Bridging the Leadership Gap in Healthcare

Welcome back to our series on healthcare and improving the patient experience. In our first blog, we discussed the important role that leadership plays in creating the right employee and patient experience. Research shows that the employee’s direct manager drives 70% of employee engagement, and yet all too often, leaders in healthcare are not provided with the right information, tools, training, and support to execute on their job duties.

Without proper leadership, employees become frustrated, performance decreases, and ultimately employees leave. The turnover rate in healthcare has increased 5% across all aspects of healthcare. The healthcare industry now has the second highest turnover rate of any industry, behind hospitality. Simply put, the healthcare industry cannot afford to not provide frontline managers with the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to keep great employees from leaving.

So, here are 4 ways that healthcare organizations can go about supporting their frontline leaders:

1) Focus on Frontline Leadership: Influential leaders aren’t just in the boardroom anymore. Frontline supervisors and managers have far greater influence on employee and customer retention. Historically, leadership training was reserved for elite executives because it was expensive and conventional wisdom suggested applying the investment at the top would trickle down throughout the company. The problem with this theory is that most top tier executives have very little influence on their employees’ day-to-day actions; especially interactions with patients. Frontline managers bear the brunt of onboarding, training, coaching, and infusing company cultures into these new recruits. But in order to do so, these frontline supervisors and managers need the proper training and tools regarding how to manage a team, how to ensure patient satisfaction, and how to ensure business success that is sustainable year after year. By focusing on supporting frontline leadership through training and continued support, organizations can expect better results on critical business outcomes.

2) Select Leaders Based on Attitudes and Management Abilities: High-level leadership is most often recruited externally for the new skills and experience they can bring to an organization, however this is not the case with frontline leadership. As one PX expert explains, “Healthcare, with massive shortages in all specialties, is promoting their “best players” and asking them to do a great job with little or no training or support around basic leadership skills. And we are asking them to simply add all these important leadership duties ON TOP of their existing FT job.” New frontline managers are not being selected for their management skills however, but rather for their high performance in the field – which doesn’t necessarily mean they make great leaders. In other words, great performers do not always make great leaders. When they are placed in positions in which they become frustrated and fail, we not only suffer the loss of a high performer, but we also lose the hearts and minds of the people they manage. We call this the Leadership Gap. So, start with selecting frontline leaders not just based on their performance, but rather, based on their attitudes and abilities around leadership.

“Eagles come in all shapes and sizes, but you will recognize them chiefly by their attitudes.” — E.F.Schumacher

3) Bridge the Leadership Gap Through Training and Support: Leadership is the manager’s ability to inspire their people to be and deliver their best. Most service training programs focus on skills and tasks, but great interactions with employees and patients only come from people with great attitudes. Great attitudes are not genetic; they are learned, nurtured, and instilled through constant modeling from true frontline leaders, not based on a title or pedigree. Organizations that provide proper training not only on skills, but also on the importance of attitude and on how to inspire performance from employees, will provide frontline supervisors and managers with the confidence to lead. Remember, the most influential leaders are not the ones who give keynote addresses each year…they are among us… they are the ones who walk the talk every day…and inspire their direct reports to do the same. When these supervisors and managers are trained to focus on the hearts and minds of their people, they can expect…and get the very best from their team.

4) Measure Success Through ROE = Return on Engagement: A new metric is needed to capture value of closing the Leadership Gap. A new metric is needed to help those who make budget decisions understand the massive intellectual dividends leadership training yields, happier employees and patients, that in turn lead to massive financial dividends through lower turnover, increased retention of high-performers and patients and increased profits. Engagement is the metric that incorporates both intellectual and financial dividends, because fully engaged managers beget fully engaged employees who beget fully engage patients.

The healthcare industry is at a pivotal point where proper leadership on the frontlines can make or break an organization. Consider how your healthcare organization can benefit from well trained leaderships that can not only support their employees, but also lead the organization towards sustainable success.

At SGEi, we focus on delivering the right training and tools to ensure your healthcare organization is delivering the best patient experience possible. Connect with us today to learn how we can help.

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