Providing hospital and health system employees with a sense of connection, support, and belonging is now more important than ever. When employees feel valued and supported in the workplace, they are more productive, more creative, and develop a deep commitment to their jobs and employer. All of this contributes to gaining a ‘competitive advantage’ and leading metrics for business success. It’s also true that lacking a sense of belonging has been identified as the top reason for voluntary staff turnover, especially among historically underrepresented groups. Indeed, workplace belonging is vital to achieving your bottom line in business.
Historically Underrepresented Group in Healthcare
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, while African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos and American Indians together represent more than one-fourth of the US population, they comprise less than 9 percent of nurses, 6 percent of physicians and 5 percent of dentists. Although while a record 18,000 new students entered medical school in 2008, just under 2,900 were African American, Hispanic/LatinX or American Indian. Meanwhile, by the middle of this century, the US population could be more than 50 percent nonwhite.
- All minority groups, except Asians are underrepresented in Health Diagnosis and Treating occupations.
- Hispanics, Asians and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders are underrepresented among Counselors and Social Workers (Community and Social Service occupation).
- Personal Care and Service Occupations is the most diverse occupational group, followed by occupations belonging to the Healthcare Support group.
Health Providers Must Self-Assess
Do your Black, Hispanic/LatinX, and other employees of color feel fully accepted as members of the workplace? Do you have a publicly communicated and formal diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy? If not, your underrepresented employees likely feel unwelcome and overlooked. Most healthcare organizations actively pursue diverse representation in their workplace, but this won’t necessarily ensure that all employees feel included. Creating a sense of belonging — an employee’s perception of acceptance within a given group — provides HR leaders with a good opportunity to reinvigorate their inclusion approach and goals.
“Belonging is a key component of inclusion. When employees are truly included, they perceive that the organization cares for them as individuals, their authentic selves. HR can help make that happen,” says Lauren Romansky, Managing Vice President, Gartner. “That’s good for employees — and ultimately improves business performance.” Here are five key action steps for Human Resources.
5 Key Action Steps for HR
- Execute a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategic Plan: Hospitals and health systems use diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives for both compliance obligations and to increase the overall bottom line with a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce. Developing a best practices DE&I strategy initiative involves four main phases.
- Clearly and Consistently Communicate the DEI Commitment: Seven out of 10 employees say their organization fails to inform them of opportunities to promote inclusion in their day-to-day work. To better communicate genuine support for the idea of belonging, make everyone responsible for achieving DEI goals day-to-day. Encourage employees to value what each person can bring to the table by caring for one another, advocating for everyone’s voice to be heard, and investing in their colleagues’ growth and development. Incorporate employee input into organizational values to show individuals they have a meaningful, equitable role in building a more inclusive workplace.
- Bring Outsiders Fully Inside: Despite progress by some leading healthcare organizations on DEI, employees of many other health providers still feel like outsiders in the workplace — causing them to further suppress the parts of themselves that make them distinctly unique from their colleagues. Feeling like an outsider is a personally painful, negative experience, a cognitive distraction that undermines focus and performance. Hospitals and health systems should push for a workplace culture in which individuality is both noticed and valued. Demonstrate care for all employees and provide routine opportunities for check-ins. Workplace support, understanding and trust all reduce the likelihood of an underrepresented individual feeling like an outsider.
- Demonstrate DEI through the Entire Talent Lifecycle: Health providers that want to do more than pay lip service to the goal of full inclusion must develop a DEI strategic plan that incorporates strategic talent management. This requires considering the entire lifecycle of a diverse new hire, and what happens before, during and long after they complete orientation and onboarding. There are five stages to this lifecycle, which also represent five potential points of failure, where unconscious bias is often part of the process, ruining even the most well developed DEI strategy.
5. Healthcare Workplaces Need More Allyship: Why do we need to be Inclusive Allies in healthcare? Because today in 2020, more than ever, DEI and belonging is a business imperative. Allyship is the practice of emphasizing social justice, inclusion, and human rights by members of an ingroup, to advance the interests of an oppressed or marginalized outgroup.
#HeForShe and #WhiteAlly are two grassroots labels I’ve seen used to promote allyship that increases women and Black employees feeling of belonging. HR should provide Ally Skills training that teaches simple everyday techniques people can use to make their workplaces more inclusive and helps people recognize when they have power and influence—when they can best act as an ally—and learn how to take effective action to increase belonging at work.