Employer Brand: Corporate branding is commonplace, the trend to watch is employer branding. Starting with Gen X, today’s workforce is quick to move on if their employer fails to meet their needs. Today’s job seeker wants to work for an “Employer of choice” and a well baked brand, showcased over social media is how organizations will get there.
When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.
As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Dr. Mark Prather, CEO and Co-Founder of DispatchHealth, the nation’s first comprehensive in-home medical care provider with services ranging from same-day, high-acuity care to a 30-day alternative to a hospital stay, all delivered straight to the patient’s door.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?
My crossroads story was choosing between a career in music or one in medicine. Before medical school, I played drums in a popular band in the Bay Area. My band was about to go out on tour when UCLA called with the opportunity to attend medical school. I had to choose my path at that moment and, with a little guidance from my father, I chose medical school.
Pivotal to the creation of the organization I co-founded, DispatchHealth, were medical challenges I experienced with members of my own family in the traditional hospital and post-acute settings. I became interested in the idea of delivering equivalent hospital level care in alternative settings. So, I poured through the medical literature of geriatric acute care, and I stumbled upon the work of Dr. Bruce Leff, who described a home hospitalization model. His work demonstrated that home hospitalization offered superior clinical efficacy to a similar care model delivered in the hospital. His work, combined with my own experience, led me to believe that we could safely recreate a substantial portion of care that we traditionally delivered at the hospital in the home. In doing so, we could substantially reduce costs, improve patient and provider satisfaction, and produce superior outcomes. So, in 2013, we put our first ‘mobile ER’ on the road, and the rest is history.
Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?
Asynchronous work — both in person and remote — will prevail in industries and roles where it is possible. Enterprises, where this has not seemed possible yet, will innovate to find ways to make work conditions more flexible for employees. Over the next 10–15 years, the gig economy will continue to grow so that people can work to live the lifestyle they strive to live. Being in medicine, the difference I am hoping for is a more robust clinical workforce. The Association of American Medical Colleges is projecting a physician shortage of up to 122,000 by 2032 — that is a real problem! We need to train more clinicians like physician associates (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs), who can practice at the top of their license to treat various illnesses and prescribe medication. These providers can handle the front lines very effectively, and getting the required education and certification is less time-consuming and significantly more cost-effective. And in the process, we reduce stress on the healthcare ecosystem, which creates a happier workforce. At DispatchHealth, we’ve created opportunities for NPs and PAs to practice at the top of their license, and our provider satisfaction scores have reached unprecedented levels. Other industries could produce similarly high satisfaction and engagement levels by looking inward to create strategies that charge their teams to work at the top of their ability.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
I would say, “How you measure your company’s value should include the value of your people — think institutional knowledge and mission loyalty.” I have found that future-proof organizations are purpose-driven with a tangible value that translates to both consumers as well as employees. To be successful, building a bridge from what consumers need to how employees deliver that needed service creates value for all. To enable this full spectrum value, I recommend an employee-focused, flexible mindset that looks at individuals’ needs and connects to the “why” of the organization. And at DispatchHealth we’re getting far more personal in our hiring process — co-founder Kevin Riddleberger and I are getting out of the office to engage with candidates. We’re sharing our personal stories, our company story, learning more about them, and answering their questions, in person. We’ve also just started a unique six-month fellowship program geared to helping new advanced practice graduates transition to confident and independent practice. Getting creative with ways to meet the needs of prospective employees is a great way to attract top talent.
Additionally, companies need to acknowledge that employees are likely to be with an organization for a shorter time than ever in our history, which has implications for onboarding, manager sophistication, knowledge transfer, and benefits packages. For that reason, onboarding becomes crucial to engage the employee quickly, assimilating them into the mission and creating a sense of belonging with a purpose that aligns with their values. In the first year of employment, turnover is costly and an avoidable burden to companies. Managing onboarding with a 30–60–90-day program is instrumental in reducing this turnover. Managers today do not have the luxury of learning leadership ‘on the job.’ They are required to have high emotional intelligence and the typical manager skills of planning, organizing, and delegating.
Furthermore, the new workforce expects their working hours to be 80% work and 20% development or other benefits that align with their development plans. Remember, employees have many choices of where they work and with whom they work.
What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?
The pandemic-induced push towards working remotely coincided with a generation shift in our nation’s workforce. Millennials now hold the most significant percentage of the job pool. And millennials are motivated differently than prior generations. More so than Gen Xers, or the baby boomer generation, millennials prioritize work-life balance — enter the global pandemic and the ability to work remotely, many prospective employees now have new expectations, which could lead to a significant gap. So how do we reconcile the gap? First, find opportunities to meet those expectations in ways that also enhance the organization’s bottom line.
A few ideas, post COVID-19, employees expect transparency, a menu of benefits options that focus on whole person wellness, from financial to mental health and everything in between, flexibility, time off to recharge, support of employee’s major life events, and more. Employers resistant to looking at employees as unique individuals will struggle. A company’s position and work on DE&I and corporate social responsibility are also a significant priority of employees. Companies that do not include this in their mission and primary objectives will stumble. Personally, I see benefit in starting with employees and allowing them to have a voice in building out the company’s position, our DE&I committee at DispatchHealth is employee led for example.
Finally, a chief people officer must be a core executive team leader. Without people, you cannot deliver your services as an organization, whether you are a technology giant or a retailer. Retention of your employees and investing in their growth enables them to be more effective and positively affects your company’s bottom line. Prioritize your people, and you will thrive amidst the great resignation.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
Our national workforce has settled into a radical shift in how and where we work. While some thrive on face-to-face interactions that come with everyone working together in one location, many have become accustomed to the new rhythm of managing their productivity without direct oversight. Without question, two years of working remotely will influence the future of work. The difference between failure and success in the new era is how we adjust to it and create meaningful and intentional ways to bring people back together.
We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?
Today’s workforce includes five generations, all with distinctly unique needs. Baby boomers (25%), millennials (35%), and Gen Xers (33%) make up the majority, bookended by a sliver of traditionalists (2%) and Gen Zers (5%). While baby boomers prioritize company loyalty and tend to stick with organizations for more extended periods, the majority of today’s workforce is quick to move on if the job does not fulfill them. The pandemic-induced shift to remote work is favorable for most as flexibility is a top priority. In addition, there is a cultural revolution taking place across the United States with diversity at the forefront. This shift in workforce priorities means managerial skills learned in the preceding decades have quickly become passe or worse, can lead to rejection by diverse applicants and employees.
How do we support our post-pandemic workforce? Beyond adapting to remote work preferences in a way that works for both company and employee, employers should train hiring managers and leaders on cultural differences regarding motivation, conflict resolution, and engagement. Incorporate a variety of communication methods, benefits, work experiences, and recognition programs with the intention of inclusion. And utilize cross-cultural workgroups as advisory committees for executive level staff who tend to be a bit more monolithic given their experience level.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
I am encouraged to see a national shift towards the mindset that work should be enjoyed, not endured. One cornerstone of DispatchHealth’s mission is creating an environment that offers greater provider satisfaction. Burn-out among caregivers is a significant problem facing healthcare, and I can imagine other industries face similar challenges. We address this by creating a framework where clinicians practice at the top of their licenses. And by design, healthcare delivery in the home addresses much of the stress clinicians report as their source of fatigue in a traditional healthcare setting. By understanding industry pain points and listening to the needs of our team, DispatchHealth has achieved unprecedented satisfaction scores among our providers. Other industries could do the same by looking for win/win strategies to elevate the business and the people who make successful organizations thrive.
Our collective mental health and wellbeing are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?
Meaningful work is good for the soul. By creating environments where your team feels they are making a positive impact for an organization that values their time and talents, you fill the mental health and wellbeing buckets. One innovative strategy we have added at DispatchHealth is annual sabbatical leave for providers who have been with us for five years. Any industry could look for opportunities to give their teams chunks of time for rest and recovery beyond traditional vacation leave.
Something else to consider, it is stressful and emotionally taxing to be on the receiving end of unhappy customers. On the other hand, happy, satisfied customers (or, in my case, patients) in turn treat your people well, which creates a happier workforce. And there is plenty of research that demonstrates happiness is good for the heart and even elevates immunity. Along this line, one out the box idea is to consider tracking something similar to our organization’s “I love you” score. When we began our hospitalization substitution care model, one of our first patients said, “I love you” to our intake team during the admission process. So, this team — our front line for patients who need care — decided to begin tracking what they called the “I love you” score. If a patient tells anyone on the care team that they love them, the group achieves a positive score. Interestingly, today our people hear “I love you” at some point during 70% of visits.
It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation’. ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. And now the ‘Great Reevaluation’. What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?
Not seen since the 1970s, the “Great reevaluation” has put employees in a position of power. For over a decade, human resource leaders have been predicting the brain drain of senior leadership levels (and a cascade of other highly sought-after experiences) — the confluence of the pandemic, the graying of our workforce, and the change in the way we work has escalated the need for change. Our millennial workforce joined the labor market during a period of de-personalization, a loss of perceived safety, and a lack of perceived support from their workplaces. As a result, the gig economy has flourished, allowing these newer entrants to seek meaningful, creatively challenging, flexible, and lucrative work. Leaders need to hear that millennial and Gen X workers want more, and they’ll job shop until they find the right balance to meet their values. Companies should evolve culture to prioritize things like work-life balance, a work environment that feels both rewarding and at the same time fun, job growth, and development. Reevaluation means just that; our next generation has reevaluated their priorities, and companies that meet their needs will thrive.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
When the pandemic hit, DispatchHealth was well on its way to supporting high acuity healthcare in the home; what the pandemic did was accelerate awareness of the possibilities and potentially speed up a shift that was already happening. The same situation applies to our changing workforce. None of the issues we are addressing today occurred because of the pandemic; what the pandemic did was shine a brighter light on the workability of remote staffing and prioritizing an excellent work-life balance was fast-tracked. What will be interesting to watch is this, baby boomers make up 25% of our current workforce, and this generation likely holds top leadership positions at this point in their careers. Baby boomers are motivated by company loyalty, teamwork, and duty. They sacrifice for success and believe achievement comes after paying one’s dues. And this group works best face-to-face. On the total opposite of the continuum, we have Gen Zers joining the workforce, and this group self-identifies as digital device addicts, and they value independence. Gen Zers will gravitate towards opportunities that allow them to be self-directed. The trends to watch will be those that bring synergy and balance to a now diverse labor market and meet the needs of these distinctly different generations.
- Trend #1 Hybrid Workforce: For the last two years, our labor market has settled into the convenience of working from home, or wherever in the world they may find themselves. Remote work has its positives, it eliminates time-killing and costly commutes, staff can more easily get work done during hours that accommodate their needs and employers can pull from a larger pool of applicants. For example, at DispatchHealth our tech team is made up of some of the brightest tech minds from around the world. However, moving to 100% remote work closes the door on the massive opportunities that come only when you have a team of people, in person, working together and feeding off a room’s energy. Forward thinking companies will figure out the appropriate balance and use in-person time more intentionally, while respecting the desire for remote work.
- Trend #2 Social Recruiting: Communicating over social media has become more common across all generations, however, Gen Zers are self-identified digital device addicts, and social media is their favorite communications styles. We will start to see increasingly hiring managers work social recruiting into their strategy. At DispatchHealth we’ve started digital hiring events, similar to a typical job fair but virtually we’re able to meet faces from all over the country.
- Trend #3 The Gig Economy: In healthcare we saw a significant boom in traveling nurses who moved hospital-to-hospital to address day of needs more effectively. Particularly as the labor market evolves, there is a competitive advantage that comes with hiring independent contractors, and on-demand experts. I predict we’ll see an influx of people, across all industries, creating these sorts of opportunities for themselves.
- Trend #4 Workplace Diversity: While top of mind across generations, Gen Zers are motivated by diversity, and thrive in work environments that offer broader perspective, a more creative workplace, and a sense of accountability. At DispatchHealth we have a DE&I committee, made up of team members from different areas of the business, and they report directly to the executive team. Their mission, is to be a key partner in ensuring our organization embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion by hiring employees who represent the communities that we serve, effectively training employees to understand health equity issues, enabling us to provide culturally competent care to diverse and underserved communities, and supporting community programs that make a difference in the lives of diverse and underserved communities.
- Trend #5 Employer Brand: Corporate branding is commonplace, the trend to watch is employer branding. Starting with Gen X, today’s workforce is quick to move on if their employer fails to meet their needs. Today’s job seeker wants to work for an “Employer of choice” and a well baked brand, showcased over social media is how organizations will get there.
I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?
I am a fan of philosophy, and a quote from the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca has stayed with me since I heard it in college: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” As I moved through medical school and into my career as an emergency medicine physician, I knew that I wanted to experience more personally and professionally than I would if I remained a bedside clinician my entire life. Whenever I felt myself becoming complacent, I would challenge myself to learn something new, and, inevitably, an opportunity would present itself that matched that unique skillset. My internal drive as a lifelong learner, combined with a willingness to take risks, has served me well. Applying this to the workforce challenges we have just unpacked, I believe employers who learn all they can about our next generation, their needs, and motivators will have success meeting the challenges of the Great Resignation.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she, or they might just see this if we tag them.
Well, if I was to answer honestly and it could be someone who isn’t alive today, I’d choose David Bowie — he’s my ideal entrepreneur. He was a triple threat: a superior craftsman (phenomenal musician), an amazing showman and a creative genius.
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Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.