Strengthening the
Health Care Workforce


Strategies for Now, Near and Far

Section 3  |  Building the Team

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

There are many ways a robust diversity and inclusion strategy can help support your workforce and the communities your hospital or health system serve.

A diverse workforce understands that the cultures, issues and needs of local patient populations can provide deeper insight that results in better decision-making about how to serve those communities. Those decisions then have the potential to postively impact patient experience, safety and quality, and your communities’ overall health. Advancing equity also can have operational benefits, such as a reduction in insurance claims and reduced costs.

Creating inclusive environments where your workforce feel a sense of belonging also can have significant benefits. Retention is likely when your team members feel heard, seen and recognized for their contributions. They are more effective and work becomes more enjoyable.

At the same time, addressing the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the current workforce also is a key priority. As mentioned in Section 1 of this guide, we must continue supporting the well-being, safety and mental health of a workforce that has experienced a seemingly unending trauma over the past two and a half years so they can continue to care for our communities. Moreover, the impact of hybrid and remote work, the expectations for flexibility and desire for more tailored benefit design to support family life integration, have vastly shifted in a short time.

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Top Takeaways for CEOs

1 To build a diverse and inclusive environment, leaders must work to ensure their leadership is representative of the patients and communities they serve.

2 Increasing diversity and inclusion can support your workforce and the patients and communities you serve

3 Hospital leaders effective at advancing equity are accountable for implementing goals and ensuring others in the organization are also accountable for building and supporting an inclusive culture.

  • Implementing a strategy that supports diversity and inclusion will require a culture shift and it will be important to have a change-management strategy that engages employees in the discussion to understand their wants and needs. It may be helpful to utilize interdisciplinary teams that can coordinate efforts across departments and your organization.

    In addition, as discussed in previous chapters, there will be no one-size-fits-all solution for hospitals and health systems across the country. Solutions will be local and must take into consideration the needs and resources available at your hospital or health system.

    • Consider opportunities to adjust recruitment and retention efforts while balancing current practices with workforce needs and desires to help guide the most valued changes. Understanding the composition and demographics of your workforce, as well as trends nationally, as further outlined in Section 2 of this guide, Data and Technology to Support the Workforce, will refine your approach.
    • When assessing how a diversity and inclusion strategy can support your workforce, it is important to begin by evaluating the current efforts at your organization, including those activities and practices in place and those that may need to be implemented.
    • In addition, leaders should begin to explore and set a common vision for what diversity and inclusion means for the organization. Leaders effective at advancing equity are required to assess their own positions, biases and growth on diversity and inclusion topics critical to leading an equitable organization.
    • As you delve into understanding your organization’s approach to diversity and inclusion, determine what data you have access to and what data you will need to be effective. Think broadly and multi-dimensionally about the layers of diversity in your organization and your community, from race, ethnicity and gender, to age, socioeconomic status, education level, and many other factors that can impact care needs.
    • Once those activities are completed, you can begin to define goals and identify the changes that must be made. It is important to remember while setting these goals that the focus is not only to recruit a diverse workforce, but to create the culture of belonging necessary to retain that workforce.
    • Strong support from senior leadership, across the C-suite and leaders of divisions, will be essential to encourage and reinforce actions by teams involved in improving diversity and inclusion. And, as mentioned in previous chapters, it may be helpful to identify those leaders that are ready to take on this work and leverage those innovative leaders as champions within your organization to guide this work.
    • Team members, from hiring managers to the C-suite, also will need support from the board of trustees and a clear understanding of their role in sponsoring diversity, equity and inclusion.
    • Where leadership talent representing the diversity of patients and the workforce is not readily available, effective leaders will look to build internal and external talent pipeline.
    • Hospital leaders must also be accountable for implementing the goals and actions they develop. This includes ensuring everyone in the organization is accountable for building and supporting an inclusive culture. For example, governing boards can provide compensation incentives for hospital leaders who demonstrate the policy and practices changes needed to support diversity and inclusion.
    • It will be important to track the progress of your efforts over time. Metrics and assessment tools should be deployed to ensure strategic plans are implemented and followed. For example, if diversity of your leadership team is a strategic priority, it will be important to define the type of diversity you are trying to achieve, set reasonable target metrics and create pathways to assess and track progress against those target metrics.
    • Sustainability will depend on addressing structural barriers that include policies and practices that impede this work. This includes cultural barriers that may slow down adoption of these efforts. It will be important to identify these barriers and create the pathways necessary to address them as diversity and inclusion efforts are implemented. For example, policies and practices related to hiring, on-boarding and promotion, may not reflect the diversity and inclusion intent of the organization. Review your usual practices related to how and when communications or events are scheduled; they may not take into account different family situations that may make it more challenging for team members to participate.
    • As hospitals and health systems improve diversity and inclusion, leaders must understand the communities they serve in order to develop a workforce that matches those communities. To do this, they can engage with community-based organizations that work with individuals in the community on a day-to-day basis to understand their needs. This may include educational institutions and organizations, transportation agencies, housing organizations, planning councils, public health departments, faith-based organizations, community organizations and other organizations and businesses.
    • It is also important that your organization increase diversity and inclusion in its board room. The trustees of your organization represent the community you serve. Increasing their diversity will enable better decision making that will allow you to support the workforce while also delivering better health outcomes to the patients and communities you serve.