Strategically Listening through Human-Centered Metrics and Insights

Health systems and organizations face numerous evolving challenges when it comes to achieving strategic growth — be it due to changing competitive landscapes, workforce constraints, or access and capacity challenges, among many others. And while the terrain has become tumultuous, there is an essential constant that exists with great potential for differentiation and growth for any healthcare organization — humans. More specifically, the people that health providers and systems aim to serve, as well as the people integrated into every facet of their organization who contribute to and deliver services.

Customers and employees are two of the greatest assets for any business and yet, we quite often fail to effectively listen to and fully understand either group well enough to deliver value propositions or consistently achieve desirable outcomes. This isn’t due to a shortage of measures or priorities that currently exist within healthcare, the domains of clinical outcomes, quality and safety improvement, market share, patient volumes, case mix, turnover, etc. In fact, while these priorities are extremely relevant and critical to business success, they also are incomplete. These highly prioritized and often “dashboard-ed” traditional measures fail to provide a clear and comprehensive human-centric understanding of customers or employees.

The traditional healthcare metrics approach isn’t enough. Traditional metrics often fall short in capturing the complexities of the healthcare ecosystem. To drive strategic growth, organizations must go beyond traditional measures and embrace innovative approaches to listening through customer-and employee-centric metrics.

What gets measured gets done
  • What really matters and to whom? Identifying the right metrics requires a deep understanding of the stakeholders involved. Executives need to consider the perspectives of customers, employees and the organization. By prioritizing what matters most to these stakeholders, health systems can focus their efforts on achieving meaningful outcomes. Perform a deep dive and/or baseline audit of your customers and employees to tease out priority segments, especially low-hanging opportunities and quick wins. For example, a key opportunity discovered in your data with high turnover of first-year nurses on med-tele units might also correlate with down-trending patient satisfaction measures. Prioritizing these employees might result in the quick-win needed to kickstart your human-centric approach, with ripple effects for employee and customer engagement. Most importantly, involve key stakeholders in the selection and decision-making processes around these metrics.
  • Traditional + human-centered metrics: By combining traditional metrics with customer-centric and employee-centered metrics, healthcare organizations gain a holistic view of their performance. Think about your most viewed or most communicated metrics — are these displayed on a dashboard, Gemba board or intranet site? What you promote front and center matters, and research shows that by capturing and connecting the right data, executives will begin to see the link between employees, customers and revenue. This comprehensive approach enables executives to make better informed decisions that enhance both consumer-driven business outcomes and the overall performance of their workforce.
  • Human-centered metrics domains: Health system leaders should consider a variety of human-centered metric domains to best assess external and internal health of the organization from customer experience and customer loyalty to employee experience, talent management and workforce planning and staffing.
How to get started
  • Chicken or the egg: It’s often debated whether metrics should drive strategy or vice versa. The truth lies in their symbiotic relationship. While strategy provides the overall direction, path and framework, the right metrics also can aid in determining the goal and destination, along with helping monitor progress and providing insights for course correction. By understanding this dynamic, healthcare executives can strike a balance between strategy and metrics, ensuring that they work in harmony to drive growth. For this particular use case, enable human-centered metrics to inform, power and drive your strategies to center around your people.
  • Loyalty as the north star: Loyalty serves as a powerful human-centered metric that aligns the interests of customers and employees, after all, most of us enter a relationship with hopes it’s a positive and lasting one. By focusing on building loyalty, health systems can cultivate enduring relationships with customers and foster a culture of engagement and commitment among their employees. Loyalty becomes the guiding star that drives sustainable growth and relationships across key business functions of acquisitions, retention and development for customers and employees alike.
  • “Yes, and…” approach: Embarking on a human-centered metrics and analytics journey requires a mindset of continuous improvement. Your leadership team should adopt a “Yes, and…” approach, encouraging experimentation and creativity. Avoid dismissing any proposed metrics, but instead foster a culture of innovation to open doors to new possibilities. There are no wrong answers, but instead focus on collectively taking vital steps closer toward refining the final set of human-centered metrics.
Stay on target
  • Iterate and refine: Measuring strategic growth is an iterative process. Once leadership teams identify an initial set of metrics, these new performance indicators should be tested and regularly reviewed for desired results. Then, by soliciting input from all levels of stakeholders, especially mid-level managers, health systems can refine human-centered measurement strategies and ensure that they are on the right path to achieving their growth objectives.
  • Align and communicate: Cross functional leaders must collaborate at inception to ensure alignment and progress toward defining human-centered measures and strategies. And while customer experience and human resources teams might still own the acquisition and generation of these human-centered metrics, the insights must be presented and broadly shared across all disciplines in an easy-to-understand manner. The “how” of the messaging takes a front seat here to demonstrate the importance of people and the associated measures to the organization.
  • Report and recognize: Transparent reporting and recognition play a vital role in driving strategic growth through human-centered metrics. Executives should share metric-driven insights with stakeholders, ensuring that the entire organization understands its progress and areas for improvement, but most importantly, genuine and personalized recognition and/or rewards for individuals and teams who contribute to positive outcomes. This authentically reinforces a culture of continuous improvement and motivates employees to strive for excellence.

Healthcare leaders must aim to find intersections of human experiences and desired business outcomes to reduce costs, improve care quality and maximize growth most effectively. While these tips aren’t a prescriptive recipe for success, they should serve as a constellatory guide to begin finding a human-centered analytics framework that works for each system and their success goals. Done well, health systems can inform and align targets that drive transformative growth, deliver exceptional care and experiences, and generate loyalty both internally and externally. By prioritizing human-centered metrics and what matters most to customers and employees, healthcare organizations can drive sustainable success through innovation in the ever-changing healthcare landscape. Afterall, it’s the people we serve and who serve our communities who are key to the survival of our business and define our purpose.

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