Being at the epicentre of the service sector, the rapidly evolving environment in healthcare poses a unique set of challenges for talent management (TM) experts. TM is ridden with maladies like myopia in recruitment planning, a limited pool of knowledge workers, lack of realistic job previews, prevalence of career alternatives to healthcare associates and feeble retention strategies. There is also increasing pressure to make a healthcare organization a replica of a world-class hotel, or as close to one as possible.
It is therefore imperative to transcend the current boundaries of TM by employing better processes and technologies. Healthcare HR professionals can begin by fostering a culture of service excellence by initiating best practices in employee engagement, performance improvement, succession planning and accountability. The objective is to develop the best talent and pass on the benefits of that to the direct consumers — the patients.
There is an acute shortage of nursing talent not just in India, but around the globe. Also, most nurses and midwives use the experience and training in an organization to apply at hospitals abroad for a more fulfilling career. They are recruited here as ‘resources’ to improve the headcount in positions difficult to fill, but they have access to scarce, if any, career development, progression and promotion opportunities.
While internally matching the lucrative pay packages offered abroad may not be an option, providing a nurturing culture conducive to growth and learning might help plug this excessive brain drain. The idea is to stop regarding individuals as a functional commodity and start seeing them in terms of their potential for development. HR can be a game-changer by shifting from the traditional transactional HRM to the transformation HRM of the 21st century.
Research has proven that in healthcare, effective TM results in increased patient satisfaction, lowered turnover among nurses and increased associate productivity. Let us evaluate a few pointers given by HR experts to devise best practices.
The first task is to ensure that all goals — individual and departmental — are clear and linked to organizational goals. This needs to be clearly understood by people managers and trickled down the ranks.
Once that is done, the focus needs to shift to associate engagement and development. One of the prime reasons for attrition is a perceived lack of professional development and growth. While most organizations focus on merely fun at work as part of their employee engagement initiatives, it may be wiser to take a close look at one’s engagement model and take a holistic approach. Engagement itself could be creative (fun at work), intellectual (career enhancement initiatives) or social (CSR). A 360-degree approach is recommended to identify means to engage an associate by taking care of her basic hygiene factors, providing means for personal growth, ensuring fun at work and providing access to professional development resources. It may help to examine engagement levels of your key associates on factors like role, supervision, work environment and aspiration. By focusing on these, HR can meet the challenge of retention to an extent.
Another key intervention requires identification of the organization’s core competencies or success factors that support patient care, and inculcate them in your associates. It is crucial in the healthcare space to be able to measure abilities and competencies that determine the quality of care provided. They need to be communicated to and ingrained in the DNA of every associate in the organization. Even the job descriptions and specifications should include them. Eventually, your performance management criteria should be in congruence with these competencies to ensure consistency from hire to review.
Once these needs are taken care of, it would be easier to create the right receptive attitude among employees, which is needed in the service sector. Learning interventions can be conducted focusing on what changes you would like to see in the levels of service for customers. However, in healthcare, lean staffing may create an additional challenge by compelling people to step out of their daily duties to attend a training programme. This can be overcome by conducting modular training programmes of a shorter duration and then ensuring learning translates to shop-floor through on-the-job training. Though this is driven by HR, the onus should be on line managers and departmental heads to ensure participants are serious about the programs.
While the task at hand seems humongous, it needs to be understood that the cost of losing an associate you have recruited, trained and developed but could not retain is much higher than that of retaining her.
HR’s role today is not only about transforming people’s mindset but also that of the organization’s stakeholders. Healthcare HR can only be called transformational if it can convince stakeholders that investment in talent management has a direct positive impact on the organisation’s bottom line.