute talent crunch in India in this sector! To meet the needs of the rapidly increasing number of hospitals and allied healthcare providers, the number of doctors needs to increase by twice the current rate and the number of nurses by thrice the current rate! With these startling statistics, a major issue plaguing talent management in healthcare is that of progressive learners.
While in an industry where there is plenty of talent available in the market, an organization can afford to do away with their progressive learners. However, in a place where available talent is low and attrition is high, can an organization afford to let go of the talent they have at hand? The answer is NO! Organizations have to find a way to work around this and gear up to face this challenge head on! Progressive learners are typically those who have joined the organization and are unskilled or semi-skilled at best. Their competency levels are typically average or below and this directly impacts their performance on the job.
An easy answer would be to invest in upskilling. However, for progressive learners, there could be two possibilities where the problem may lie – an issue of skill or an issue of will. The issue of skills can be tackled by upskilling, keeping in mind the fact that not all progressive learners can be upskilled. The efforts would go a long way, nonetheless.
In case of a will issue, the solution isn’t that simple. It may just be that the individual doesn’t look at the vocation at hand as a long term prospect. In that case, at times, the only way of dealing with it could be to call it quits and find a replacement. However, again, as talent is scarce, you may take up a more tedious work around which may show desired results. How it can be handled depends on the organizational culture and the amount the organization is willing to spend in terms of time, effort and monetary terms, especially when the Return on Investment (ROI) isn’t guaranteed.
One commonly used method is conducting a 2 to 3 hour programme every quarter dovetailed with a one-on-one discussion on why the learner performed the way he or she did. This is followed by the co-creation of a Professional Development Plan (PDP) by the individual & the Talent Management (TM) practitioner. Quarter on quarter, the progress is monitored & worked upon. Research has shown significant improvements in the performance of individuals who have gone through a similar process.
When it comes to altering the performance of an individual, it begins with making them aware of their current and expected behaviors. A continuous performance dialogue can be the critical game-changer. Not only do these dialogues intellectually engage progressive learners, but also empowers them with the relevant and essential tools to fix the gap in performance. The trick here is to start with low hanging fruit, as the progressive learner isn’t very high on motivation. Keeping a hard-to-achieve target may de-motivate them instead of motivating them to perform better. Starting with easy wins and gradually increasing the target may result in more positive outcomes.
At Wockhardt Hospitals, an innovative practice is followed when dealing with progressive learners in the nursing department. Nursing as we all know is the backbone of any hospital and has the highest occupational group. While the demand for nurses is very high, the availability of nurses is scarce and there is excessive brain drain of nurses from the country as a whole in search of better prospects. All these considerations needed to be borne in mind when devising a plan to address the needs of progressive learners.
As an innovative concept which was developed in-house, progressive learners are given a badge that says “I Care” which is pinned to their uniform. While everyone in the Nursing Department knows the significance of the badge, the external customer – the patient – does not. To him, the badge says “I Care”, which means that the Nurse with the badge is rewarded for caring more for the patient. Thus, patients & their attendants would prefer to approach the “I Care” nurses to solve their queries and seek care. While the prime objective of the nurse would be to get rid of the badge as soon as she can, she would constantly be under pressure to perform her best to live up to the expectations of her patients. This worked like a charm and a significant improvement was noticed in the performance of the nurses – with some of them ridding themselves of the badges within as less as 2 weeks. While one would argue that this was negative reinforcement in a way and that reprimanding should be done in private as the self esteem of the nurse in front of her peers is at stake.
It needs to be understood, that the organizational culture is such that there is no form of ridicule within the fraternity and the badge was taken as just a need for improvement and not a measure to judge the ability of the nurse. In no way was there any form of verbal reprimanding or punishment attached. This when maturely handled, has had miraculous results as can be clearly seen. In fact, not only has the “I Care” badge become a rare sight, but the patient feedback scores have skyrocketed in terms of care and concern received from the nurses.
We can, thus, see that dealing with a progressive group is tricky and at times requires out-of-the-box thinking. However, in this age of brain drain, organizations need to invest heavily in developing this untapped potential talent. The only risk is that the talent, once developed, may get drained in the future. But then again, you have the satisfaction of creating a talent which will serve the betterment of the fraternity & benefit your customer directly.