How Healthcare Organizations Can Lead Effective Diversity Strategies in the New Normal
Many healthcare organizations that have weathered the pandemic are now focusing on diversity as their next high priority. As human resources and other healthcare leaders seek to implement specific strategies, here are three key elements you must keep in mind.
1. Create SMART Goals
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in healthcare can look different across communities and facilities. This can make success more challenging to define. However, that does not mean that diversity strategies have to be nebulous.
The common strategy of setting SMART goals can help your healthcare organization establish a successful diversity program. This acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.
Before you begin, set a baseline by examining patient or employee satisfaction data. (Start conducting surveys if you do not already have this information.) Compare these results with demographic data to get a better idea of your engagement and inclusion. Look for areas of DE&I where your organization could most improve.
Once you know where the greatest gaps exist, you can begin to prioritize and set specific goals. This may involve targeting certain demographics in your hiring practices, or achieving better results in future surveys. Make sure you measure those goals the same way, at specific intervals, so you have consistent data. Aim for results within a particular, but realistic, time frame.
2. Involve Leadership in Diversity Efforts
Effective, empathetic leaders stood out during the pandemic, helping organizations navigate rapid changes and guiding employees through a time of fear and uncertainty. Those same leadership qualities continue to be invaluable to healthcare organizations looking to further their diversity strategies. Leadership at all levels must be committed and involved in the organization’s diversity efforts.
“Transforming your healthcare system’s culture to one that welcomes and nurtures people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, age, or other demographic factors requires long-term dedication from leaders and staff,” says Tejal Gandhi, MD, MPH, Chief Safety and Transformation Officer at Press Ganey. “It also means thinking about how to treat diversity, equity, and inclusion as distinct notions, each needing careful attention.”
This also means that organizations should hire and cultivate leaders dedicated to healthcare diversity. HR departments should look for candidates with inclusive leadership qualities such as empathy, humility, collaboration, and skilled communication.
Healthcare organizations can also help their existing leaders develop those qualities that support diversity. They may use formal training programs, mentorships, or advisory boards to provide feedback. Such strategies can help leaders understand the different perspectives and challenges among their team members and patients.
3. Do Not Neglect Technology
While diversity and cultural competence are human concerns, that does not mean technology can’t play a role. With diversity and inclusion initiatives a high priority for many job seekers, healthcare HR departments should ensure that hiring practices help diversity strategies, rather than holding them back.
If you use artificial intelligence (AI) technology to screen candidates, make sure those tools do not rely on skewed data. Use a combination of technology and humanity during the hiring process. Understand the limits of AI and how it can become biased, and periodically review and refresh your digital hiring tools.
When it comes to technology, healthcare HR departments should make the user experience the top priority. Any technology used for recruiting or hiring should not unintentionally exclude desirable candidates, such as those who may be coming from a rural community that lacks access to dependable Internet.
After three years of rapid, significant changes, healthcare organizations continue to evolve and reconsider their priorities. With the right strategies, you can lead effective diversity efforts across your teams to better address the needs of patients and communities in this changing world.