Shifts in Healthcare IT: How CIOs Can Initiate Transformation

To lead digital transformation efforts in healthcare, CIOs and other IT leaders are shifting how they recruit and interact with employees to better engage and retain top talent.

Today’s low unemployment rate means top performers have an abundance of opportunities. That challenge, coupled with a shortage of people trained in niche areas, makes its hard to find talent for transformational activities.

Fortunately for us at DaVita Medical Group (which is now part of OptumCare®), healthcare and IT are attractive fields for talent. Still, like other healthcare organizations, we see opportunities to shift more of our focus to innovation in our IT department, and we need the talent to support that shift.

CIOs and other IT leaders are expected to lead digital transformation efforts in healthcare. That’s going to require all of us to do a better job with how we recruit and interact with employees so that we’re engaging and retaining the top talent to support those efforts.

Changing the IT Recruiting and Onboarding Processes

At DaVita Medical Group, I’m proud to say we’re making great progress with these goals. We had been struggling with turnover and hiring the best candidate based on cultural fit, so we partnered with our recruiting team to change our interview process. Previously, we evaluated new hires based largely on certifications and hard skills.

Now, using behavioral assessment guides, we evaluate candidates on soft skills, such as how they react to challenges and use creativity in problem solving. We also assembled interview panels to ensure each potential new hire is a good fit for our culture and demonstrates excitement for what we do.

To support new hires, we started a 60-day new IT team member orientation program where they are:

  • Assigned a buddy to help answer their questions and orient them to the organization.
  • Taken to lunch by teammates during their first week.
  • Encouraged to regularly check in with teammates who support their development.

New hires also learn about how the various IT subspecialties support the business and ultimately serve patients, and why as a business we value quality and affordability.

Building a High-Performing IT Department

Creating a high-functioning team with a unified culture is challenging. Teams that perform better tend to have a high level of emotional intelligence and a shared vision. Strong teams also communicate equally and respectfully with their teammates across position types and seniority levels.

Our highest-performing team members are motivated to stay with DaVita Medical Group when they have new opportunities to learn. So we’re committed to finding exciting and challenging work for our teams, allowing them to grow and stretch their expertise. We’ve also found team leadership is key. Employees stay on teams when they have a great boss.

Feedback is also critical. Getting employee feedback on their work experience takes time and effort, but is unquestionably worth the investment. In addition to our annual employee feedback survey, we’ve added a quarterly survey and have employees do a quarterly development check-in with their manager. These guided check-ins focus on employee experience and career development satisfaction. The feedback we receive helps us understand what we can do to better ensure employees feel they have a home team where they’re thriving and consistently winning.

We also discover the perks and recognition employees want by asking them. Commonalities include:

  • Working remotely once in a while.
  • Not having to be available while on PTO.
  • Allowing time away from work to volunteer in their communities with other coworkers for causes they care about.
  • Receiving a thank-you card for a job well done.
  • Being taken out to lunch periodically by their manager or supervisor.

Enabling Career Advancement and Growth

We offer courses across IT disciplines. Each class falls into one of three key leadership categories:

  • Leading self: developing and enhancing skills to be a great individual contributor.
  • Leading team: gaining skills to be a better leader of people.
  • Leading business: developing business acumen skills to be a better business liaison.

Employees also each create an individual development plan (IDP) with measurable goals to support the business. Each IDP corresponds to a key leadership category. As teammates take these classes and record their growth, they can better recognize their strengths. Team members discuss their progress with their manager, who provides support and opportunity based on their development interests.

When a teammate is excelling in their role and wants to contribute more to the business, we support them. For example, recently a high performer wanted a job change, so we encouraged her to interview other IT subteams to learn about opportunities. She became interested in the analytics team but learned she needed to improve her SQL skills. To be competitive for an open role, we sent her to a SQL class to prepare. Seeing cross-pollination as teammates learn about other specialties is exciting. And, it allows us to fill more roles by promoting internally.

The Power of Mentoring and Coaching for Career Mapping

Using talent assessments, we identify potential high performers. We’ve built a program where employees on the cusp of high performance get a 360 assessment and a coach. This assessment isn’t punitive; rather, it lets employees see that we want to help them grow within our organization.

Every time an employee is promoted, we also do a 360 assessment of their skills and growth areas, and we assign them a coach, so they’re set up for success right away. When starting a new job within the same company, it’s hard to shed the previous role. We promote people into jobs they can do immediately, so they can move forward and focus on what’s in front of them.

Rewarding Ambition

People earlier in their careers stay with organizations if they’re given new responsibilities every couple years that impact the business. We appreciate ambition, so we reward these employees with opportunities  to learn and grow. We also support them by:

  • Providing mobile-friendly tools to access expense reports, time cards, travel schedules, and more.
  • Allowing flexible workspaces, so they can do their job how they want.
  • Encouraging networking, so they know they’re relevant in the healthcare IT field.
  • Trusting them to deliver the product that’s needed by letting them figure out how to do it.

Rapid change and need for digital transformation in healthcare is only accelerating. Engaging talent and ensuring employees are happy, challenged in their roles, and committed to their organization’s mission and vision are necessary steps to positively transform the healthcare industry.

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