A Guest Post by Kathleen Occhiogrosso
I interviewed Kathleen Occhiogrosso this week, the current Director of Human Resources-Acute Care Troy for St. Peter’s Health Partners, and former Vice President of Human Resources at Seton Health, who shared five helpful tips for HR executives looking to overcome the current challenges of 2012 and beyond:
I work in the healthcare industry, where HR executives are confronting healthcare reform, changes in reimbursement and pressure to provide higher quality care at a lower cost during challenging economic times. We have to find better ways to mobilize workers in an increasingly regulated environment where clinicians are required to spend more time on documentation and the reporting of quality measures.
We’re challenged to innovate and streamline processes so our staff can be more productive and spend more time at patients’ bedside. With the focus of hospitals to increase HCAHPS scores, this has become even more important. If we make employees’ jobs more efficient and easier, we’ll increase their job satisfaction and engagement. This, in turn, will improve patient satisfaction and quality outcomes.
Maintain Connection with the Business Core
HR Executives today need to understand the drivers of their organization. They need a precise understanding of the organization’s business and markets and must be able to adapt HR functions accordingly, including policies and practices that meet the needs of various business units and stakeholders while maintaining a sense of standardization and consistency. It’s always a challenge to find that right balance, but it’s worth the effort. HR executives who fail to be flexible and connected to the business core can lose credibility very easily.
Communicate Frequently and Transparently
Times of change and uncertainty can cause disruptions and decreased workforce engagement. As a remedy, I can’t overemphasize the importance of communicating frequently and candidly with employees. I’ve been involved with mergers in the healthcare field, and effective communication can make all the difference in retaining top talent. Failure to keep this group engaged may result in losing them to competitors, and makes goals to achieve consolidated/integrated systems and operations much more difficult. This can be particularly challenging during mergers, when goals to create a flat organizational structure with aggressive cost reductions are more prominent. HR leaders must anticipate this challenge, and ensure that effective communication and retention strategies are in place throughout the process. We must actively solicit employee feedback on a regular basis and follow up accordingly, and this includes explaining unpopular decisions.
Use Adaptive Communication Strategies
In my industry, as services move away from inpatient to the outpatient setting with multi-site locations, there’s a need to enhance the way we communicate with our employees. Younger generations accustomed to social media necessitate that we take a look at ways social media can be used in the workplace without compromising productivity. HR leaders must also take great care to craft social media policies that don’t compromise employees’ rights under the NLRB rules and EEOC guidelines. We must navigate the legal landmines associated with social media, while using it effectively to meet business and operational needs.
Leverage Effective Talent Management Strategy
Finally, effective talent management and robust succession planning strategies are essential to success. In our industry, HR execs have to focus on finding and retaining top talent to meet our patient care needs and financial goals. We need to create effective talent management strategies, including recruitment, on-boarding and succession planning beyond the C-suite, and have on-going workforce management strategies in place to meet current and future staffing needs.
Education training and development will continue to be important to prepare workers for the future, create opportunities for advancement and development, and to keep them engaged and retained. This may involve training programs, stretch assignments, committee work and mentoring programs, but we have to be committed to providing these opportunities to employees if we expect to keep them.
What are your challenges? Weigh in below. We’d love to hear from you.