How Healthcare HR Can Cultivate a Culture of Transparency
In a highly regulated industry where privacy is a mandate, cultural transparency might seem like an odd fit for healthcare organizations. But a transparent culture can foster trust and collaboration, and result in improved quality of care and outcomes. That’s because a culture of transparency, when implemented correctly, is all about learning and improving.
“HR can add much value by advocating and supporting their organization in being a learning organization by actively espousing organizational learning processes such as transparency,” says management consultant David Kopp. “An organization who claims to be a learning organization but lacks transparency runs the risk of it imploding onto itself."
Here are some tips for healthcare HR to build a culture of transparency.
Link Transparency to Values
The National Patient Safety Foundation’s Lucian Leape Institute defines transparency in healthcare settings as “the free, uninhibited flow of information that is open to the scrutiny of others.” Too often transparency initiatives are pegged to “opening the books” or providing more information about compensation or company direction, Kopp says. "Genuine transparency encourages dialogue, feedback and critique of said books — and, in fact, anything that might be shared by organizational members,” he says.
A good place to start is with corporate values, says Jennifer Currence, President of OnCore Management Solutions, a culture and performance consulting firm. In healthcare, those values are often well-defined, making it easy for healthcare HR to use them to align employees with a culture of transparency and learning. For example, if communication is a value, employees must be honest with each other about their needs and hold each other accountable. This may involve an overall culture shift as well.
Optimize Communication Channels
Transparency initiatives work only if everyone is communicating clearly and consistently, experts say. As a result, healthcare HR should ensure employees, managers, support staff, patients and families receive and can share information in the way that works best for them, consistently.
In addition, information must flow in all directions, not just top-down, Kopp says. “Such free-flowing dialogue and sharing between and among organizational leaders and their members can also engender a shared vision throughout the organization,” Kopp says. In addition, this approach can help employees be more flexible and responsive as they react to constant change in the healthcare setting.
Measure Employee Sentiment
As you encourage openness, trust and learning across the organization, how can you be sure it’s working? Measure it, says Fletcher Wimbush, CEO for The Hire Talent, a talent assessment company that works with healthcare clients. “Most job activities or outcomes can be clearly measured,” as can behaviors and attitudes among employees, he says.
“When people clearly understand what is expected of them at work and how they are being evaluated, you don’t have to manage their every activity, nor is there any confusion on whether or not they are performing,” Wimbush says. “Reinforcing and discussing these measurable performance outcomes regularly and sharing the numbers daily or at least weekly and monthly make things very transparent.”
The benefits of organizational transparency are many: increased trust, collaboration and communication. While building a transparent healthcare organization can require major changes, it can be worth it in the long run.