When meeting with healthcare organizations, one of the first questions we ask is, "What is it that you want to measure?" We have a general idea, and most hospitals are looking for similar attributes, but until we define them, we can't be sure what to measure.
Justifying the importance of this process isn't always easy; many leaders assume it is obvious and that everyone is on the same page. Here's one real-world example: We were meeting the physician department chairs of a health system to identify physician candidates who would be best-suited to work there. Several senior physicians said we didn't need to spend time defining the attributes of top physicians because, "we all know what we're looking for." We asked them to amuse us by developing a short list. An hour later, we had a list of more than 30 behavioral skills - many of which conflicted with each other - and certainly no agreement on how to prioritize them. Despite initial pushback, it became readily apparent that this exercise was an important first step. The physicians in the room were, in fact, NOT in alignment on what makes for a successful physician within the organization.
Another relevant encounter occurred recently while visiting with a multi-hospital health system that had asked us to implement a system-wide structured behavioral interviewing program and to add behavioral assessments to the hiring process. A member of the client's talent team had recently arrived on the healthcare scene after two decades in other industries. He found it odd that this fairly sophisticated health system had NEVER gone through the process of defining the behavioral competencies for every job family. He recalled doing this at other companies back in the 1990s!
In our experience, healthcare organizations have, for decades, defined "talent" based on clinical and technical skills. The organizations with the best talent were the ones with the physicians and nurses with the most impressive resumes, doing the most cutting-edge work. There was little thought about behavioral competencies like collaboration, adaptability, service-orientation, or emotional intelligence. In fact, most discussions of "competencies" began and ended with the standard, technical Joint Commission competencies.
Healthcare is re-thinking the entire approach to patient-centered care - thinking about the patient experience and adapting to a rapidly changing landscape. Although there is a lot of talk about finding people with the right behavioral attributes, not every organization has tackled this strategically. We recommend the following steps:
- First, analyzing and defining those attributes
- Then communicating and socializing them, and
- Finally, building talent strategies around them
In many ways, our healthcare organizations are some of the most technologically advanced, sophisticated organizations - except when it comes to talent, where we often feel like we are going back in time. Leading healthcare organizations are catching up quickly, though, as leaders come to realize that the impressive resume doesn't necessarily improve the patient experience or even guarantee great outcomes.
Building an organization-wide behavioral competency model needn't be a daunting, year-long project. We've learned how to do it in a matter of weeks. Clients have learned that it can be an invaluable starting point to get all their talent functions (selection, performance management, development, and succession planning) pointed in the right direction.
To learn more, check out our whitepaper: