As chief human resources officer at one of the nation’s largest healthcare systems, I am keenly aware of both the positive and the challenging impact the transformation of our industry is having on the consumer.
What is interesting to me is the impact that healthcare transformation is having on our workforce. At Carolinas HealthCare System, [now Atrium Health] we are experiencing the following:
- There is still a need for highly specialized talent, but we should not underestimate the value of soft skills
- For the first time in our history, five generations make up our workforce
- The relationship between the employer and the employee has evolved
Calling All Soft Skills
Let’s start with veterans. They are recruited young, endure rigorous training and education, trusted to represent our country and lead both at home and out in the field. When they return to civilian life, their resume qualifications don’t match our traditional job codes and their applications may not have a chance.
At Carolinas HealthCare System, our focus on military and veterans has been intentional. We have learned that a staff sergeant could be aligned to a manager, or a colonel could be a vice president. We understand the value that the experience of serving our country brings to our company, and we are trying to harness that value.
The key is the intentionality of our efforts and taking the time to create partnerships with the right organizations to understand the needs, the benefits and the language of our military and veterans.
At the other end of the spectrum are high schoolers.
We conducted a little bit of research which unearthed a revelation. There is a population of high school students who are incredibly bright, talented and motivated, but may not have the means to attend college or university immediately after high school.
As a result of this learning, we created a partnership with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools system to offer a healthcare career development program for high school seniors. Our goal is to positively impact the futures of these amazing teenagers, provide flexible work opportunities so they may attend school, and groom them to become healthcare leaders of the future.
One System, Five Generations
Welcome Generation Z!
Our System workforce now includes five generations: Silents, Boomers, X, Y and Z. In fact, we employ a few more Millennials than Xers, a lot more Millennials than Boomers, and a few more Zs than Silents.
Obviously, there is a lot of research and literature on generational attributes and how each age group is impacting the workforce. They each add value in a different way. They each have their own timing, approach, style, and expectations. A recent quote that I find particularly relevant is “What we call a ‘generation gap’ is usually a result of an ‘interaction gap.’”
And as a Boomer myself, I can say with joy that before too long, like the dinosaurs, we will be hearing “when the Baby Boomers roamed our halls.”
Employers – No Longer Acting as Mom and Dad
As the importance of intelligent consumerism is amplified — get your annual physical from your computer, get your hair cut at Walmart, monitor your house from your phone — employers are shifting from acting as parents for employee children to becoming partners for employee consumers.
The shift from employer-funded pensions to 401(k)s for employees, with options for incentives, matching, and investments. The introduction of consumer-directed health plans offering employees incredible opportunities for savings that carry over year-to-year. The emergence of app-based and virtual everything — education, healthcare, even friendships.
With the employer-as-partner model comes the importance of self-directed learning. The employer must educate the employee on the elements of the new paradigm. And the employees must take the time and have the wherewithal to educate themselves on the many advantages of their “independence.”
Interestingly, Generation Y seems to be very receptive to this new relationship and is dominating our workforce.
What does it all mean and why does it all matter?
As the largest employer in our region, Carolinas HealthCare System takes our responsibility to recruit the best talent, understand our workforce, and provide our employees with relevant opportunities very seriously. We know that our generational make-up should and does reflect the communities in which we serve. And we know that being innovative in the talent space and intelligent about generational demographics means we can create a highly engaged workforce that delivers the best possible care to our patients and community.
Debra is Executive Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer for Carolinas HealthCare System, where she is responsible for the people strategy of the organization, including workforce relations and employment, focusing on issues such as benefits, compensation, education, inclusion, and wellness. Debra has held many executive leadership positions in HR, as Senior VP of HR & Organizational Development for both OhioHealth and Genesys Health System, and Regional VP of Employee Relations, Diversity, and HR at Franciscan Health System of the Ohio Valley. She was named Queens University of Charlotte’s 2015 BusinessWoman of the Year and is well-known for her advocacy for women, veterans, and families.