So think of a year ago (I know it is hard) and the big issues in staffing for provider organizations serving complex consumers—the increasing use of technology, the shift to value-based reimbursement, and integration of skills and service delivery (see Health & Human Services In 2020 & Beyond – Predictions From The Thought Leaders and Value-Based Payment Models May Shift The Primary Care Staffing Mix).
Roll forward to June of 2020—a little over three months into the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The effects on staffing in this crisis are three-fold. Increased concern about personal safety in face-to-face and direct care services due to the pandemic. A faster scaling up of virtual service delivery than provider organizations expected. And the near-complete shift to virtual operations for clinical professionals as well as administrative staff.
And now, looking ahead, what will the big staffing issues be in the post-crisis recovery? That was the focus of yesterday’s session during The 2020 OPEN MINDS I/DD Executive Summit, Employee Engagement & Retention During COVID-19, with Carl E. Clark II, chief executive officer of Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health and Stacy DiStefano, chief operating officer of Chimes International. Their take? Increased challenges (and opportunities) in recruiting staff and paying competitive salaries in times of financial turmoil. Keeping them motivated and on the job in the ‘new normal’ (working from home, following social distancing guidelines, testing for COVID-19, etc.). And thinking about how to expand skillsets and how to meet integrated care requirements.
Their recommendations for organizations to be able to recruit and retain employees (while counteracting high turnover rates)—embrace a ‘Servant Leadership’ style, think creatively, and work collaboratively (rather than competitively) with other provider organizations.
Embrace a ‘Servant Leadership’ style—Mr. Clark discussed how Devereux’s recently adopted servant leadership style—introduced in April 2018—has enabled them to continue operations and retain their employees even during the pandemic. The philosophy behind servant leadership is to enhance the lives of others, build more cohesive organizations, and create a more just and caring environment (see Embrace The Chaos With Servant Leadership and What Is Servant Leadership?). For Devereux—a provider organization operating 15 centers in 13 states—the goal was to adopt servant leadership style to improve accountability, increase quality, and develop an engaged workforce to support staff recruitment and retention. The new leadership style was rolled out in three phases:
- Creating an initial team of 52 key champions across all centers to boost momentum.
- Building an infrastructure to support the new style of leadership—developing an in-person and web-based curriculum based on the seven pillars of servant leadership and updating handbooks, job descriptions, and policies and procedures.
- Implementing from the top down—training everyone from the board and executive leadership to managers and supervisors as well as the direct care staff.
After the first year of implementation, the new leadership style contributed to a 10% reduction in year-over-year employee turnover, as well as a 15% reduction in major risk events. Even through the pandemic, Mr. Clark noted, Devereux’s turnover is down by 25% while hiring is up 6%.
Think creatively—A key responsibility of the executive team in periods of disruption is to find new opportunities in crises. As with many provider organizations, Chimes was forced to temporarily suspend a number of service lines such as day programs. However, the organization was able to reimagine how services could be delivered in future while engaging employees in the process. As Ms. DiStefano highlighted, “the team had to reframe ‘we can’t’ into ‘we can, if’ and empower staff to solve problems both creatively and independently. One silver lining of the pandemic was the gift of pause.” Staff had time to collaborate and brainstorm with leaders on various policies, procedures, and day-to-day operations that could be changed, updated, or enhanced once they are able to reopen.
Work collaboratively, not competitively—Ensuring clinical professionals and other frontline and administrative employees know they are supported—and safe—is key to maintaining current and future engagement. One example of this is Devereux’s collaboration sourcing with Chimes for personal protective equipment. When the supply chain was especially short, Mr. Clark’s team engaged a number of non-profit organizations to work together for PPE sourcing. Together, Devereux and Chimes—along with the support of other provider organizations—placed an order totaling $1 million to ensure staff had access to hand sanitizers, masks, and gowns. Not only did working together allow the organizations to save nearly $350,000, it also showed employees that these once competitors could collaborate and work together as a field (and do what is needed to be done) to protect staff. And the goodwill nurtured among staff has led to increased referrals for jobs and opened up the talent pool for recruiting said Ms. DiStefano.
Executives need to look to strengthening their core and to rethinking how they hire and retain staff, expand technology, and build market advantage to become employers of choice in the post-crisis future.
For more on leading your team through the crisis, check out these resources in The OPEN MINDS Industry Library:
- Finding Opportunity In Adversity: Leadership Lessons From The COVID-19 Crisis
- The Temporary Treatment Normal – Helping Clinical Professionals Navigate The Pandemic
- From Crisis To Growth: A New Leadership Mindset
- Can We Learn From This? 12 Steps For Leaders To Manage Beyond The Crisis
- The Big Questions For Leading Through This Crisis Period
- Collaboration, Connectivity & Complex Leadership
- The Leadership Success Checklist For Uncertain Times
- Understanding The Four Essential Types of Leadership
- What Is Happening With Crisis Services In The Current Crisis?
- How Culture Makes Organizational Change Less Painful
And for even more, join us on August 27 for the web briefing, Options For Managing Staffing Costs – Productivity Management, Outsourcing, Technology Solutions, And More, led by OPEN MINDS Senior Associate Ken Carr. The web briefing is offered as part of our program, The OPEN MINDS Executive Blueprint For Crisis Management – Building Organizational Sustainability & Success In A Disrupted Health & Human Service Market, to help executive teams continue to lead through the current crisis and ensure long-term sustainability in the post-crisis normal.