3 Ways Healthcare HR Can Use Diversity to Improve Patient Care

3 Ways Healthcare HR Can Use Diversity to Improve Patient Care
Senior Director of Marketing

Generational diversity is rapidly changing the workforce dynamics, and this includes the healthcare workplace. Each generation has their own priorities, attitudes, communication styles, work approaches and ways of interacting with colleagues, which can influence organizational culture and performance. Although these differences can bring new challenges to the workplace, they can also play a key role in delivering better care to patients. Diversity “has evolved into a way for organizations to strengthen their employee value proposition, marketplace reputation and patient experience,” says PwC’s 2013/2014 Human Capital Effectiveness Report: Trends for the Healthcare Provider Sector.

The latest research suggests that healthcare leaders need to harness all employees’ potential to achieve optimal organizational performance and ensure excellent patient care. A January 2014 study published by the American Hospital Association (AHA) titled Managing an Intergenerational Workforce: Strategies for Health Care Transformation, provides healthcare leaders with three major workforce management strategies to achieve Triple Aim outcomes: better care, better health and lower costs.

1. Building a Strong Generational Foundation

Healthcare organizations need to embrace and celebrate generational diversity by implementing programs and policies to support employee’s growth and development. There are four key generations in the U.S. workforce:

  • Traditionalists (born before 1945)
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964)
  • Generation X (born 1965-1980)
  • Generation Y/Millenials (born after 1980)

Healthcare leaders should start by having a clear assessment of which generations are in their organization and how many employees fill each category. The AHA, American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) and the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration (ASHHRA) have developed a workforce planning tool to assist hospitals and care systems in creating a competent and engaged workforce to deliver quality patient care.

In order to build a sustainable workforce that will provide high-quality patient care, healthcare leaders can apply innovative strategies to attract intergenerational talent such as targeted recruitment efforts by generation, the use of social media to reach different generations, connecting the tasks in job descriptions to the organization’s mission and values, providing growth opportunities for productive employees, and having an interactive employee handbook, for example.

2. Establishing Effective Generational Management Practices

Organizational leaders will need to increase their level of understanding of each cohort to better manage the workforce and relieve generational tensions in the workplace. Healthcare leaders should tailor management and communication styles for each generation. A one-size-fits-all approach will not work nor will it motivate all generations. Greater flexibility in the workplace, however, is an option that resonates across the generations, especially among the younger ones.

Besides helping employees achieve the work-life balance they want, healthcare leaders should also play to each generation’s strengths and effectively distribute projects for optimal performance and outcomes. Each generation expects to be rewarded differently, therefore, it’s important to tailor reward programs to meet the needs of a generationally diverse workforce. It’s also important to encourage collaboration in the workplace, which can be accomplished by conducting intergenerational training, setting up an organization-wide social media network that connects all staff using a tool like Work.com, and having a succession planning strategy to develop the next generation of leaders.

3. Developing Generational Competence

It’s imperative that individual employees, not just leadership, to understand the unique qualities of each generation. Education and professional development activities are effective in breaking down stereotypes and preventing friction between the different generations. Besides ensuring that each individual understands the different characteristics of each generation, healthcare leaders can instate formal mentoring programs that enable individuals to develop tools to work effectively with all generations. Finally, employees should be trained on the different styles of communication preferred by each generation. This will help improve communication skills and generational sensitivity.

While there are many differences between the four generations in America’s healthcare system, HR leaders can pave the road for success with careful planning by leveraging each generation’s strengths. How does your healthcare organization use diversity to provide a better patient experience? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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