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    Six Ways to Support Healthcare Staff During Downsizing

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    Mergers and acquisitions in the healthcare industry showed no signs of slowing down in 2017. The search to improve patient care while cutting costs continued unabated, spurring significant deal activity in the industry. As 2018 gets under way, new combinations continue to arise every day, with wide-reaching implications for healthcare organizations and their people.  

    There are a number of factors contributing to uncertainty and consolidation in the healthcare marketplace. Fluid policy shifts in Washington are changing payer-provider relationships, significantly increasing regulatory pressures. Even short-term strategy and business planning are difficult in such an uncertain environment. Add to that the profound impact of technology on patient care and customer service—and it’s no surprise industry players are combining forces to compete.

    Putting politics aside, there’s more to consolidation than pricing and patient care. As the healthcare landscape transforms, organizations face reengineering initiatives, restructurings, redundancies, and downsizings. Of course, these things have a cost other than bottom-line expenses: the cost to human capital. In these times, it’s critical to take stock of the impact dramatic change has on the people involved.

    Here are six considerations for helping your talent during times of change:

    1. Develop a change management plan. Before any pen is put to paper on a deal, it’s essential to develop a comprehensive change management plan to maximize engagement. A well-conceived strategy will include transparent communications, detailed redeployment or separation plans, and action plans for multi-location efforts. Managers should be trained in how to handle the strong emotions that arise in these scenarios, and employees shouldn’t have to navigate the change alone.  With a well-planned transition process, employees who are either being redeployed or laid off can move forward in a positive direction quickly and with solid support.

       
    2. Address redeployment. Oftentimes, especially in the case of reengineering or restructuring, some employees can be reassigned within the organization. Think about both the current state of the organization and the “target” state. Where is the organization headed? What skill sets are required to achieve the target state, and does existing talent match up, or are there gaps? How can the organization both retain good talent and provide alternative opportunities for those employees that are directly affected?

       
    3. Support for exiting employees. When separation is necessary, early and sustained support of outgoing employees will help them move forward optimistically. Be clear about timeframes and expectations, while using a caring and considerate tone in communications. Make sure those affected know what’s available to them in terms of outplacement and career support. Consider using an experienced outplacement firm for on-site layoff notifications and job-search assistance.

      Outplacement services can take many forms, but at the core is working with a dedicated, experienced, and effective career coach who will help the job seeker define the right path forward. This includes gaining a clear understanding of professional and personal goals and how skills match up with opportunities in the marketplace. 

      In the healthcare field, non-compete agreements often surface as a critical issue in career transition. Some employers will be flexible as to enforcement of these agreements, especially if the candidate’s target company is not a direct competitor. A good career coach can guide the candidate on how to work within the terms of the non-compete while evaluating how skills and experiences can transfer to other roles. For some employees, the time might be right to change careers, start a business, transition to part-time work, or prepare for their next chapter of life.

       
    4. Communicate clearly. The importance of strong communications cannot be overstated, especially in a force-reduction scenario. Outgoing employees deserve information in a timely and accurate way, with a clear and honest explanation. Management should detail the business reasons for the change in a compassionate and respectful way, and remain available for discussion and questions. A two-way flow of communication is best, giving both exiting and remaining employees information early and often, and allowing them to provide feedback to management.
       
    5. Motivate the remaining team. Chances are good that the transition will have a profound effect on everyone in the organization, and it’s important to nurture the employees who stay and maximize their engagement. Here again, communication is key. Company leaders should acknowledge the impact of the changes and the emotions involved. Demonstrate the vision for the new organization, and how the losses or changes will be offset by a new culture and work environment. Use every opportunity to learn how the changes are impacting the remaining team, and adjust plans along the way to ensure they remain positive and engaged.
       
    6. Provide high-touch help for senior executives. Downsized senior executives need a high-touch approach in the form of an experienced transition coach to guide them in the discernment process for the next right career move. They will likely need sophisticated support in researching companies and opportunities, networking and securing strategic introductions, taking and evaluating skills and aptitudes assessments, developing a personal brand strategy, launching a new career strategy, vetting opportunities, and negotiating offers. Like other employees, this may be a time for senior executives to consider entrepreneurial or second-act possibilities such as corporate board work, volunteer activities, or not-for-profit leadership.

    Change is rarely easy. And we can continue to expect more as 2018 unfolds and healthcare continues to transform. When downsizing comes, a positive career transition experience can mean all the difference, not only for the affected employees, but for any company seeking to combat fierce competitive forces in the marketplace and evolve into a better organization.

    The right approach can facilitate a good parting feeling about the company among exiting employees, foster a more upbeat attitude among those who remain, and reinforce a positive brand reputation both inside and outside the company.

     

    Steve Spires is managing director, Career Services, and Senior Executive Coach at BPI group, overseeing the delivery of the firm’s career transition services in North America. Steve has extensive executive leadership experience in managing and growing businesses and coaching senior executives and their teams. He can be reached at [email protected].

     

     

    Kevin Pallardy is a managing partner with BPI group and is responsible for building and growing client relationships in outplacement, executive coaching, and leadership development. He also serves as an executive and career coach helping individuals grow as leaders. Kevin has an extensive career in human resources, business development and entrepreneurship. He can be reached at [email protected].

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