3 Ways Healthcare HR Can Become Agile

3 Ways Healthcare HR Can Become Agile
Marketing Director

Constant change is the new reality in healthcare.

In this complex ecosystem where transformation is a given, HR departments that are able to leverage innovation are going to help their organizations succeed. According to Harvard Business Review, agile teams that include small entrepreneurial groups that can adapt quickly to changing conditions are best suited to innovation.

The cultural embrace of change, disruption and reinvention is at the heart of the agile business philosophy— but healthcare organizations, with their complex business requirements and customer needs, aren’t always the first to embrace change.

Here are three approaches that can help healthcare HR departments encourage more agile mindsets that foster innovation amid change.

Adopt an MVP Mindset

J.D. Conway, Head of Talent Acquisition at BambooHR, says healthcare HR departments are increasingly going to encounter difficulty if they aren’t agile, in part because they generally don’t have the time and resources to do long-term strategic planning and aren’t able to implement important changes fast enough to keep up with what stakeholders need.

“One of the problems that these industries run into is that launching new programs and trying new procedures often takes too long,” Conway says. “There is too much analysis paralysis, too long a process to get budget and funding to launch wide-sweeping changes.”

When considering new systems or approaches — whether it’s software, an onboarding procedure or some other key function — Conway says companies don’t need to start with an all-encompassing, major change. Instead, he suggests taking a cue from the internet startup world by beginning with a minimum viable product and iterating based on feedback. Making smaller changes in micro levels will allow for continuous feedback and room to change, he says.

“Try it, track it, tweak it — continuously,” he says. “That will take less resources to do the initial build of something. Your efforts can be long-term and grow instead of using all the resources and time for something you’re not sure will work.”

Constant Change Requires Constant Feedback

Larry Apke, President and CEO of The Job Hackers and an expert on agile business approaches, says the world of complexity, where companies often have to create things that never existed, is most successfully navigated in an environment of frequent feedback. This isn’t necessarily manager-to-employee feedback, but rather feedback from all sorts of stakeholders when implementing any kind of organizational change.

When instituting new technologies or other changes, Apke recommends that healthcare HR departments adopt a simple feedback loop of PDSA (plan, do, study or check, and act) designed to ensure that each short feedback loop or iteration will provide the learning necessary to achieve a breakthrough.

He says HR departments should understand that the need for more meaningful feedback could lead to smaller teams becoming more commonplace, with the team overall — as opposed to individuals — becoming more accountable for performance. This could require a shift from individual reviews and rewards to more team-centric incentives, he says.

“HR will need to better understand not only team incentives but team dynamics,” he says. “Google’s Project Aristotle studied what made for effective teams and found most important was psychological safety. This is something HR needs to understand and learn how to implement and support.”

Apke says that more broadly, HR departments need to understand the basic principles of agile thinking and influence decisions about hiring, incentives and line management in a way that supports this philosophy. “Traditional management assumes a complicated environment where everything can be known ahead of time,” he says. “Agile management, on the other hand, assumes we cannot know.”

Experiment with New Tools

Dr. Scott Newton, Vice President for Care Model Solutions at TeleTracking, which creates real-time patient-flow solutions, says making sure a team has the tools to be successful is a simple way that healthcare HR can foster an agile environment.

“By giving your team the tools they need, you are also giving them the space to take initiative and work with others within the healthcare system to solve problems,” he says.

The good news is that there are more HR tech tools than ever for healthcare organizations to try. The downside is that too many companies mess up the onboarding process for these technologies, says Jay Narang, Senior Operations Manager for ClockInEasy, which provides timesheet software for businesses.

Narang says companies from small to enterprise level shy away from implementing new tech tools either because they don’t feel like their staff is technologically savvy enough to use them or they don’t believe they have the resources to train their employees for them. One of the keys to overcoming those reservations, he says, is to fully understand upfront how a technology vendor will set your staff up to use its product.

“It is crucial to understand a technology company’s onboarding process before signing up so you know how much time it will require from the HR department and the employees to get completely set up,” he says.

Agile thinking isn’t just for the tech world. Healthcare teams would be well-served to start borrowing agile practices in order to keep up with constant change.

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