Building the Workforce of the Future—by Deconstructing the Work

The Next Practices Weekly call series has become a well-attended and wide-ranging discussion for HR leaders each Thursday at 11am ET / 8am PT. On this week's call, i4cp' s Chief Research Officer, Kevin Martin, and Senior Research Analyst, Tom Stone, facilitated a conversation with special guest Greg Till,  EVP, Chief People Officer, at Providence Health System. Here are some highlights from the call:

  • Providence is a hospital / healthcare organization based in the Northwest US. It includes 52 hospitals, 950 clinics, and approximately 25K physicians, 35K nurses, and 120K caregivers.
  • Till first provided some context for the talent challenges that Providence and the healthcare industry more generally have been facing. Overall in the US, January 2023 saw a surprising jobs report with 517,000 jobs added and a record low 3.4 unemployment rate. The healthcare industry currently has significantly higher open jobs than the rest of the economy, and the gap is greatest in most of the western US states vs. the middle of the country or the eastern states.
  • Providence has the goal of being the best place to work in healthcare, but pursuing this goal requires reimagining what's possible. Their main strategies include:
    • Inspire. "We aspire to be the best place to work and practice, where caregivers are inspired to spend their careers."
    • Develop. "We aspire to be the best place to grow you career, where everyone reaches their full potential."
    • Enable. "We aspire to provide a simple, modern, digitally-enabled experience."
    • Transform. "We aspire to ensure everyone can work at top of practice, supporting new models and places of care."
  • The transform strategy involves what Till calls "The Four Ds":
    • Deconstuct. "What parts of each role can be done differently to increase the joy of practice, add capacity, or improve the quality, cost, or experience of care?"
    • Digitize. "How can we use technology to ease the way for our caregivers and enable them to do MORE of what they love and and are called to do?"
    • Deploy. "How might we improve our understanding of our communities’ needs and our team’s scheduling preferences, so we can staff more effectively?"
    • Diversify. "What NEW sources of talent might help us increase capacity to best care for our communities?"
  • When Providence deconstructed their nursing roles down to the task level, they found that 30-40% of the tasks could be done by others -- whether administrators who were previously nurses or doctors, or other staff with minimal training doing tasks such as taking temperatures, check-ins on stable patients, etc. Some tasks could also be automated, such as scheduling and some documentation.
  • Three keys to Providence's culture that are allowing it to look at creative talent solutions and their caregiver value proposition differently:
    • Flexibility. Till said that flexibility is the new key to engagement.
    • Agility. This is the ability to move fast, and not spend a lot of time in decision making. Till said he loves the quote "Vision without execution is merely an hallucination." Eventually you need to act -- the sooner you do, the faster you can find out what works and what doesn't.
    • Collaboration. This applies just as much to HR as anywhere else, where the team regularly gathers to collaborate on workforce planning, acute talent issues, etc.
  • Regarding upskilling, Till noted that Providence is very focused on accelerated development. They have formed many partnerships, such as with Guild to offer more affordable and accessible education opportunities. They have also tripled their investment in workforce development with the hope of one day having a pathway like "six years to six figures," meaning development for a minimum-wage employee over six years to reach a six-figure salary level position.
  • Providence is very focused on "skill tasks," and upskilling people on only those skills that are needed today or that they know will be needed in the future. Till provocatively asked the question: how much of the time you spent in your 4-year degree, or even higher-level degrees, are really needed and being used in your job today?
  • Digitizing work at Providence means using technology to enhance prediction and staffing models, smarter scheduling, capacity with automation, and better deployment of talent. Till said automation will most often take away the "dull and the dangerous," not eliminate people's jobs entirely.
  • Till noted that Providence is very focused on opportunities that take a broader view of their talent ecosystem, i.e., looking at alternative sources of talent from those traditionally used, such as talent pools in other regions (remote), gig workers, etc.

Links to resources shared on the call: