Think Tank Insights: Optimizing Change Management in Healthcare

Connex Staff |

Change had always been a constant in healthcare, but that reality was greatly exacerbated by COVID. Digital care delivery, remote admin and support teams, growing labor shortages, and inconsistent regulatory and government guidance have all compounded most team members’ and leaders’ responsibilities in a market where ‘doing more with less’ was already the norm.

Providers must adjust and adapt their approach to leadership, burnout mitigation, staff retention, patient engagement, technology and process infrastructure, organizational culture, and so much more to reflect their current reality. This session gave members an opportunity to discuss their greatest barriers to change execution, especially labor, and disseminate their practical insight, personal best practices, and lessons learned.

Change: realities and strategies

  • We’re in an unprecedented time where historical data is far less useful than it was previously. In this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world, teams must be prepared to be agile and resilient.
  • Patients need to be as prepped as team members during stress. For example, one Member shared that switching back to paper during unplanned downtime not only highlighted gaps in employee skillsets, but and Joint Commission.
  • While staffing levels make this a difficult decision, one Member advocated for trimming ‘dead weight’ as needed; those that are making change and daily lives difficult for others may be happier in other organizations. unsettled patients; proactive communication, honesty, and reassurance all go a long way to calm them.
  • As one Member highlighted, it’s nearly impossible to know whether a change management initiative was successful or not without having first put in a clear, thorough evaluation framework. There are many changes that may not be generating complaints from staff, but still failing to achieve their goals; team members will likely be neutral to them and won’t be as inclined to give detailed feedback.
  • One Member stressed using the three ‘Rs’ as a way to gauge whether the organization is in the right place to be successful post-change, as team members should be able to answer “yes” to:
  1. Am I treated with dignity and Respect by everyone I encounter?
  2. Am I given the Resources needed to contribute to the organization in a way that adds meaning to my life?
  3. Is my work Recognized by someone whose opinion matters to me?
  • Members discussed the value of using objective, third-party assistance to help with managing change. Mentioned resources included the Center for Creative Leadership, Accenture, and Joint Commission.
  • While staffing levels make this a difficult decision, one Member advocated for trimming ‘dead weight’ as needed; those that are making change and daily lives difficult for others may be happier in other organizations.

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Labor: the biggest variable

  • Both general employment changes and the proliferation of remote care delivery tools are requiring Providers to reimagine every piece of labor attraction, onboarding, and workflow support.
  • These changes are also redefining team performance, leadership competencies, and what it  means to be a high-potential member of the team. Consensus, empathy, and trust building are all much more important now.
  • Special attention needs to be paid to leadership development, coaching, and mentoring, as these functions help middle management learn to better spot burnout, proactively engage their teams, and build the relationships that keep attrition low.
  • Behavioral modeling is key, especially when it comes to self-care behaviors – team members will feel obligated to go above and beyond what’s healthy for them if they see their manager doing the same.
  • Video calls, virtual happy hours with remote staff, and on-site get-togethers are all enhanced by personal touches, such as handwritten notes and personalized swag. The little things really do mean a lot.
  • While remote employees may not always be able to participate in on-site celebrations and events, giving them equivalent time off is appreciated and can help them feel more included.

Underpinning nearly every aspect of the conversation was the idea of flexibility, and the recognition that one size will never fit all. For example, Members discussed how they’ve faced productivity issues with remote admin and support staff, but are hesitant to call everyone back on their account because doing so would upset high performers that are thriving in home offices. There needs to be some level of productivity monitoring and enforcement, but bordering on inflexibility could cause a labor exodus at a time where few could soak such a hit. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures, and regardless of the nature of the change being experienced, it behooves Providers to be bold, creative, and elastic.

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