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Shifting Through Shifting Sands

At the end of the last “The Human System” I made a challenge to each that were going to Chicago to “filter” the information that was going to be experienced at the conference. Specifically, I challenged you to use the “People Flow Continuum” and the things we have already discussed as a way to sift and sort information. I also wanted you to be attuned to all of the “solution” providers. Did you see them?  I sure did. Call this a de-brief if you may, but I believe there is value to stopping and dissecting and giving some clarity to some of the information you as HR leaders are bombarded with.


Before you think me hypercritical, (gee what kind of stage is he setting?), let me first say that I was very pleased with the conference. It was well organized and I was able to meet some great people and have some great conversations. I’m still a bit hoarse from trying to talk to people over the bands, but they gave us some good tunes. There were some good thoughts and presentations. (Is that enough positive and fluff stuff?). If you have been with “The Human System,” and me, I think you will see that the following is meant to be constructive, to help you. It isn’t for the sake of being cynical or negative. (You always have the “feedback” button to let me know your thoughts, good or bad).

In some settings, I learned more from what wasn’t said, that what actually was said. There was actually one presentation I felt was guilty of fraud. (That’s right, you read it right; I used the “f” word.) Bold, I know, and I hesitated, but let me share the rationale:

Be careful about bringing back the “fad du jour” program and applying it to your own environment and facility. This principle caused the rise and fall of buying/managing physician practices, the MSO and the IPA. What works in one market, with one organization may or may not have applicability to yours. You have specific dynamics surrounding your culture, personalities, political camps, economics etc. that make you very unique. However, the consulting firm that did it in XYZ market will tell you the success it was in the XYZ and can confidently reproduce it for you in market ABC. Be careful. Use the thoughts, concepts, and Ideas, but be thorough in your evaluation of its application relative to your organization.

Aside: Though they may call you the “devil’s” advocate, you are really the organization’s advocate. Too many people jump on the bandwagon and go down with the ship. How many people sense danger, but don’t feel personally secure enough to raise their hand? Foster an environment that is allowing of “dissenters with good hearts.”

Observation #1

In one specific presentation, there were extreme before and after pictures based on this particular HR driven program at a hospital; extreme enough to take the hospital from losing a significant amount of money to a profitable status in one year. There was an employee relations/motivational initiative that was well planned, implemented, and “successful.” What the speaker failed to mention was that there were multiple changes on the senior executive team and other departments that were mostly closely linked to the financial distress of the facility in the first place. It may be that the HR program was actually successful, but we will never really know. The speaker failed to disclose key variables that had to have an extreme impact on the financial performance of this facility. There was no mention of isolation or measurement of these variables.

Maybe I had to many college classes in psychological testing and research, but those variables were real. The integrity of this presentation was tanked in my opinion. For the sake of being responsible; these factors should have been pointed out. I want to be careful; I’m not accusing this person of being intentionally misleading. However, I do feel there is a heightened responsibility when presenting a case study to assure that the proper disclaimers are present. Maybe what bothered me most was that a consulting firm was involved and also failed to pint this out. I would hate to think that this organization had an increase in business and benefit by not fully disclosing this.

Observation #2

Remember the “People Flow Continuum”?

There were many programs that looked at training & development, motivation, and retention as keys all of your human capital problems. Specifically, I think retention today is of greatest interest to people with the shortage of so many healthcare workers of all shapes and sizes. With “The Human System” we will get to retention in some detail, but I would contend that I have already given you the absolute key o retention: strategic recruitment and selection. (Remember the wise man? If the wise man built his house upon the rock, how’s the foundation of your human system?) Let me boil it down to just one least common denominator:


Strategic assessment, recruitment, and selection of your management team(s)

That’s it. One thing. Not dozens of morale building rah-rah ice-cream socials, not retention bonuses, not new training programs. Build the foundation first! The rest more naturally falls into place. Then motivation is there to motivate, not retain. Training is there to train, not to retain. You could have the world’s best chili cook off on a Saturday, but when Sally shows up on Monday and works for a sub-par boss, she quickly forgets about Saturday. We are going to explore this in much more depth in the future, but I couldn’t help bringing this up now. Everyone agrees that the #1 correlation to turnover is the relationship each person has with his or her boss, period. Sure, there are other factors, but remember “least common denominator.” You HR leaders have too many initiatives on your plate and are stretched too thin; you need to get to least common denominators. Strategic assessment, recruitment, and selection of your management team is that singular thing.

After a discussion like this, a colleague of mine recommended a book to me, “Topgrading” by Bradford Smart, Ph.D. GET IT. If adopted, it would absolutely revolutionize the healthcare industry. This is your opportunity to be a catalyst. It is strong stuff and would take a great deal of courage to implement, but would be worth it. has condensed version by the Business Book Review that’s only 7 pages that you can download for $8.00. (No, I don’t get a commission nor do I won the stock) If you get the summary you will do one of two things: you will et he full 380+ page book and be on an incredible mission, or you will know the value and be disheartened because you don’t think your organization can handle it. Do I really need to challenge you? Because if you do…I will… so consider it done.

Observation #3

Ok, did you think you would get out of here without the metaphor du jour? No way, couldn’t do it. So here it goes:

Bob down the street builds a 10,000 square-foot mansion. M&M Heating and Air put a $50,000 HVAC system in his house, the SuperX. You too are building a house, a modest 4,000 square foot. M&M comes to sell you a heating/cooling system for your new home. The conversation goes like this:

                “Well, we sold Bob the SuperX. You know there isn’t a product on the market that can touch the efficiency and quality of the SuperX. You can buy the SuperX and because everyone knows it is the best, no one would ever question your decision. SuperX also comes with a lifetime warrantee. When can I deliver it?”

Solutions. Everyone has THE solution. Even without a needs analysis, they have your solution. Did you see solution vendors? I told you they would be there? “We are your one stop shop.” Did you hear that? Oh, that many times? I saw them. But you know what? People want solutions; they buy solutions. Guess what, when it comes to your human system, no one has the whole solution. So, what happens? They buy the SuperX, but forget to put windows in the house; they build a roof before the walls are up; they have a great sheetrock job, but then the electrician comes to put the wiring in. This doesn’t happen in human resources, right? Wrong. My message is not here to condemn, it is here to challenge and improve.

Is there a department or function more multi-facetted than human resources? Compensation & Benefits; Legal/Compliance issues, your Human System, etc. I’m not talking about 6 facets like a cube, I’m talking about hundreds of facets like a diamond. Obviously, this venue is focused on your human system. It is preposterous to think of any one resource being your total solution. So, what do you do? You are the Architect/General Contractor. You must assure that the subs show up at the right time, in the right order. You should decide what things you do yourself, what your internal resources and competencies are capable of vs. what expertise and services you outsource/import. Just be the one in control and be very wary of the solution providers.

So, just as most sermons have three points, here was this HR Evangelist’s three points/observations. I hope this has given some insights or perspective in each area that will be of value as you trek through your career.

Choose to make it a great day!

Don Rottman

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