The Health Care Sector and New Work

Skilled labor shortages are a growing problem in health care, one that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. How can these jobs be made more attractive for skilled workers, and what does New Work have to do with it? Our expert Dharshana Sellappah, Senior Consultant at Detecon, answers these questions in an interview.

Like many other industries, the health care sector is currently suffering from a shortage of skilled workers. What can companies do to meet this challenge?

First of all, we must remember that there are external factors such as the training system or legal requirements that vary from one industry to the next. These circumstances are a given and there is nothing we can do to change them, so it is important to recognize what levers companies themselves can control and use. Proactive companies invest in enhancing employer attractiveness, for example.

What specific steps might a company take if it wants to make itself more appealing to employees?

The obvious move is to improve working conditions — I’m thinking here of the salary scale, flexible working models, and opportunities for development. Investment in digitalization and the use of new technologies offer opportunities that must be seized. For instance, automating routine tasks can create space for more exciting tasks and heighten the efficiency of workflows. The effects of an attractive working atmosphere — for example, in the form of appealing spaces for employees where they can relax and eat — should also not be underestimated. I recommend a holistic New Work approach as a means of leveraging synergies and realizing a sustainable solution at optimal cost.

What do you mean when you speak of a holistic New Work approach?

I am referring to a concept that establishes new working worlds and working methods based on the four dimensions of People, Places, Principles and Regulations, and Tools and that views all of these dimensions as being of equal importance. Their realization, however, must always be planned in relation to the circumstances of the specific situation. For example, physical conditions may limit design options for the dimension of Places, but this may be compensated by the chance for greater optimization in the Tools dimension. In this sense, it is always important to consider the specific situation on the specific site and always maintain focus on the human factor.

And what does that mean specifically for hospitals?

Security or data protection aspects naturally set certain limits to creativity and flexibility in the hospital situation. Hygiene regulations, for example, can restrict room designs. Nevertheless, methods that have been successfully tried and tested in other industries can be adapted as valuable additions to the health care sector.

Health care is a very important industry with great benefits to society. But if we look at the working conditions and the external impact, we quickly see potential for optimization. Resolving the major issue in the health care sector — the shortage of skilled workers — must start with the topics of employer branding and recruiting and make the New Work activities visible to the rare skilled workers.

What form might a New Work working environment in clinics take?

Implementing New Work methods for medical professionals and nurses — as indicated in the previous question — is more difficult. Their special circumstances demand above all innovative concepts. A fascinating task in this sense is the illumination of the daily routine of various professional groups — analogously to an employee journey — with the aim of determining specific pain points and optimization potential. Even small measures can have a major impact. One example can be found in the digitalization of processes such as shift scheduling. Moreover, such an analysis is a solid basis for a holistic New Work concept.

New Work principles, adapted to the specific needs of the various stations, could be implemented throughout the hospital and promote Activity-Based Working (WHAT is being done (activity) determines WHERE (ideal work location) and HOW (optimal format) it is performed). So far, we have talked primarily about the medical staff. But of course, administration is also a substantial and important part of a hospital’s operations. The design of an optimal working environment and working method for each activity in their daily work routine creates a workplace for employees that fosters their own health and motivates them, a place where they enjoy spending time and achieve good results for the company.

Thank you for the interview!