How Healthcare HR Can Become a Culture Catalyst

Marketing Director

Cultivating the right culture can make a meaningful impact in patient care for healthcare organizations. As the industry faces ongoing changes such as population health and value-based care, a strong organizational culture can enable organizations to succeed in tomorrow’s environment. But how can healthcare HR professionals enable their organizations to drive change?

Here are a few ways HR can serve as a catalyst for cultural change in healthcare organizations.

Communicate the “Why” Behind Changes

When facilitating change, successful organizations don’t overlook the need to communicate the reasons driving that change to their staff. “As a leader, you have to explain to employees what needs to change and why,” William Pryor, Chief Human Resources Officer at Cape Fear Valley Health System, states in a 2016 interview with Becker’s Hospital Review. “You make the case for those changes at every level you can–town hall meetings, staff meetings, videos, emails, etc.”

Other healthcare HR experts agree with Pryor. During the 2018 American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration (ASHHRA) conference, Laurie Wilburn, Director of Total Rewards and HR Operations at Nebraska Medicine, presented on the topic of program adoption. One of Wilburn’s best practices for success is to overemphasize the “why” behind the change.

Hire for ‘Cultural Adaptability’

While hiring for cultural fit enables healthcare organizations to cultivate their values, HR and talent acquisition departments should also focus on adaptability. According to a March 2018 study published in Management Science, hiring professionals should look beyond cultural fit. In their study, researchers Sammer B. Srivastava, Amir Goldberg, V. Govind Manian, and Christopher Potts found that ‘enculturability’, an individual’s capacity to adapt to an organization’s culture, plays a key role in cultural compatibility. “Our findings suggest that identifying antecedents to enculturability may be as effective as hiring on cultural fit or posthire cultural training,” they conclude.

The study by Srivastava et al. also demonstrates that rapid early cultural adaptation reduces the risk of involuntary, but not voluntary, exit. Hiring for cultural adaptability, therefore, can also help healthcare organizations improve retention.

Model Change at the Top

In order for cultural change to stick, executive support is essential. “Leadership from the senior team is the most significant factor in helping employees to buy into and support needed changes,” Susan M. Heathfield, a management consultant, writes in a 2018 article for The Balance. “Senior leaders must participate in the training that other organization members attend, but, even more importantly, they must exhibit their ‘learning’ from the sessions, readings, interactions, tapes, books or research,” Heathfield says.

Business experts agree with Heathfield’s comments. “When employees see their leaders modeling [behavior], it creates a ripple effect, especially if employees who follow suit are celebrated and promoted,” states Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, in a 2017 article published in Time.

Facilitating cultural change can be challenging for healthcare organizations, but there are a few best practices for successful change management. By communicating the “why” behind the change, incorporating ‘cultural adaptability’ in the hiring process, and ensuring its leaders are leading by example, HR can catalyze cultural change.

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