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Leading a Diverse Workforce in the Healthcare Industry

October 6, 2023
October 6, 2023

This blog is taken from a recent HealthStream workshop entitled “Leading a Diverse Workforce.” The workshop was moderated by Caroline Acree, HealthStream’s Senior Marketing Manager and featured:

  • Luciana Tiberio, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consultant, Strategy and Learning Designer, Cedar Interactive
  • Susan Gurzynski-Wells, MS, RHIA, Director, Product Management, HealthStream

Presenters focused on what it really means to be a diversity and inclusion champion, how to identify inclusive and exclusive mindsets, and how to address those mindsets with the goal of developing strategies to change behavior.


Cedar Interactive

Acree began by introducing HealthStream Partner, Cedar Interactive. Cedar Interactive develops custom, interactive education for hospitals and healthcare systems. The training includes eLearning, video, print and live workshops and presentations. They focus on creating content that is engaging and effective in order to maximize its’ value to the learner. This content can support healthcare leaders in building a supportive and welcoming environment for all.


Diversity and Inclusion – Foundational Definitions

Diversity and inclusion have been areas of intense leadership focus recently, but what do they really mean? Tiberio began with some definitions.

  • Diversity – the collective mixture of differences and similarities considering the whole person
  • Inclusion – the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to resources and opportunities, and are fully enabled to contribute to the organization’s success

Tiberio then asked participants to think about what makes an inclusive leader. “An inclusive leader is someone who is a self-aware person who proactively, seeks out and considers diverse perspectives, strengths and ways of accomplishing work to inform decision-making and collaborate more effectively with others,” said Tiberio.

The Power of Inclusive Leadership

The business case for diversity and inclusion may be stronger than you think. Citing a McKinsey study, Tiberio described the differences between the performance of homogeneous and diverse teams. The homogeneous teams can typically get started relatively quickly and easily; however, they tend to then level out in terms of their innovation and creativity, perhaps because there are not strong enough differences amongst the team that would lead to a challenge to the status quo.

Conversely, diverse teams may take a bit more time to get started and require a more intentional leadership approach before they reach peak performance. However, unless leaders are inclusive, they run the risk of people becoming disengaged and perhaps not offering ideas that challenge the status quo. When a diverse team is managed inclusively, this research suggests that the team will out-perform and out-innovate a less diverse team by as much as 35%.

“This in turn can impact patients because now we are thinking about and interacting with them in ways that make sense to them which can then result in improved outcomes,” said Tiberio.


Creating an Inclusive Leader

Tiberio asked participants to think about what makes an inclusive leader and suggested that it takes three key components:

  • Head – encompasses inclusive awareness, addresses limited mindsets, and recognizes personal and systemic power, privilege, and bias
  • Heart – embraces inclusive principles and cultivates courage, empathy, vulnerability, and psychological safety
  • Hands – develops a skill set that demonstrates inclusive practices, processes, policies, and progress

Tiberio focused mainly on the head – developing the kind of awareness that results in leaders being in tune with what is happening on their teams and proactively planning for inclusivity.


What is Your Mindset?

Tiberio shared the two categories of mindsets: limited and inclusive. She defined a mindset as a set of thoughts and beliefs that shape how you make sense of the world and yourself.

Limited mindsets include those who deny that differences and the challenges that they present even exist. Another limited mindset is those who may tolerate differences, but still judge them as bad and expect others to be more like them. This mindset reinforces existing biases and stereotypes.

The transition mindset is labeled as “to accept.” It is characterized by acceptance accompanied with a lack of knowledge about what to do with those differences. In this mindset, people are able to understand and honor the differences and the benefits that those differences bring to the team.

Finally, the inclusive mindsets are “to value and leverage.” The value mindset is demonstrated when leaders proactively include differences on their teams. Another inclusive mindset is to leverage where leaders truly understand the best ways to engage and manage differences to create the ultimate high-performing team.

Tiberio shared that it is important to identify mindsets, as mindsets ultimately lead to behaviors.


Tools for Leaders

Tiberio encouraged leaders to ask transformational questions – what is holding me back from being more inclusive, what are my fears, etc.? The Train the Trainer workshop can help leaders become more aware of their mindsets and cultivate a more inclusive mindset. Leaders may also leverage HealthStream’s diversity, equity and inclusion courseware and community. The courses provide practical suggestions on a wide range of topics including working across many types of differences.