In partnership with CHIME, healthsystemCIO.com has developed a blogger series featuring insights from hospital and health system CIOs and other key IT leaders representing organizations from around the country. The blogs focus on the major issues affecting CIOs, including the health IT workforce shortage, mobile device management, and federal regulations.
“Our organization’s appetite for IT solutions far outstrips our ability to deliver in a timely, integrated way”.
Thus is the lament of CIOs and their internal workforce across the healthcare industry. In our last posting on June 20, we wrote about the need — in building the next generation workforce — for a comprehensive assessment of the current workforce; the crucial need to align IT and enterprise leadership around priorities and resources; the call to create innovative, multi-phased plans; and the need to execute these plans with deep intent, emphasizing communication within the IT function and across the enterprise.
Let’s go a little deeper on the process of assessing the current state. Today and in the future, IT professional staff must have a balance of the right skills, competencies, and interpersonal capabilities to deliver a valued solution to end customers. As a CIO or IT leader, how often have you had a leader or staff member with superior technical skills who seems incapable of completing projects on time or according to budget? Or who helps end customers simply automate long-term — and often ineffective — processes? Or who works well on his/her own, but is disastrous in team outcomes? Or who over-promises and under-delivers? Or who expends little effort in self-development and learning?
Sound familiar? As you assess the current state, have you defined the essential competencies, skills, and interpersonal behaviors needed to deliver on the value of IT? Have you differentiated the talent within your functional organization — fully assessing each individual according to the collective talent needs you identified? Do you know who your top performers are, and have you developed a strategy to keep them engaged? Do they feel you recognize them and want to retain them for the long-term? These top performing professionals — who possess the essential skills and interpersonal behaviors you need — typically make up no more than 10 percent of your IT workforce. However, they are the ones who innovate, educate, and inspire their colleagues and customers — and have the most options to leave if they are not fulfilled.
Likewise, do you know who the backbone players are? The 80 percent or so that come in and do solid work across the long haul? They aren’t seeking to be the stars — they want enjoyable work with engaged colleagues. They are especially effective operationalizing the work of your leadership and star talent.
Finally, what about your low performers? The ones that need constant monitoring; the ones that make your end customers frustrated; the ones that demoralize their colleagues; the ones that continually suck up disproportionate leadership time and effort? Do you have a plan to deal with them?
To differentiate, you have to spend time thinking about, developing, and communicating a simple model that spells out the unique skills and interpersonal characteristics you expect. For the IT professional, we recommend that you define needed competencies according to the following five categories:
Character: Qualities like honesty and integrity, organizational standards of behavior, professionalism, self-awareness and generosity, and a deep regard for life-long learning help you align individual staff outcomes to the values of your IT organization as well as the enterprise.
Functional Capabilities: Qualities like customer focus, time management, problem-solving skills, knowledge of the healthcare environment, and specific knowledge of the end-user’s problems all contribute to better IT solutions.
Ability to Get Results: Qualities include baseline skills in process and performance improvement and how these disciplines contribute to reducing costs and waste while improving efficiency; benchmarking to industry gold standards; and reducing gaps between current state and best practice.
Interpersonal Skills: Qualities like communicating effectively (both written and verbal), building sustainable relationships, managing conflict, working as a team member, teaching others, and leading informally all contribute to faster, more reliable outcomes.
Change Management Potential: This includes how leaders and staff members link their daily work to the vision and strategy of the IT function and the enterprise, as well as serving as a change champion.
We believe that best-practice assessment of your IT organization workforce has to include a well-designed competency model that provides a baseline for individual and collective assessment of your current talent. The next step is to differentiate your talent to understand who your top, middle, and low performers are so you can retain and professionally stretch your top performers, retain and develop your middle performers, and move your low performers up or out. Once you have adopted this new model and language, it’s logical to incorporate the competency model into how you hire, orient, develop, and provide performance feedback.
In our next posting, we will talk about leadership tips and techniques to enable effective conversations with each staff member so that they understand the competency model expectations and know how you currently have assessed them.
This article is co-authored by Martha Davis, Organizational Consultant, Davis Group, LLC.