Follow These Tips to Build a More Diverse Leadership Team

When a hospital’s leadership team is diverse, good things happen. A frequently cited McKinsey study focuses on the financial returns of a successful diversity strategy. But in healthcare, it’s about so much more than financial returns. When a hospital’s leadership team reflects the diversity of the community it serves and the employees it leads, organizations can expect to see improvements in the quality and efficiency of care, patient satisfaction, the quality of job candidates and staff morale.

“The make-up of your leadership team tells an important story about your organization and helps attract diverse candidates,” says Peter Goodspeed, MBA, vice president of executive search for HealthTechS3, who will be presenting a webinar on diversity and inclusion at the hospital senior leadership team level on Nov. 15. “It also helps build patient trust and confidence in the system. When they see people who look like them, and not just in caregiver roles, it helps them feel like part of the community and not just users of a hospital’s services.”

But despite the research showing the benefits of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace, hospitals and healthcare systems are still struggling to build diverse teams.

At lower levels of management, some progress is being made. The latest research from the American Hospital Association’s Institute for Diversity found that the percentage of minorities in first-and mid-level management positions stood at 19% in 2015, a gain of 2 percentage points since 2013.

But that’s about where the progress ends. The percentage of minorities in executive leadership positions went down (to 11%) and minority representation on governing boards held steady (at 14%). These numbers are in stark contrast to the fact that minorities make up 37% of the U.S. population.

So, what can hospitals and health systems do to increase the diversity of their workforce, particularly at the senior leadership team level? Start by following these tips.

Be deliberate: “Diversity of a leadership team does not happen by accident,” he says. “It has to be deliberate. It’s the only way you’ll be successful.” That means setting goals, including defining what diversity looks like for your organization. For some, this might be as straightforward as a direct reflection of the demographics of the community served. For most, though, the definition will be more nuanced.

Change your recruiting habits: Looking in all the same places, hoping you’ll find a diverse candidate there? It’s unlikely, Goodspeed says. Start by assembling a diverse evaluation team. Not only will this help reveal new sources of qualified candidates, it will also help those diverse candidates feel welcome once they’ve entered into the recruiting process. “Just like patients, job candidates want to see people in leadership roles who look like them.”

Beat back biases: Named for Dan Rooney, former owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and past chair of the National Football League’s diversity chair, the Rooney Rule requires organizations to interview minority candidates for leadership positions. This is to counteract the power of personal bias in hiring. And there are many more biases where that came from. In fact, there may be as many as 13 common hiring biases recruiters should be aware of.

Luckily, there a couple of ways hospitals can beat back these biases. Being aware of them is the first step. Then, invest in unconscious bias training, and not just for those in recruiting roles. Your organization can also cut down on the power of bias by ensuring all candidates go through a standardized recruiting process, right down to the questions asked in the interview. It might make for a less interesting recruiting experience for those doing the hiring, but keeping the materials standard will help ensure an objective hiring decision.

Getting diverse leaders in the door is a good first step to workplace diversity but it’s certainly not the last, says Goodspeed. For more tips on building diverse teams and creating a culture of inclusion, sign up for his Nov. 15 webinar, Diversity & Inclusion at the Hospital Senior Leadership Team Level, View Webinar.