Diversity & Minority Empowerment Strategies for U.S. Health Systems

The Spring and early Summer of 2020 has been turbulent, with regards to how our country’s public and private institutions are progressing and evaluating race in America. In particular our African American community, which has had more trouble in achieving the same economic prosperity that other groups have had. While much recent media attention has gone towards the relationship between African American communities and local police, right now many U.S. organizations are reflecting inward. U.S. health systems are no exception. Health systems and local hospital leadership are analyzing their own priorities and wondering if they are a force for positive change at a local level.

Nearly everyone would agree that rooting positive diversity metrics right into company goals is important. But what can health systems, community hospitals, or clinics do to promote diversity, and spread economic prosperity to under-served, under-valued populations?

Communicate Initiatives and Measure Results

Health systems and community hospitals, should identify hiring or advancement goals and craft messages to your various audiences. Make sure your current associates and your community know about diversity hiring and advancement goals. People vary in how they understand messages, so think through communication plans and how to reach intended audiences. Newsletters and communications to staff through mid-line managers can be a successful tool. Social media and community organizations can also help spread messages to the community. If you’re trying to hire more from the surrounding community, a recruitment tent at a public event may be a vital communication tool rivaling recruiting solely online.

It is also imperative to measure the results of diversity initiatives. Increased representation of identified minority groups and improved employee survey scores should be captured. Diverse employee retention metrics, advancements, training metrics, or public recognition are other tactics which can be communicated, measured, adjusted/reviewed, and celebrated.

Hire Based on Communities the Health System/Hospital Serves

When hiring, recruit underrepresented members of the local community, and demographics that mirror patient populations. Be a part of local workforce boards and other organizations with local outreach.

University Health System, in San Antonio Texas, is an organization committed to equitable talent development. UHS hires many community members who do not speak fluent English. Available career development programs have been expanded to keep pace with the evolving language and literacy needs of employees, including offering onsite English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).

By hiring within their community, University Health Systems executes on-the-job learning and career development system through the ECHO® (Expanding your Career and Health Opportunity) program. ECHO® gives mid-level healthcare workers the chance to move into more advanced roles in the organization. Read more about University Health System and their hiring practices.

Create “Blueprints” for Success for Minority Candidates

Diversity at the mid-line management or Director-level is often discussed as a barometer of an organization’s diverse employee leadership practices. When employees are in an entry-level or mid-level role, it may be difficult for them to envision what a higher leadership role would look like; especially if the people currently in those roles don’t look like them. To overcome this lack of representation, identify high-performing employees to be the blueprint for what advancement could look like.

If “upskilling” is needed to bridge the gap, show what learning tools are available, whether internal or through certifications and community colleges. Develop a mentorship program aimed at promoting and advancing diverse populations. Career exploration conversations, coaching, and mentoring are steps that could help with advancement of diverse or underserved employee populations.

Put Learning Tools in Places Easy to Access

When building the talent pipeline of the lower-level employees, it’s important to find the top-performers in that group to earmark for development or future advancement. Building the talent pipeline in an organization generally means learning tools are needed.

With the recent virus pandemic, amid furloughs and layoffs, job training or soft-skill development have unfortunately been put to the side by many systems. But as many workers are now being tasked with more responsibility to fill in gaps, and hiring hopefully ramps back up, learning opportunities are going to become more important than ever.

One such offering that can support job training or soft-skill development is CLiMB™. CLiMB™ is an online library of microlearning modules, that is completely contextualized for healthcare front-line associates. Lessons and activities use real-world scenarios from healthcare-specific settings and focus on the job positions of the targeted learner. Scenarios were created based on input from customers and subject matter experts and show how behaviors can be applied immediately on the job. CLiMB™ has 5 themes: Good Work and Good Relationships, Effective Job Communication, Caring for Yourself and Others, Exceptional Patient Experience, and Building a Healthcare Career.

Obtain Support from Senior Leadership

For initiatives of diversity inclusion, hiring, or advancement to be successful, the organization’s Senior Leadership needs to buy-in. Senior Management should understand the business case for inclusion techniques and see direct links to the organization’s strategic goals. Hold Senior Management accountable for supporting actual diversity applications to the workforce. Creating a stand-alone diversity committee or ‘senior champion’ for inclusion are among best practices.

A model health system in championing diversity hiring, retention, and advancement is Main Line Health in Philadelphia. Main Line Health’s ‘senior champion’ is CEO Jack Lynch, who is outspoken and intentional about achieving more diversity at the apex of the system. Lynch believes in investing in programs that promote diversity, foster collaboration, participation, and respect in the organization, while reducing turnover costs. Main Line Health’s Diversity, Respect & Inclusion Strategy team has been in place for 7 years now. This team is tasked with developing leaders within the organization who mirror its patient population, as well as the demographics of Philadelphia. With many Baby Boomers nearing retirement age, leadership development was crucial to build a base of engaged workers for the future.

Main Line Health partnered with Catalyst Learning to implement “School At Work” (SAW®) and “Expanding Your Career and Healthcare Opportunities” (ECHO®), programs that aid in the career development goals of entry and mid-level healthcare employees. Main Line Health’s goal is to champion building a pipeline for a more inclusive leadership team. Read More about Main Line Health.