CNBC Healthy Returns Summit: Taking a 360 Degree Approach to Employee Happiness

By The Storytelling Revolution Archives
Cover image for  article: CNBC Healthy Returns Summit: Taking a 360 Degree Approach to Employee Happiness

The global pandemic created a seismic change in the healthcare industry and forced it to think differently about how care is being delivered and how workforces are managed, motivated and empowered. During CNBC's recent Healthy Returns Summit a number of healthcare leaders emphasized the many positive trends that have been further pronounced due to the pandemic, including telehealth, new care models, flexibility with workforce planning and deployment, and recognition that the speedy reskilling of a team's capabilities is critical.

Despite this forward momentum, healthcare workers are in crisis -- they are overworked, overburdened and over-stressed. This has created a tremendous physical strain for those on the frontlines, and a psychological burden for those losing patients.

The strains are visible beyond the healthcare industry, although they have been more entrenched in that sector given the direct impact of the pandemic on healthcare workers' emotional wellbeing, on scarce resources and on the urgent quest for effective vaccines.

The discussions during the Summit highlighted how the siloed "people" approach just doesn't cut it anymore. From HR to DE&I teams to ERGs, companies have failed to address the root causes of employee malaise. The Great Resignation is just one of the symptoms.

Whole Employee Care

Dr. Henry Ting of Delta Airlines, a renowned cardiologist and one of the first Fortune 500 CHOs (Chief Health Officers), emphasized that having healthy employees goes beyond physical health, also taking into account mental health, financial health, emotional health and spiritual health. Other health leaders concurred, and many have started the journey by addressing one of the biggest taboo topics in corporate America – “candid and open acceptance of mental health diagnoses among leaders and teams.

Ting shared that the pandemic triggered a new approach at Delta, where there has been a concerted effort to reframe the aperture and look at the needs of the whole employee.

Emboldened Sense of Purpose

People are yearning for trust, collaboration and purpose. They want to feel that their contributions are valued and that their team is truly working towards a common goal. They desire clear responsibilities and opportunities to learn and grow. They have high expectations that their own personal sense of purpose will align with that of their organization. They desire a conducive physical and digital environment that accords them the flexibility to achieve that elusive work–life balance.

In the healthcare industry, there is a heightened sense of purpose given the direct impact on people’s lives. From J&J’s CEO Joaquin Duato referring to the 135-year old company’s famous Credo statement to Walgreen’s Boots Alliance CEO Rosalind Brewer's assertion of how its mission to “champion the health and well-being of every community in America” drives its retail strategy in underserved areas, it is very clear that purpose has been front and center.

Designing Employee Joy

Building on stellar consumer experiences, companies have recognized how critical it is to ensure a robust and energizing employee experience. It necessitates a complete 180-degree shift away from a traditional top-down hierarchical approach to one that is empathetic and open-minded -- guided by design thinking principles. This change focuses on employees as the core constituents, with an emphasis on how they experience their own individual employee journey, punctuated by the critical “moments that matter'' to drive greater satisfaction, performance and productivity. This in turn will transform companies from being merely productivity and profitability machines into environments where work goes from a place where people "tolerate" it for financial reward to one that supports self-expression, meaning and belonging. That is, work becomes enjoyable and financially rewarding.

In the healthcare sector, that loftier goal is always a challenge, given the talent shortages and the serious implications when you drive outcomes that are life versus death, compared to market share hike versus drop.

However, hearing from Dr. Nancy Brown, Dean at the Yale School of Medicine, we are reminded that for the next generation of healthcare professionals (and not just doctors, but technicians and nurses also) the pursuit of medicine is driven by an innate quest to satisfy a personal purpose and achieve joy in following a vocation. Yale School of Medicine is committed to creating more inclusive opportunities for potential healthcare leaders from different backgrounds and ethnicities -- as exemplified by the work of their Office of Health Equity Research, that is continually leveraging shared resources and infrastructure to drive greater representation.

Employee Experience as Performance Driver

Going forward, healthcare organizations need to design an employee experience journey that is interactive and personalized, with a dynamic feedback loop that allows for flexibility and transparency.

Digitization of employee interactions needs to balance efficiency with the human touch. Once a healthcare organization creates a flywheel of employee empowerment, it will have an enduring impact on acquisition, empowerment and retention of talent.

The very definition of what is work and why we work has changed so fundamentally, that healthcare organizations need to re-examine and discard past paradigms that see talent as the means to an end. We are entering an era where teams are expecting work to deliver on multiple fronts -- not only financially, but socially and personally.

CNBC’s Healthy Returns convened the most audacious pioneers, the most incisive minds and the boldest leaders in the healthcare industry and reminded us all that in addition to treatments and innovations, the engine for progress is fundamentally driven by people. An intersectional approach is needed that not only delivers on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Wellness and Health but also gets to the heart of the modern workplace -- elevating human possibility and igniting optimism -- resulting in a healthy return for all.

You can read Raquelle Zuzarte's earlier report on CNBC's Healthy Returns Summit here.

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