Improving Diversity in Healthcare: The #1 Best Practice

Guest post by Jim Gauss and Howard Jessamy

Improving Diversity in Healthcare: The #1 Best Practice

The third in a series of findings from Witt/Kieffer’s 2011 national survey report Building the Business case. Healthcare Diversity Leadership.

Last month, I shared some of the key findings from the 2011 Witt/Kieffer survey report on perceived barriers to improving leadership diversity in healthcare . Respondents expressed concerns about lack of diversity talent, equal consideration for leadership positions, challenges with effective diversity recruiting, and commitment in the C-Suite.

However, survey respondents all agree about the best solutions for closing the gap. They recommended:

  • increasing sensitivity to cultural differences in the workplace,
  • establishing strategic goals and standards that emphasize cultural diversity,
  • seeking regular employee input about the organization’s diversity initiatives, and
  • promoting minorities from within.

What is the #1 best practice?

Respondents all agree that to improve diversity in healthcare, it’s critical to mentor people of color. This includes offering leadership development programs to ensure a strong internal pool of diverse candidates, using onboarding practices to prepare candidates well, and networking with professional organizations that provide mentoring services.

“I have had great mentors who have not been afraid to let me grow and learn from my mistakes,” says an African American female physician and CEO. “The National Association of Health Services Executives (NHASE) chapter has a great diversity mentoring program.”

A Hispanic CEO from the West Coast adopts a hands-on approach by mentoring students, preparing them for the interview process, and giving them a checklist to understand organizational expectations.

A female executive from the East Coast says this about the value of an internship program: “Every year my organization hosts one. It’s a good way to reach out to students and have a prolonged interview process for lower management positions.”

A final thought from Frederick D. Hobby, MA, President & CEO of the Institute for Diversity in Health Management: “Very often, some hospitals before considering a diversity initiative want to know ‘what is the return on investment?” The appropriate question should be ‘what is the potential cost if we don’t have a diversity initiative?”

Hobby cites the cost avoidance associated with low employee morale and productivity, EEOC complaints, high turnover due to a lack of inclusive practices, errors in communication with LEP patients, re-admissions due to disparities in care, lawsuits due to variances in hiring and promotion practices, and diminished public trust due to cultural insensitivity.

Ready to advance leadership diversity in your organization?  Recently Witt/Kieffer’s Howard Jessamy noted that the first step is advancing diversity in healthcare organizations is Board member buy-in. Watch next month for the final blog in this series, “Advancing Leadership Diversity: 5 Ways Your Board Can Get Results,” where I’ll drill down on specific tips, tools and techniques you can use to move your organization further faster.


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