What is the most important thing for a leader to do to retain their staff. Today, I'm not going to talk about that, I'm going to talk about the 2nd most important item.
Today it is Friday, and I'm just gonna riff here and we're gonna talk about the second most important thing for retention of your employees, and I'll let you know what that is in a minute.
My name is Bill Russell. I'm a former CIO for our 16 hospital system and creator of this week Health. A set of channels dedicated to keeping health IT staff current and engaged. We want to thank our show sponsors who are investing in developing the next generation of health.
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have you been listening to this show? You know that Fridays are a day where I just riff on topics that have come up throughout the week in my conversations with CIOs and others.
And, you know, one of the things I wanna talk about this week, again, the second most important thing in terms of retention. Think about it for a minute. Just, you know, press pause, think about what you think is the first most important thing in terms of retaining your employees, and then think about what you think the second is in terms of retaining your employees.
Again, this is just my opinion, but, all right. Number one, I believe is your managers, your management. People's direct manager is the most important thing to retaining your employees. That's not what this is gonna be about, but it is really important when people have a bad manager, , it's the end.
, you just can't overcome it. They don't understand why you put that person in place. And why you don't get rid of that person if they are a bad manager. And I will say this, there are a lot of great individual contributors that are bad managers, and we're gonna talk about that in a minute. I think the second most important thing is vision.
It's the future and. getting really tactical here. I'm gonna say it's career pathing. It's letting people know what's next in their career. Either. If it's staying where they're at, that's fine. If it's, , a career path into something else, that's fine. They need to know what's next. . And when people don't know what's next, they tend to flounder and your good people will tend to leave.
And so when I took over at St. Joe's, we had just insourced after a 10 year outsource to Del Perot. And because of the way the contract was written, it got really squirrely towards the end, and that's what I inherited. And so I come in and we had just brought on, I don't know, like 400 new employees because again, from outsource to insource, and we're in this process of bringing these people on.
And we had a bajillion job, descriptions and those kinds of things. And so one of the first things we did is we stepped back and said, all right, we, we've got to understand the roles. We've gotta, we've gotta rationalize the roles and bring them down to something that's more manageable. And then the second thing we did is we created career paths.
So let me tell you a couple of the things that we did. One is, , , we created three career paths for people. There was a business career path, there was a management career path, and there was a technical career path. And one of the biggest glaring things that we had was we had technologists. We had great individual contributors.
That for, for one reason only, would get off that path. Even though they didn't want to get off that path, they got off that path so that they could make more money because our managers made the most money. . And so one of the glaring holes that we had was figuring out a way to make sure that great individual contributors who really understood the technology in a space that were so valuable to the organization could make as much money doing that, which again, was the greatest utility for us of those people.
They could make as much money in that as they could as a manager. And so we, we created some really interesting career path. . , again, there was only three. There was a sort of a business career path, business analyst and analyst career path. And then there was a, , management career path, which is pretty obvious.
And then the technology career path. And it didn't matter what the technology was, you know, you could be a system engineer, one, two, and three. You could be, , you know, a, an architect, one, two. So we had these career paths and we made it as clear as it possibly could be. That wasn't the end of it. . The next thing we did is we made every manager sit down with their employee and have, or their staff, and have a conversation about what their, what they wanted out of their career, what they wanted out of the organization, what we could do for them from a career standpoint, and those conversations were enlightening, right?
As you would imagine, a lot of those conversations hadn't happened. They're not natural. They're, they don't just happen. You have to be intentional as a leader of an organization. You have to be intentional and push that down into the organization and say, look, we expect these conversations to happen. And so we made, we systematized it and made it part of an ongoing conversation and dialogue that managers were to have with their.
And when they had that, those conversations, they found, oh my gosh, that person doesn't, what I thought is this person wanted to do X and they just told me, I only took this job cause it was the only one available. I really wanna do Y. And we actually had need in Y for them to do what they wanted to do.
And I'll tell you it, first of all, the conversation is so key and critical for them to have a great relationship with their manager. And then the second thing I would say, , the clarity, the clarity of what other career roles are available. And when somebody says, I, this is what I want to do next, the, the next thing the manager had to do was talk about and put together, talk with them and put together a plan for what they had to do to get to that role.
Right? So it's, you know, this training. , this certification, this, , you know, project. Let's say they wanted to be a manager and we'd say, well, you know, the first thing to manage is a project. The second thing to manage is people. The third thing to manage is, you know, we, we, we had a path for each one of those career tracks, and if they were a system engineer, one, we gave 'em clear, , , expectations of what it would take to be a system engineer two.
I think this is critical. I can't tell you how many people I talked to and I say, what's next in your career? And they just look at me like, I have no idea. That's the most common answer I get is I have no idea. And even in our model that we pushed out, there was a bunch of 'em that said, I have no idea.
And we're like, would you like to have that discussion? Yeah, I'd love to have that discussion. And so you can have that and you can, , I, I think there's so much. value in doing this process, in having clear career paths, in having the conversations between the managers about the career that, , that it, even if you manage a team of five people and your organization doesn't do it, you should do it with those five people.
You should talk to 'em about the careers that are available at your organization and, , just ask some questions. , what do you see? What's next for you in your career? How can I help you to get from here to there in your career? So anyway, one of the first things we did at St. Joe's, , you know, for me, I, I, I'll be honest with you, it was not intentional.
It's not like I came in and said, I have this great plan. , but in hindsight, it was a really smart thing to do and I appreciate, , some of the people who, , raised the issue of just the, the complexity of our environment and the number of roles and the lack of clarity in terms of career pathing. When people raise that, in our initial surveys that we did with the organization, we knew that something needed to be done.
And, , my boss back then, bill Muren said, I know exactly what to do, and he is a, , wise man and helped me to put together this program to, , to create clarity for, , career paths. So there you have it. I think number one is management. , who you, who you tolerate as managers and who you hire as managers will tell the organization who you are as a leader.
And, , I think, I think clarity, I, I say the word vision. , which is too cloudy. There's too many definitions for the word vision. , the, the word vision is real clear. I mean, it's two C, right? So it could be two C directionally like the strategy to see a strategy where we're going forward, but vision around career could be two C, what's next in my career?
So that's why I use the word vision and I think that clarity for your staff to understand, , what they can do, what is possible. And what, , how they can, you know, be their, the best self that they can be by utilizing their gifts and skills and abilities for the organization is something I think fires people up.
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