Consumers are wondering how health care reform will affect their insurance coverage, costs, access to care and what they can expect from their doctors, but what is the potential impact on the health care industry itself?

The effectiveness with which health care organizations manage human capital will largely determine their success in meeting the challenges of health care reform — from increasing demand for services to higher tax obligations and lower (or different) fee-for-service reimbursements. They also will be attempting to attract and retain scarce clinical, professional and technical talent amid cost pressures, and to reengage an exhausted health care workforce.

In the transformation to come, organizations will need to focus on their dual roles: as employers and as providers of care, and the former has a clear impact on the latter. Our research shows that an effective work environment correlates closely with clinical quality and patient satisfaction. For example, a study of 21 U.S. acute care facilities found that the likelihood of a patient recommending a particular facility was up to 11 percentage points higher when employees:

  • Perceived their leaders as strongly committed to quality
  • Were provided good career advancement opportunities
  • Had access to the right equipment and supplies
  • Perceived that they had good opportunities to enhance their skills
  • Received effective internal communication from their facility

Towers Watson Media

To drive employee engagement successfully, it's necessary to create the kind of work environment and support system that gives people what they need to perform consistently at their peak. There's no single recipe for creating a culture that sustains high engagement, but our research and client experience show that the way to begin is to focus on three key ingredients:

  1. Leader-led change. Great leaders paint a clear picture of the future, instill confidence and demonstrate high decisiveness
  2. The role of managers. Frontline supervisors and managers can translate strategy into day-to-day actions, enable individuals and teams to work productively, and coach people on job performance and development
  3. Employee development opportunities. The ability to expand one's portfolio of skills and diversity of experience is a potent engagement factor.

Want to know more? Read this Perspectives, drawn from a chapter to be published in Forces of Change: New Strategies for the Evolving Healthcare Marketplace, Jossey-Bass, 2012, edited by David A. Shore, Director of the Forces of Change Program at Harvard University School of Public Health.