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Creating a Learning Culture in Healthcare

A Guest Blog By HealthStream Partner Michael Cohen, Healthcare Management and Employee Development Consultant

One of the responsibilities of a leader, especially in healthcare, is to create a learning culture where employees are at the very least technically competent and ideally at the cutting edge of their respective disciplines.  With strong leadership, employees are never permitted to rest on their laurels regardless of age or length of employment. Nobody is permitted to practice OJR (on-the-job-retirement).

Because the technology is constantly advancing, employees’ skills must also continuously improve or they will soon lag behind.  And leaders provide employees a great service when they insist on state-of-the-art skill sets. Once acquired, skills can never be taken away from someone. Skills are also portable. They can be taken from one job to another. A person becomes more employable with up to date knowledge and skills.

At the end of every annual performance appraisal, leaders should informally negotiate with employees a stretch learning objective that gets them out of their comfort zone:

“This time next year, what skill or knowledge will you acquire and how will you apply it to the benefit of the customers we serve? How will I know you have achieved this goal? What resources do you need from me to facilitate your success?”

Also, many continuing education programs are evaluated in the most superficial way by simply asking employees whether they liked the speaker and program content. The Buddha said, “To know and not to do is not to know.” Once you place a resource in employees’ hands, you should ask:

“What did you learn and how/when will you demonstrate this newly acquired knowledge or skill?

And if the program is mandatory, there should be serious consequences for failure to attend or learn the lesson by other means.

In a learning culture, leaders play the role of teacher, coach and mentor. They set up new employees for success by creating a comprehensive departmental new employee orientation process. Nobody is allowed to eat their young. Finally, leaders hold themselves accountable for their own professional development. They serve as role models for continuous quality improvement.


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