This article was written by Leslie Flick, executive director of Health Future, LLC, for the June 2016 edition of “Networking News.” The Network Technical Assistance Project is funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through a contract to Rural Health Innovations, LLC, a subsidiary of the National Rural Health Resource Center.
When serving an industry where change is a constant state of routine, keeping the workforce of an organization productive, efficient, flexible, and able to adjust to required changes in workflow or focus at all levels is imperative. This requires a clearly stated mission, transparency, collaboration in the setting of goals, and development of key performance indicators that define “success.”
It also requires discussing concerns about possible barriers to meeting those goals from varied perspectives and creating a plan to increase progress toward identified targets. Who knows a network’s obstacles better than those who are responsible for setting the foundation for reaching our goals: our frontline staff. It is in their daily interactions with members, consumers, strategic partners, and other stakeholders that success is rooted.
Alignment of workforce with network goals
There are several ways to ensure that staff members are connected with their role in reaching organizational goals.
Employ the right associates to join your team. While a bit obvious, the first step is to offer the right individuals an opportunity to be a part of your team. Tasks, in and of themselves, are relatively easy to teach. Attitude, dedication, energy, compassion, humility and “presence” are attributes that are important to keeping the workforce moving together toward common goals. During the interview process, consider asking nontraditional questions like:
Assign new-hire mentors/buddies. Place your new hire with one of your stars! Ask the mentor their opinion of the new hire and specific areas that might need some special attention to help them succeed. It won’t take long to determine if the new addition is a good fit who will assist in your movement forward.
Hold morning huddles. Spend five to ten minutes with work units each morning to ask for report-out of progress from the day before, what the day ahead looks like, any barriers encountered or anticipated today that need to be addressed, and/or any suggestions for improvements to consider.
Track key performance indicators and post them for review, showing progress or decline. Engage in management walk-throughs that note progress on a consistent basis.
Develop cross-functional teams to share information on work in other areas of discipline across the organization. It helps us learn how stakeholders in other areas are impacted by the work of each work group. We have found that development of project teams with assigned first and second chairs who have complementary skills and setting clear lines of accountability have helped all workforce members feel empowered and valuable to the overall success of the organization.
Accountable, empowered and valued teams
Encouraging accountability and empowerment throughout the workforce instill pride in the work being done, which also helps improve outcomes. Staff members build confidence as they learn new skills and as new knowledge (education with purpose) is shared across the organization. When staff plays an active role in removing barriers to others’ success, the network can foster a sense of camaraderie among its workforce.
Staff must feel valued as an essential piece of the larger puzzle for them to be satisfied in their roles. Communicating the network’s appreciation for key staff allows each individual to experience being counted as an important contributor to success. It also builds respect for the work that is being done on all levels of the organization. Employees take more ownership of their roles and maintain a direct line-of-sight with the mission when the network demonstrates the value of their contributions.
Overall, creating an agile workforce is really about developing an inclusive management style, building trust through transparency, and verbalizing appreciation for the work. Keeping people engaged and eager to improve facilitates change for the greater good, ensures focus on the mission, and creates ownership in the outcomes.
Health Future, LLC, headquartered in Southern Oregon, was founded in 1979 to develop and manage a variety of programs and services for its members and associates to address health care concerns. Today, Health Future, LLC is a unique healthcare consortium owned by Oregon hospitals and healthcare systems that operate as an integrated network for quality improvement, margin enhancement, and cost reduction. Health Future, LLC has been an active member of NCHN (National Cooperative of Health Networks) since 2005.
The National Rural Health Resource Center (The Center) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to sustaining and improving health care in rural communities. Rural Health Innovations, LLC is a subsidiary of the National Rural Health Resource Center.